Seven Ways to Spot Entrepreneurial DNA


Seven Ways to Spot Entrepreneurial DNA
by Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

You can teach new skills to a self-starter, but it's not easy to teach clock-punchers to think like owners. Here are seven ways to tell if job candidates have that entrepreneurial DNA:

  1. Ask if they're willing to bet on themselves. Entrepreneurs must satisfy their customers, and they're constantly looking for ways to increase growth. Ask candidates if they're willing to bet a portion of their compensation on their own performance. Seek someone with self-confidence who knows they can add significant value to your bottom line.
  2. Pay attention to body language. Do they lumber aimlessly, flop down into the chair or lean on their elbows? Or do they move with hustle and purpose? When people sit erect and lean slightly forward, they're indicating engagement and interest; confidence shows in their body language.
  3. Talk about mistakes. Ask candidates to describe the biggest mistake they ever made. Did they take responsibility, fix the mistake quickly and go on with their project, or did they blame others? Successful entrepreneurs know that blame is disempowering, and they can't afford to make the same mistake twice—they build their successes on the backs of their mistakes.
  4. Look for resourcefulness. Ask job seekers how they solved a problem when they lacked the time, support or funds they needed. Listen for evidence of how they used their imagination, asked for help and thought outside the box. See if their solution solved more than one problem.
  5. Gauge their preparedness. Does the candidate simply react to your initiatives, or ask you questions as well? Those with entrepreneurial DNA know the best sales pitch is “I can help you sell your product,” but they can't do that unless they have thoroughly researched your company. Entrepreneurial candidates will come to the interview with a list of questions.
  6. Figure out how they work on a team. Contrary to popular opinion, entrepreneurs are not loners; they know they must be an essential part of a team. Look for candidates who show an interest in all the jobs, procedures, services and suppliers in the company, and how they fit into the big picture. Ask how they worked with teammates at their previous company.
  7. See how they perform under pressure. Toward the end of the interview, tell the candidate more about the job and what performance expectations are. Then ask the candidate to write a one-page summary of your company and why they qualify for the job, and tell them it's due the next day. This will speak volumes about the candidate's comprehension, organization, communication and ability to hit a deadline—all attributes of an entrepreneur.

Finally, you have to walk the talk! Build a culture of permission, enthusiasm, inclusiveness and recognition—and you’ll have the fertile ground in which your employees can bloom. iBi

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People.

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