During the mid 1990’s our small company, Ex Officio outdoor and adventure travel apparel, was growing rapidly. One of the challenges we had was hiring receptionists. The receptionist position was not only important as the face of our company but, we also used it as a place to discover employee’s for further promotion within the company.
Our receptionist, Kay, was being promoted from her receptionist position and her first duty was to find her potential replacement. As expected, Kay brought two terrific candidates for me to interview for a final decision. Both candidates were young and straight out of college. The first was very presentable, clean cut, personable and seemed solid. The second candidate had bleached blond hair with dark roots, dressed like a designer might dress, seemed very independent and had an infectious fun personality. After questioning the candidates I found out that candidate #1 was indeed a solid person whom I thought would diligently carry out any task asked of her. The second candidate, Mary, as wild as she looked, had gone to Dartmouth (an Ivy League school with a bit of a party school reputation), had a degree in fashion and was captain of the Dartmouth women’s field hockey team. After the interviews I immediately knew who I’d like on our team. When Kay came in to discuss her replacement, she assumed, for all the right reasons, I would like candidate #1. Although I did like #1, I picked Mary. The reasons? Mary, having a degree in apparel design, was not afraid to start at a receptionist job to work her way into our company and importantly, she was the captain of her field hockey team. What did being on the field hockey team at Dartmouth tell me about Mary? It told me Mary was a team player, which is necessary in business as well as in sports. By being accepted at Dartmouth, it told me Mary was intellectually smart. And, it told me she probably wasn’t conventionally smart in the tradition of a Harvard, Yale or Princeton. Personally, I like independent thinkers who challenge me and the people around them. Of course, on the downside, independent thinkers can sometimes cause workplace dysfunction. This led me to my final observation. Mary was not only was a team player, she was the captain of her team. Captains are elected by their teammates to lead the team; dysfunctional people rarely are elected to be captains. From this available information, I was able to make Mary my clear choice. Needless to say, Kay was surprised. After I shared my reasons with Kay, I wasn’t convinced she thought I was right. Possibly, she thought I was a bit crazy.
Sure enough, Mary eventually made the transition from being a college girl into being a talented young woman. Mary rose rapidly in our company and stayed for over 10 years. Eventually, after we sold our company, my former business partner hired Mary to work with him at his next venture. She’s still there today and every time I see Mary I am excited and happy to know her vibrancy is better than ever!