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How Aristotle Hired His Team

And what you can learn from the wily old guy to get your next hire right


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Leon Purton

3 years ago | 5 min read

Job interviews are daunting things to go through for the potential hire, but it is also stressful for the person in charge of the hire.

So much depends on getting the right person in the role. Your team will succeed, and you will succeed as their boss, based on the quality of your hires.

This is where we can learn from Aristotle. The Greek philosopher ran a tight ship and knew how to hire the right people. Aristotle focussed on finding pieces to the team that offered more than the individual provided. He found multipliers.

And while fixing his macchiato after hiring a sales manager who didn’t have an MBA, Aristotle famously said;

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

Whilst the translations are often debated, and Aristotle may not have actually said this, it was inferred in his book Metaphysics. And that inference is important for hiring managers and leaders bringing people into their teams.

There are people you can bring into your teams, that may not offer the strongest skill set or the right education, but they will make your team better.

These people are the magnifiers of the talent you already have in your team. They elevate the team beyond the additional resource they offer.

But how did Aristotle find them? When faced with many responses to his job advertisement and sitting through dozens of interviews, how did Aristotle reliably work out how to add the right person to the team?

He and his team followed this process.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

1. Read the resume and cover letter like this

There are three key things to note in a resume, these are the ‘entry criteria’ for hire to get an interview.

Aristotle had a great relationship with Janet, his hiring manager, and she new that applicants needed to meet these three requirements.

  1. Do they have some of the skills needed for the job and can they fill the role you need them too? The question you are answering here is, do they have the right aptitude? Some qualifications are table stakes, but there are hidden aptitude tells in all resume’s. Look for the themes to their jobs and successes. Those are the skills that allow them to shine.
  2. Now, look for information that provides the story of using those skills. Don’t focus on the education requirements and relevant skills, because a smart applicant will tailor their resume to meet your advertised requirements. Instead, focus on their ability to turn adversity into positive outcomes. The person you want to hire is the one who takes action with their teams to solve problems.
  3. This is the key one, this is a review of the types of language used. You need to look for outwards facing language. It is common for resume’s to be the place where people explain all of the things they have done. “I was responsible for increasing revenue in our department from 500k turnover a month, to 2 million”. The key here is that they weren’t singularly responsible, they were part of a team of people. They used inwards, self-facing language to describe the achievement of the team. The person who makes people around them better will use language that reflects those around them. They will use outwards-facing language.

Janet and Aristotle went through the applications and down selected the people they wanted to interview. By focussing on assessing against these three things they identified the people that on paper, would bring something extra to the team.

Now they needed to get the right person from the interview. Aristotle had a trick for that as well.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash
Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

2. Let someone else ask these questions

Janet and Aristotle invited Brian the Business Manager into the interview process and told him what they needed from him.

They explained that they were trying to find the candidate that could bring the most to the team, that would make the individuals in the team better. And to achieve that, they needed Brian to ask these questions.

  1. “Talk about one of your best qualities that other’s don’t normally talk about?”.
  2. “You realise your teammate has made a big mistake on an important project, what do you do?”.
  3. “You are our CEO, what changes do you make to the company? In what part of the company would you put a candidate like yourself?”.

Now — it doesn’t need to be these exact questions, but they should follow this theme. Talk about you, talk about how you interact with the team, talk about how you handle big responsibility.

And Aristotle and Janet listened.

The key things that they listened out for were buried in the answers and follow-on questions of the candidates.

Aristotle was interested in finding someone who could elevate those around them and bring energy to the team. So he listened for answers to these questions that pointed to that personality and trait.

Aristotle and Janet viewed the responses looking for people that describe themselves with humility and demonstrate some self-awareness, that go out of their way to support their team but hold them accountable,

and when given responsibility are not afraid to look for information outside of themselves to help make good decisions.

These types of people get the most out of the teams they are in. They look out for the team, and they make good decisions because they know that they don’t have to make them alone.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

3. Find out the most important thing

The most important thing to understand about potential candidates is whether or not they know enough about the company, the role and the people they will be working with.

This is the most important thing to ask them.

“What can I tell you about this company, the role and our expectations for it, or about me that would help you better understand the job and the assignment?”.

Job interviews are two-way conversations. You want the candidate to fit the role, the company and for them to know that they understand it as well.

This is the most important thing. That the candidate believes they are a good fit for the role.

Aristotle knows that there is an element of aptitude in finding a good hire, but it is mostly attitude, and fundamental to the right attitude is awareness and acceptance of the role.

What Aristotle is making sure they understand, and holds with the highest importance, is that they are aware of the company, role and the expectations for it.

Once Aristotle and Janet reached this point, they had sufficient information to make a merit list, and where there was conjecture about who the best fit is, they conducted a second round focused on further exploring the last bullet point.

Aristotle knows that hiring the right person makes his life easier. It makes the team stronger and their performance better.

When looking for a candidate that can do that, they want to make sure that they are aware of the environment in which they will be working. Introduce candidates to the team, get the team to ask them questions, and ask the teams perspective.

Aristotle knew it was his decision to make, but it is the team that needs to perform.

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Created by

Leon Purton

Inspired by life. Leadership, Growth, Personal Development. Engineer and Sports Enthusiast. Top Writer in Leadership. https://medium.com/@spurtapurton


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