Hire for Passion, not Skills

It is 4pm on a Thursday when Freshmen Rohan Venkatesh walks into the Entrepreneurs Club’s office to meet with Director of Marketing sophomore Matt Bilotti and myself. Matt and I are very excited to be offering Rohan a promotion to Assistant Director of Marketing. We are so impressed with Rohan: his attitude is nothing short of spectacular. He constantly volunteers to help out, like at the sign in table at our Husky Startup Challenge Demo Night. His enthusiasm and passion for the club shines through. Yet at the same time, Rohan is inexperienced: as a freshmen, he has minimal background in leadership or marketing roles. But we have a feeling that he’d be great, so we deliver the news. Rohan’s eyes light up and it looks like he is going to burst with happiness “This is so awesome guys, thank you so much! I can’t wait to get started!” says Rohan, with a grin on his face that seemes like it couldn’t get any wider.

Bringing Rohan in as an Assistant Director ended up being quite a good call. Rohan quickly made up for his lack of experience with his hunger for learning. Rohan constantly asked Matt questions and learned the ins and outs of marketing for the Entrepreneurs Club. When he took on social media marketing in Facebook, our RSVPs went from 45 for an event to 86 the week he started. Rohan continues to volunteer for any task that needs work, whether related to marketing or not. His passion is contagious and at events and executive team meetings he isn’t shy about sharing it. The most impressive thing about Rohan though is how welcoming he is of constructive criticism. Any time someone makes a suggestion to him for something he can improve, he thanks them profusely for caring about his development and quickly implements the suggestion in his work.

If I had two candidates for a role, one with strong established skills for what I need and one with the passion and attitude Rohan has, I’d take Rohan pretty much every time. Someone like Rohan can be trained and he will learn quickly to attain those skills that the organization needs, and when that is combined with his upbeat attitude and thirst for feedback, he is unstoppable.

This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book about how to grow a wildly successful student organization at university. More details coming soon!

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