Wednesday, December 6, 2023

I’ve interviewed over 30,000 people—these are the 7 ‘rarest’ types of employees I’ve come across, says CEO

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As the founder of an executive search firm, my job is to spot the best of the best. In the last 15 years, I’ve interviewed more than 30,000 candidates.

But I’m not just filling staff positions — I’m finding the next superstars for top companies: the unusually talented, the effortless leaders, the irresistibly winsome. I call them unicorns because they’re the rarest.

Based on my interviews and conversations with CEOs, these seven types of successful personalities are every company’s dream:

1. The Fast Unicorn

Being fast doesn’t mean you say “yes” to everything. It means quickly discerning what needs an immediate response and what does not.

There’s no dithering. Fast Unicorns are decisive, will play hardball with tenacity and efficiency, and will finish their work on time.

How to cultivate the Fast mindset:

  • Make it clear that you value a quick response time.
  • Set quick, achievable deadlines; you don’t need a month to make your benefit selections.

2. The Authentic Unicorn

No one expects you to be perfect at your job, especially in the beginning. But the worst thing you can do is to be inauthentic.

When you mess up, be open about it. Authentic people have a way of sharing their mistakes with humility, which can people together.

How to cultivate the Authentic mindset:

  • Admit your mistakes and move on.
  • If you’re struggling, be honest and ask for help.

3. The Solver Unicorn

When faced with challenges, people can either choose to be on the problem side or on the solution side. Those who choose to find solutions, who refuse to be victims, and who spend energy moving past those challenges are irreplaceable.

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But not everything is crying out for a solution. Sometimes people just want a sympathetic ear. Be mindful of where you hone your Solver skills so that you don’t waste your time.

How to cultivate the Solver mindset:

  • Language counts: rebrand problems as possibilities.
  • Instead of complaining, bring solutions to the conversation. Even if they’re bombastic or unachievable, it will get you in the right mindset.

4. The Self-Aware Unicorn

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and understanding how to approach crucial conversations is perhaps rarer than ever.

Self-aware people are less likely to take up unnecessary space in meetings, waste people’s time or make others uncomfortable. When given constructive and genuine feedback, they’ll take it to heart.

How to cultivate the Self-Aware mindset:

  • Don’t take feedback personally; use it as a tool to become even better at your job.
  • Respect others and be mindful of your habits in meetings. Do you talk over people? Do you talk for the sake of talking?

5. The Curious Unicorn

Steve Jobs once said: “Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.” So many of humanity’s greatest minds celebrate curiosity as a key factor of their success.

It’s not easy, though. What surrounds us on a regular basis is mundane and boring. So when a candidate is curious, it suggests genuine engagement and interest beyond a paycheck.

How to cultivate the Curious mindset:

  • When challenges come up, ask questions before throwing out solutions.
  • Staying curious is an action, not a position. Stay informed by reading books, watching educational content, keeping up with the news.

6. The Likable Unicorn

I’m always amazed at how often the candidate who prevails is simply the one who plays well with others. Many companies end up having to fire (or wishing they could fire) the brilliant jerk on staff.

But the Likable have the ability to stay employed and even get promoted simply through relational equity, a store of goodwill you’ve built up with another person over time.

How to cultivate the Likable mindset:

  • Set aside a few minutes at the start of meetings to talk about something that has nothing to do with work.
  • Remember names. It might seem like a little thing, but it essentially says: “You matter to me enough that I know who you are.”

7. The Productive Unicorn

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