Hiring that Entrepreneurial Spirit, not the Entrepreneur

CorneliusI have a lot of experience when it comes to interviewing. I have been the interviewer and the interviewee on several occasions, and one of the most unnerving questions asked during any interview is “where do you see yourself in five years?” Most of the time, people with an entrepreneurial spirit, although they plan on being with the company for the long run, also have personal goals outside the job. That’s why this question can be a deal maker or deal breaker. I believe that every company would want someone with an entrepreneurial spirit rather than a person who is simply an entrepreneur. These are the people who challenge the norm, have original opinions that move a discussion forward, and act with tenacity and determination.

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs, as I am one myself. But as an employer, I am a bigger fan of the entrepreneurial spirit. Here are three steps you can take to recognize it and help nurture it.

First: Hire wisely. How? You might start by comparing people’s résumés to their job histories on LinkedIn. Have they, perhaps, left off the CV of some venture gone astray? Do you see a history of working with start-ups? Does whatever they have focused on match the job they’re applying for? None of these criteria should disqualify anyone out of the gate, necessarily, but they should be enough to raise your vigilance level when you meet face to face.

A flag-raiser is someone who has very specific goals. Entrepreneurial spirited individuals are people who want to learn and experiment, apply, share, and partner. They’re interested in gaining experience in general, rather than gaining access to specific tools they can use as stepping stones to realize their own pet projects.

Second: Provide these employees with an outlet for their creativity and ambition. One way to do this is to offer them some paid time off after a certain period of time with your company, so they can pursue their passion. Perhaps establish an agreement that allows the employee to use office space and resources outside normal business hours to work on an ongoing project, or provide a month-long sabbatical to let him or her dig into a project all at once. These sorts of incentives may take planning and should be incorporated into annual goals, but they are well worth the effort to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit.

Third: Pay close attention to compensation. Every company needs to ensure that the best are rewarded and the slackers are culled out. But to keep your entrepreneurial spirited employees engaged, you need to target incentives more specifically. Because of their potential to contribute something unique, they need to participate in defining their own goals — both what they’ll do and how they’ll do it. And you need to make sure that incentives and compensation are tied to their unique contributions, not just folded into the entire team’s rewards.

When you have an employee with an entrepreneurial spirit on your team, develop that spirit and encourage that person to continue to be creative and innovative for the success of themselves and the company.

Cornelius Booker is a senior member of the Regional Navigator team and a graduate of Oklahoma State University where he received his Bachelors in Marketing and later received his M.B.A with a focus on Business Marketing and Management. With his personal experience and passion for the disabled community, Cornelius’ insights are an invaluable asset to the Workforce Solutions organization.



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