Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Insights from the Inside: Building the Team

This post is part of a series providing a road map for real world operational management of non-profits and social enterprises. The author, Gene Miller, has held a variety of high-stakes leadership positions in diverse industries through crisis periods and great successes. This series shares her results-based approach, presenting practical guides for how to get things done. She can be reached at

Human Resources 101: Your organization can only be as strong as the weakest member of the team                          


Every hire matters and every personnel mistake is a tremendous drain on management and the rest of the team. So dont make one! Most CEOs lament that their HR issues tend to be the result of personality driven traits that were missed during the hiring process. Okay, you know how to evaluate credentials, but how do you get to the elusive core qualities that you seek, in just a brief encounter?

After letting my colleagues vet candidates, in a final interview I only ask one question. “Can you take 10-15 minutes to walk thru your CV telling me what you were thinking as you moved along vs what you actually did, starting with high school*?” The job is then to be very quiet…and in fact not say a word, even if there is an awkward silence. Listen for your organization’s desired list of qualities, the intangibles like attitude, life perspective, self awareness, resourcefulness, internal drive, consideration for others and so forth (you make the list). Interestingly, most often it is the initial comments about high school that tend to be most revealing…. generating an unscripted answer to a question no one asks. I’ve heard everything from “I had to deal with my being fat to I was homecoming queen. My parents struggled financially or they both died when I was very young.” If you listen with a lens towards what you are looking for, an open-ended question requiring a long monologue (which has not been totally prepackaged) can reveal a great deal. For me, it’s been a sure fire approach that has yielded tremendous results. And here’s the thing, the more you do it, the better you get at it.


Exceptional qualifications should only be a starting point. Take the time to look (or in this case, listen) under the hood for the core qualities you seek.

* I forever thank my former colleague Alice Benson, President and CEO of Gatti & Associates for teaching this technique to me!