essential skill

Hiring for Capacity: One Vital Skill You’re Not Interviewing For

by Oct 12, 2021Business, Culture, Delegation, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Talent

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Hiring for capacity makes all the difference.

We’re all in a war for talent these days, which makes it harder than ever to find A-players to add to your team. Many of us use all kinds of analytical tools to help identify high performers such as psychological, intellectual, and skills testing, on top of a battery of interviews to see how a potential new employee will fit in with the team.
But there’s another attribute A-players have that many people forget to screen for: capacity. You might call these people high-cap. By my definition, capacity is someone’s ability to take on massive workloads and execute them without succumbing to stress. These are people who get more done in a day than the next three people combined. These are the folks you look to when you’re facing a critical project deadline and you need it done on time. That’s what makes these folks so incredibly valuable, especially inside a smaller organization.
What’s so interesting is that people who have this kind of capacity can fly under the radar of traditional screening and interviewing methods, because it isn’t normally probed in the hiring process. The other issue is that people who don’t have the capacity think they are working hard, but their output pales by comparison so self-assessment doesn’t work.
The good news is that while everyone else keeps looking for candidates the old-fashioned way, you can go beyond the resume and look for candidates that have the four traits that show someone has incredible capacity: quick smarts, stress-resistant, endurance worker, and loves what they do.

Quick Smarts

When it comes to intelligence, there is a distinct difference between so-called book smarts and someone with, what I like to call, quick smarts. I know lots of people who graduated with a 4.0 GPA that studied their brains out to get those great grades. At the same time, I know a lot of B students who played sports, performed in plays, or even just goofed off in school and could run circles around those 4.0 students in the workplace. It’s my belief that anyone can get an A in school, it is just a matter of investing the time to get it and it demonstrates persistence. Someone with quick smarts is someone who gets things quickly–someone who can think on the fly and is comfortable seeing patterns in the data quickly. Grades don’t measure this capability.

Stress Resistant

We’ve all seen smart people meltdown under the pressure of a deadline. The stress of the situation is just too much. But others seem to thrive even as the workload increases by two- or three-fold. In fact, these folks may do their best work when confronted with tight deadlines. They rise to the challenge. An interesting interview question is to have the candidate describe their most stressful work situation and how they managed the stress. A high-capacity person will typically say they don’t get stressed, they just work on the issue.

Endurance Worker

There are people who tend to work longer than others and thrive on that commitment. These are the folks who are the last to leave the parking lot in the evening and the first to arrive in the morning. They are the ones who can tackle enormous workloads, spending 60 to 70 hours a week when needed, to ensure the job gets done. This doesn’t yield the most balanced lifestyle, but they seem to be able to manage all the elements in their life. You will rarely hear a high-cap talking about work-life balance.

Loves What They Do

The real secret ingredient of high-capacity workers is that they love what they do. While the statistics tell us that 80 percent of the working population is not engaged at work, these people gain energy from their jobs. It’s a chance for them to show off their creativity and enthusiasm for solving an enormous puzzle as fast as they possibly can. For them work isn’t just working–it’s playing, as well.

Look Beyond the Resume

The challenge for a CEO or a hiring manager in an entrepreneurial company is how can you find as many of these high-cap workers as you can. What makes it challenging is that you need to go beyond the resume. The fact that someone got a 4.0 at Harvard doesn’t tell you anything about their capacity. If they picked up a double major and a master’s at a state college in five years while holding down two jobs, that would be a better measure of capacity.
What you need to do instead is craft interview questions that help show you how a candidate has demonstrated their capacity in the past. For example, you might ask: “Tell me about a time when you faced a tight and challenging deadline. What did you do to get the job done?”
Capacity is a true superpower among employees that too many people, especially those in entrepreneurial companies, overlook. So don’t get blinded by the resume and look deeper by seeing if this person is willing, ready, and able to take their work capacity to the next level when needed. Look for the quick smart, stress-resistant, endurance worker, who loves what they do. If you can find someone capable of that, you’ve struck gold. Hire them.