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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Every time I hire a new employee I pray. I pray that she really is the person my team and I interviewed; the one who engaged us more than the other candidates. I pray that he will add value to our organization – even if it is only 75 to 80 per cent of what he stated when selling himself to us. I interview, check her social footprint and check references (both the ones provided and those from my own acquaintances; there is always someone who knows her somehow. It's the six degrees of separation standard). Then I pray. I pray that when she joins my team, she embraces the opportunity and contributes.

I pray because the cost of a bad hire is steep. The cost of a bad hire is time: time lost training and trying to build relationships. It's time that has to be reinvested to find and train someone new.

Hiring people is one of an organization's most challenging and critical investments. So, beyond praying, my team has honed our process so that our hiring hits exceed our misses. We look for the following criteria; it's a list that has served us well:

1. A skip in their step, a song in their heart and a twinkle in their eye

I look at people when they come in for an interview. I watch their walk, their smile and their eyes. I want them to walk with a sense of purpose and conviction. I want them to smile and see 'the proverbial cup' as half full versus half empty. A twinkle in their eye is their magic; I like a bit of wit, wiles and whimsy. The wit and wiles show a keenness of mind. The whimsy shows an ability to stay calm, which is critical as we go through the daily ups and downs of work.

2. A passion for something beyond work

Whether it is travel, writing, music, art or skydiving, I want employees to have something that makes them interesting and unique. I look for something that makes their faces brighten and eyes light up when they talk about it. Passion has a special energy that is magnetic. I want to work with people who have passion.

3. A desire to learn and a willingness to try new things

Learning is about experiencing life and all it has to offer. I want to work with people who are continuously learning and have a desire to share what they learn. I look for people who are thirsty for new information and motivated to find it on their own whether it is through books or continued education courses.

4. A high emotional IQ over experience

I need to find the people who will survive in my shop. They need to have a heart and a high emotional IQ. I've learned it is more important to find a good person than a person with decades of experience. In the past, I wrongly assumed that with experience comes wisdom and emotional IQ. That is not necessarily true. In fact, most of our hiring misses have been 'senior hires.' They were people who joined our team with solid industry experience yet lacked emotional IQ. Their perceived value did not materialize because their attitude was one of entitlement and expected respect solely for being older. The less experienced but more 'in tune' folks that we have hired have an eagerness to learn and a great work ethic. They know their own value and use it to complement and bring out value in others.

5. An ability to contribute to the team and be a team player

I expect individual and team accountability. I expect that everyone contributes to the team. And I expect more, because teamwork is more than that. On my team we have each other's backs. We all have good days and challenging days at work. On challenging days, we must rise to the occasion and it's much nicer to do so with good folks right beside you. I look for the people who I would want by my side on a challenging day.

Finding people who meet these five criteria has helped me hire many valuable employees. Still, not every new employee is a fit. When my team or I have made a mistake in hiring, we try to humanely part ways. I have helped to exit brilliant people who lack team player skills and exited outstanding team players because they struggled with the work. I have exited people who I grew to love and people who were huge instigators. I've made these decisions because the success of an organization is based on its people.

When I reflect on the learnings from all of this, it reminds me to hire slow and fire fast.

Nicole Gallucci (@BOOMbanter) is the chief executive officer and president of Boom Marketing in Toronto.