Discover more in the Women in Business series

How Barbara Corcoran Spots the Right People to Hire

This business guru, who believes choosing good employees can be one of the biggest factors of your success, reveals her tactics for hiring winners.
March 09, 2015

Successful businesses are often built on good people, so finding and choosing the good ones will determine your success more than anything else you do. I've surrounded myself with good people my whole life, and here's how I spot the winners. 

There are five key things I look for in every person I hire, which don’t vary based on the job I’m trying to fill.

1. Happy People

I only hire people who are generally happy, people who like themselves. Early in my career I worked very hard to make grumpy people like their jobs or their bosses, but learned that if their own parents couldn't teach them a sunny disposition before I got my hands on them, I wasn't going to change them one iota. Happy people make for happy companies, and you have a much better shot at building a big business if your people are happy.

2. People With High Energy

I've never met a successful person who had low energy. All successful people move to a certain beat, and that beat moves forward. Energized people tend to work faster and get the job done, while low energy people may quietly drain your team and feed off the bright light of the energized worker. I only hire high-energy people.

3. Smart People

I look for smart people, not book-smart or smarty-pants, but smart in a practical way. That kind of smart knows how to solve problems and move on. They don't waste energy or resources debating a dilemma, but instead take a shot at fixing it. Fill your company with common-sense people, and your business won’t waste time on nonsense.

4. Good Communicators

Every task in an organization depends on good communication between people. When someone can't express clearly what is needed, communication becomes like the child's game of telephone where the final message comes out all wrong. Clear communicators by word or by email keep the pipes of an organization cleared out and running.

5. People Who Like to Help Others

We all know the importance of getting things done, but without good teamwork, your business bottlenecks. You can do what you want to mandate cooperation between departments and individuals, but if your business isn’t filled with people who truly like to help each other, turf wars soon stop things from moving forward. I always hire people who by their very nature like to help.

Interviewing Insights

I've learned some tricks of the trade in the interviewing process over the years that help me knock out potential clunkers. There are a few signs I look for that may spell trouble. Here are a few: A messy purse means a messy mind, and wrinkled clothes say "I don’t care." People who don’t smile don't like other people, and poor eye contact signals a lack of confidence. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Paying attention to the visual cues on first impression makes you a better hirer.

There’s a key aptitude in every position you hire for, but it’s hard to assess it, and the resume often leads me astray. If I’m hiring someone for a management position, the key ingredient is how well they will direct and motivate the people who report to them. So I share a sticky situation with them (real or imagined) and ask their opinion on how I should handle it, like, “I have two managers who don’t much like each other and they constantly put me in the middle to resolve their disputes. It’s driving me crazy! Any advice you can offer?” Their answer gives you insight into how they think and how they might manage your staff.

If you’re interviewing a writer, it’s smart to throw out a topic and ask them to write a few paragraphs on the spot because there’s no better way to size up someone’s writing ability. When hiring someone for social media—responsible for your tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram—you can show them a few photos related to your business and simply ask, "How would you post this?" as some people are naturally clever with words and some are not. If administrative duties are key to an office position, ask the applicant to show you how they personally organize themselves. When they show you their method by iPhone or notebook, you gain insight into their real organizational ability versus what they just told you. When interviewing a receptionist, it’s downright silly not to call them later on their cellphone to see if they’re pleasant and articulate when they answer your call. I’ve found that the people who make good service reps are similar to the folks who make good waitresses. You want someone who smiles readily in the interview and really enjoys people. Sociability always comes from the parents, so I always ask about what they were like growing up. People are surprisingly honest with their answers, and I’ve learned that people who come from friendly, open homes make great services reps.

There are great benefits well beyond success when you surround yourself with really good people. Work is more fun, the hours fly by, and everybody works harder when they like the boss and want to be there. I could have never built The Corcoran Group if I hadn’t had a consistent team of really good people around me. With good people, I was 10 times more fulfilled and had a fraction of the people hassles that typically come with building your business.

Read more articles about hiring and firing.

Photo: Getty Images