The Importance of Hiring Happy People

Cynicism can kill business opportunities almost as easily as it upends a holiday party.

That’s the view you’re left with after hearing from Kathy Savitt, the C.E.O. for Lockerz, which is an e-commerce and social network site. Savitt shared her view in an interview last weekend with The New York Times in its “Corner Office” column.

What leads to such cynicism? “A good example,” Savitt answers, “is when a team member has a great idea or has a big issue with a customer experience and no one responds, no one even acknowledges it, no one gets back to them. The idea festers, problems mount, no one listens. That’s a recipe for cynicism.”

Sounds like an arena in which small business owners and solo practitioners might have an advantage. They don’t have to get lost in a bureaucracy, at least. But even small businesses owners and solo practitioners might eventually get around to hiring help or looking for partners or contractors. Savitt shares some smart tips on adding staff, and they seem applicable to anyone looking for help. “Some of the questions I ask all the time include, what did you love most about the work you just finished doing?” she says. “And if you could design your life in terms of work, what would that job actually be?” She thinks she gets a sense of the person by asking those questions.

She has another good one, too. “Another question I ask all the time is, if everyone here was a C.E.O and I was to make you the C.E.O. of something on Day One, what would it be?” Savitt says. “I ask that because I like to get a sense of what you feel so passionately about that you want to own.”

Weeding Out the Negatives

Over at the Business Wings web site, Marcus Markou has some tips on hiring the happy. First, though, he sets the stage, warning that negative thinking can often come from within an organization. “When you’re building your business—big or small—you’d be amazed at the negativity you’ll encounter,” he says. “I’m not talking about your competitors. They’ll probably have respect for you. No, the biggest resentment may come from within.”

Markou sees that “some people, for reasons beyond your control, will never be happy.” Knowing that, he’s taking a hard line and trying to weed out the negative vibes from his life and his business.

“If the key to success in business (and in life) is to surround yourself with positive people, then you must be prepared to root out negative types,” he says. “People are like buttons on an elevator: some will take you up and others will take you down.”

The challenge of hiring means a lot to small businesses, where there may not be a lot of employees, but the ones who come on board mean an awful lot to the enterprise. Maybe it’s best to take a scientific approach. That’s the argument over at Neuromarketing.com, where the tag line is “where brain science and marketing meet.” Writer Roger Dooley tells us that facial coding experts can tell the difference between a real smile and a fake one—and that customers realize when an employee has been trained to act a certain way, but isn’t really in the mood. There’s some interesting stuff here, along with a plug for a book called About Face by Dan Hill, who really is a facial coding expert.

Dooley’s bottom line: make sure you get a sense during an interview with a prospective employee about how she or he will interact with those being served. “For those employees who will be in direct customer contact,” Dooley says, “be sure your interview process includes an evaluation of the emotions they project. A candidate who doesn’t display genuine positive emotions during the interview likely won’t in a customer service situation either.”

Maybe the job-seekers are catching on to all this. At The Undercover Recruiter, the site’s advice is designed to reach the prospective employee. There’s a list of “7 Reasons Employers Will Hire You.” The last-but-not-least reason is all about attitude. Or “positive attitude and enthusiasm,” to be specific.

The word here: Nobody in the business world is looking for another moaner. “Everyone is attracted to happy and positive people and if you lack experience and skills this could be your trump card,” the site says. “By staying positive and radiating enthusiasm long after you landed the job, you can inspire others and demonstrate that you are promotion material.”

All this gets us wondering: How do you hire the right people for a job? And how can you learn quickly during an interview about someone’s attitude?

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