Over the years of interviewing talented people, I’ve developed a favorite question: “Beyond the necessary skills or certifications, what’s the characteristic or personality trait that makes someone really great at this job?”

My favorite answers have been the unexpected ones:

  • The driver of a ready-mix truck said her #1 skill was communication–“because I’m about to dump several tons of hardening aggregate on someone’s property, and where they want it is usually not where the truck can go.”
  • A sonographer told me that she and her colleagues are almost all amateur photographers.
  • I’ve learned through experience that people who are successful warehouse and distribution managers usually had an early career in fast food.
  • That’s why I love Michael Faulise’s approach to identifying great Quality Assurance candidates: Look for a musician who’s worked as a bartender. That person, Faulise says, will have the combination of analytical ability, creativity and listening skills that are the root of the QA role. The rest can be taught.

Faulise has built a successful business, Tap|QA, from that premise. In the depths of the recession, he found good people whose skills he could offer at rates that let him compete with offshore operations. Now, even with people at all levels of the career ladder, the emphasis is on aptitude and attitude, not “check boxes.”

Of course, this approach requires its own kind of creativity, thinking deeply about what really makes for success. It may seem risky to hire a guitar-playing bartender for a QA position instead of someone with a long list of credentials, but the retention rates for both clients and employees at Tap|QA suggest otherwise.

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