Hiring (Dilemmas) with Passion


Passion. It comes with a certain kind of intensity. When someone is passionate about an idea, there is a fervor to their work, an intense desire not only to bring the work to fruition, but to see their idea wonderfully realized. When I was in college, I fell in love with photography. I loved my camera. I bought special cloths to clean the lens, a special bag to protect it. I read every book I could find about photography. I couldn’t wait to develop film or watch the latent image appear under the red glow of the darkroom lights. I was the last student to leave the darkroom when the sun went down. I was passionate about photography. The first job I was offered after graduation was taking portraits at Sears for $6.50 per hour and I turned it down. I couldn’t believe the compensation. Surely Sears could afford to pay more than minimum wage to a college graduate! Passion with all its intensity is diminished when rewards do not support the intensity of passion. I remember the young manager who hired me on the spot, was incredibly disappointed. Perhaps this was her first hiring campaign. She said she would make sure to tell the next interviewee the pay rate at the beginning of the interview. My point: when a founder begins hiring a team passion is imperative to the work, but it must be supported, motivated, and appreciated in order to acquire and keep top performers in your company.

“The biggest challenge in hiring a team is recognizing passion. Especially with the team that helps build Jetset Times, it’s not enough to just “love traveling.” Every single person on the team has to be passionate about journalism, creativity, making things work, seeing a long-term vision. Passion also can’t be pinpointed on a resume, it’s only in the presence of relentless work ethics and vibrant speech. It’s best revealed with time, which makes it difficult to recognize in the hiring process.”

Founder & CEO Wendy HungJetSet Times

There are many dilemmas facing a founder when hiring their founding team. Finding, hiring, and maintaining valuable employees is multifaceted not only at startup, but as the company matures as well. In Noam Wasserman’s book, The Founders Dilemma, he states that “founders face the same dilemmas with hiring decisions that they face with cofounding decisions, but with the added complexity of aligning the startup’s stage of development, its level of formality….and its available resources” (245). In Figure 8.9 (246), Wasserman breaks down the “three Rs” he discusses earlier in the chapter (211) of relationships, roles, and rewards as the company begins at startup, moves through transition, and becomes a mature business. The hiring needs of a startup are significantly different than a mature business. The startup begins working with personal networks, generalists, a low cash flow, and of course passion. Transitioning out of the beginning stages often sheds light on “decisions that seem ideal at first…[which reveal] employees at all levels struggle to scale with a maturing startup” (209). Titles and roles that were not clearly defined in the beginning often create tension. Some employees lack the skills or knowledge needed to progress in their position. And hiring to replace or add positions must focus on weak connections since the founder has likely already exhausted his or her personal network. If a business is able to persevere, the rewards come in investors, their financial and social capital, and all of the complications that emerge as a business becomes of age.

“When hiring someone in the technology field, it’s important to look for passion above anything else. It sounds cliche, but let me explain why. People who are passionate can be trained in everything even if they don’t have the “experience.” They are the most driven worker that you can have in the workplace. He or she can accomplish everything they are told to do and will go beyond the typical job requirements.”

Founder & CEO Jonathan TarudKoombea
100 person team working to build powerful technology & beautiful user experiences

I believe all of these stages require the aforementioned passion. How else could a small team of cofounders make it through all of the awkward phases of entrepreneurship? Why would employees accept the risk and relatively low compensation of helping to build someone else’s dream? And why would investors offer their capital if there was not a passion somewhere for what the founders want to create? Time and time again, I have read quotes from successful entrepreneurs, and the consensus among the averages is to hire employees who have an intensity of passion for what you want to create in your business. Then, depending on the stage of your business, consider their relationship, roles, and the rewards you will offer for their passion.

4 thoughts on “Hiring (Dilemmas) with Passion

  1. Hello –
    I thoroughly enjoyed your post and how you related it to your personal experience as a photographer.
    I agree that passion is a key element in the success of any operation. I work in finance, and I had a manager tell me that he could teach anyone how to work on the computer, but he could not teach people to care about the work or how well it was done. It comes back to passion! There is so much to be said about the benefits of believing in your work, being interested in your work, striving to grow every day, and having a desire to capitalize on every opportunity.
    Excellent and thought provoking post!


  2. Your comment about hiring based on passion is right on. You know there’s I look for energy and enthusiasm. Sure it’s wonderful that they have the qualifications to complete the job and understand the job description. But if they can’t back that up with energy and enthusiasm then this isn’t the job for them.


  3. Hi great job. This is such an interesting topic. I think we all have felt like our above and beyond work ethic has been ignored or under appreciated. Therefor we should be more focused on what we can do as employers to both attract and keep a team players. If a person feels valued both monetarily and for growth purposes they generally are happier with their job. It is so tough finding top notch performers that we should treat them like elite athletes. I totally agree that passion can be squashed by the realities of compensation. If you give your all you feel like an employer should reciprocate. I love your layout, very easy to navigate,


  4. yes! The passion someone can bring to your team is like a light in a dark cave. I truly believe that anyone can do anything that they set their mind to. Passion provides the motivation that someone needs to achieve greatness. I love the statements that you have added from JetSet Times and Koombea.


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