I have built quite a few teams, so over the years I have developed a few general rules when hiring:
Rule 1) I look for self starters. Someone that can show a proven track record of getting things done. As employees they don’t just bring me the problem, but they also bring a possible solution or two.
Rule 2) I look for smart people open to new ideas and perspectives. The best team is a diverse group who aren’t afraid to respectfully discuss new ideas that might lead to a better / faster / cheaper way of getting the job done. People who are open to creative solutions.
Rule 3) I follow the no bozo rule – only hire A players.
Guy Kawasaki described the no bozo rule as “a theory which states that “A” players hire “A+” players [people better than themselves], but “B” players hire “C”, “C” hire “D”, which ultimately leads to a company full of bozos.” I have also observed that a smaller team of A players can produce much more than a larger team of B players in the same amount of time.
Rule 4) I look for hires with long term potential – someone with a passion for learning and professional growth. Are they taking an online class or what are they reading right now? Do they have a blogger they follow? I also understand that sometimes you have a task that needs a person and you need to hire a resource to fill that specific need right now, but that is when you hire a contractor or consultant. I hire my line positions for the long term. A contractor may become a line hire if they prove their worth and are a fit long term. I also look for “fit;” first do they have the skills we need, but also will they fit into our culture (but remember the Rule 2 above, you have to hire people with new ideas and perspectives)?
Rule 5) And part of that "fit" is following the no jerk rule – you can’t have one person disrupting everyone else. Just because you are good doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk. One bad apple can disrupt an entire team. An “A” player isn’t a jerk. To be a true "A" player the candidate should be a team player and work well with others.
And finally, Rule 6) is the candidate passionate about what we are doing? Do they believe in the mission and goals?
If you follow these general rules you are on your way to building a great team.