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What Warren Buffett Thinks Is Important When Hiring Staff for Berkshire Hathaway

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The wealthiest person in the world is not only the world’s greatest investor, he also has some exacting standards when hiring his staff for jobs at Berkshire Hathaway.

Warren Buffett, who for years played second fiddle to Bill Gates among the world’s wealthiest billionaires, was recently named by Forbes Magazine as the new No. 1 with a net worth of $62 billion (remember, this article was written in 2008).

“In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy,” said Buffet. “But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”

This insight comes from The Tao of Warren Buffett by Mary Buffett (his daughter-in-law) and David Clark.

“When you hire someone to run your business, you are entrusting him or her with the piggy bank,” according to Buffett. “If these people are smart and hardworking, they are going to make you a lot of money, but it they aren’t honest, they will find lots of clever way to make all your money theirs.”

The rule is simple: People with integrity are predisposed to perform; people without integrity are predisposed not to perform. It is best not to get the two confused. Integrity is the key ingredient.

The lesson is simple: Having integrity is more important than being good at what you do.

Mary Buffett says that “Warren’s management style has always been to afford his managers tremendous operational autonomy. They are free to run the businesses as if they are the owners. He could not give his managers this much freedom if they lacked integrity.”

That is how important integrity is; it is everything. If you are concerned about being judgmental, work more on becoming less so by gaining more knowledge and understanding, and always stress your integrity first.

While Warren Buffett is a great investor, he is not a great manager of the businesses that Berkshire Hathaway owns. His secret for growing a corporation through diverse acquisitions is to buy a good business for a reasonable price that already has competent management running it, and then get out of way and let them do their job.

To show you how particular Buffett is at picking his own people, you need only know that Berkshire Hathaway has about 180,000 employees but only 17 of them are at Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska with Warren Buffett.

Can you imagine any other major corporation in America with only 17 employees at its headquarters office? If you get the idea that Berkshire Hathaway is an efficient operation, you get the idea. How you determine who to hire makes all the difference in the world.

Berkshire Hathaway has stock in very few companies, a huge stake in some major companies and owns some companies outright.

When you speak as a potential hire, people should almost instantly get the impression that they are talking to a person of substance who is guided by integrity and is very professional at what they are doing.

You develop this presence by knowing who you are, where you are at, what you are doing, why you are doing it, and doing it so you can serve someone else at their point of need. Like success, this development is a process and not a destination, but I promise you from the bottom of my Irish heart that you will enjoy the journey, and God will be with you to help you and guide you on your way.

Online Hiring Threatens to Do Away With Traditional Hard Copy Resumes – Is It Really True? (Part 1 of a 4-Part Series)

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

The presentation of this story in my Wednesday daily newspaper is dramatic.

A smaller headline in color above the main headline says “Digital Job Searches Gain Ground”.

The main headline says “Straight to the Waste Basket” and shows a picture up top of a resume folded like a paper airplane headed presumably for a wastebasket (if you are wondering, wastebasket is one word, not two).

Is it really true? Well, I guess that depends on who you are talking to and what advice you choose to believe.

The story—and I use the word story rather than article because I believe most of the story is make believe—makes some observations and assumptions that are without substance in fact.

“Instead of reading your resume,” says Daine Stafford of The Kansas City Star, “an employer might ask you to fill out an online form or take an online test that measures how well you fit the job, based on responses from successful workers.”

That is an observation and at least the first part of it is correct, that more and more employers are asking for an email version of a resume rather than the traditional hard copy (printed) version we have used in recent decades.

Stafford says “Google, for example, uses a screening program to measure applicants’ attitudes, behaviors, personality and biographical details. Answers are scrunched in a formula that creates a score, indicating how well the candidate is likely to fare on the job.”

Fair enough, Google probably does so if Stafford says so.

I have often wondered what a screening question like “Which would you rather be: 1) a monkey, 2) a bear, 3) a tiger, or 4) a kangaroo?” actually tells human resources about a person’s personality that they could not better find out by interviewing them.

If you get the impression that interviewers are personnel types who are lazy in the hiring process, you might be right. Anything to get them to the point where they have nothing to do but push paper around, and look important and arrogant in the process (like I have mine, screw you).

Stafford continues: “It’s all electronic,” said Michael Doyle, a 60-year-old job seeker from Prairie Village, Kan. (sic), who recently landed a job through personal contacts. In nine months, Doyle said, he’s spoken to exactly two interviewers as a result of online postings.”

My guess is that Doyle may have submitted an email version of his resume to dozens, if not hundreds, of online destinations.

I could have told Doyle that probably 60% of all hiring is contacts, knowing people in the workplace or knowing people who know people in the workplace. Yes, it helps to have qualifications, but it helps more to have qualifications and know someone who wants to help you.

Reading about Doyle’s experience might lead me to conclude that online posting is not the best method to proceed here given the results. No wonder hiring is so screwed up.

From this and another example, Stafford then draws the conclusion that the applicants “discovered that resumes have gone digital.”

She goes on to say “In some cases, resumes have disappeared from the hiring process completely. Some employers don’t even want them in digitized format. They prefer customized online forms, tailor-made to cull the applicant field.”

Again, anything to make it easier on personnel types, we certainly would not want to put them out for even a minute of their precious time.

From the input of experiences of two applicants this conclusion comes bursting forth as implied truth that a new paradigm has taken place in the America business of hiring.