Some firms hire in volume. They have rigid processes in place. Ticking off boxes on a resume determines if the person is in or out.

But what happens when you are hand selecting people? When your team is small enough that each person you add to the mix influences the culture? How can you assess talent for long-term success?

Professional services firms are at high risk with each hire

Professional services firms (architects, accountants, consultants, engineers, lawyers, etc.) sell talent. There are no widgets produced which can be blandly addressed by QA. Professional services organizations directly sell the talent of the people hired. Each hire impacts the trajectory of the firm. 

Organizations that deal in “human capital,” have to look at more than the clients the people will serve. New talent shapes the fabric of the team—which can spark the aphorisms “iron sharpens iron” or “one bad apple.”

The thing is, there are no guarantees when we acquire talent since it is difficult to objectively quantify human beings. (Turns out we humans are brilliant, twitchy, complicated things.)

So, given that people are difficult to measure, how do you evaluate employees, when the intangibles weigh heavily on performance, and there is a subjective layer to every decision? 

5 categories with questions to help you evaluate

Here are 5 categories of questions we’ve learned can provide an accurate assessment when considering a new hire:


Passion is what engages people at a deep level. It is what drives them to want to do a task or activity. (In fact, often the opposite of their passion is what drains them.)

The questions: What are you passionate about? What gives you energy and makes you excited about life or activities? Conversely, what drains you?


Gifting is the thing that comes naturally to you. The things you do where you make it look easy.

Gifting is often harder for people to detect in themselves. Others can often tell it better than the individual can.

The questions: What do you do that people comment on that feels easy to you, but others assume it is difficult? What comes naturally to you? Conversely, what are the things you have to work very hard at to master and navigate?

When passion and gifting align, they are a huge force multiplier. However, they are not always aligned. In my case, when I was young, I was passionate about being a professional guitar player, but I wasn’t gifted to be one—no matter how much I practiced. At a certain point, I had to learn that there are things I’m passionate about that I’m not gifted in, and things I’m gifted in that I’m not passionate about. My greatest success has always been when I can align the two.


Temperament is a person’s way of being. In a company setting, it affects how a person interacts with others. Knowing someone’s temperament helps you understand how they act/react when times are good, and when they are under stress. For example, I am highly relational, but under stress, I shift to functional-mode. “Get the job done” becomes my motto, and everything not focused on that can be annoying. This is important for me to understand about myself, and for my team to know about me.

The questions: How are you wired? What is your natural stasis? How do you find yourself working with people? What is comfortable to you? When you stress test your temperament, what direction do you go in?


Experience is the thing that a potential employee will transfer to the firm he or she joins. It is what they bring to the party that they have learned to do and what frames their views.

In our world, this could be: contractual skills, engineering, design, meeting facilitation, software, development, or technical skills. It can also include the employee’s perspective. What life experience diverse views do they bring to the team that will make us broader and more holistic?

The questions: Tell me the story about how you became you. What experience formed you and informed your views? How did you get here? What skills do you have?


For me, completed education is proof that a candidate knows how to learn, and that had the tenacity to finish a degree or course. It provides evidence that a candidate can tackle difficult things, and find their way through to the end. Advanced degrees require a high commitment to achieve.

In our company, we have people who are degreed in one area and have moved to other disciplines as they followed their passion and gifting. In some industries, this is not the case. For example, I want to know that the airline industry hires pilots who know how to fly planes!

The questions: What is your education? Why did you select that path of study? What are you interested in learning next?

Now, let’s reverse this to the side of the person looking for a job.

This framework is also effective for job candidates who are evaluating companies. As a candidate, you can look at the same 5 criteria:

What is the company’s passion? The best companies I know all have a clear passion or mission–a reason for being in business. What is that company singly focused on doing and doing well? (Advice: If they can’t explain or describe this to you, know that your value to the company will tend to be based on the task you do, not on your ability to help them further their core mission)

What is the company’s gifting? What are the unique things that they do that no one else is gifted to do? Note that if passion and gifting are married, the company does extraordinary things. Be advised that no matter how attractive a company’s offer may be, if you can’t see the company’s gifting or passion, then you will never get to do extraordinary things with them.

What is the company’s temperament? Some companies are very informal. Others are wired to be hierarchical. Some are highly collaborative. Does your temperament and the company’s temperament marry up? (Advice: If they don’t, don’t play.)

What is the company’s experience? Do they have the track record to back up where they say they want to go?

What is the company’s education, and will they support yours? Does the company have the foundational underlying competency to deliver what they are promising? They can have great promotional materials, or great offices, but do they have what it takes to deliver?

If you can figure those 5 things out about the company you are interested in and there is a match, then there is magic.

While no framework has 100% accuracy, using one that looks at Passion, Gifting, Temperament, Experience, and Education, can help an organization uncover the wonderful things about people that can’t be accurately communicated in a resume. In our case, it has resulted in an average employment tenure of 14 years and a culture we are proud to celebrate.