When the Boston Pops Orchestra, a national treasure for over a century, needed to hire a new conductor when the legendary Arthur Fiedler retired after nearly 50 years, every director in the country must have jumped at the chance. The orchestra was innovative, popular, and highly regarded – a conductor’s dream.
So, even though the board could have likely hired any of the many brilliant conductors who applied, instead they chose someone who had never before conducted professionally, or even done so in front of a live audience!
They chose John Williams. Williams has been called the greatest film composer ever – he’s won 25 Grammys and received 52 Academy Award nominations – so he is a musical genius in his own right, but writing the orchestrations for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T. and Harry Potter is quite different than conducting them…which is why he said yes to the job. His composing work kept him alone in his studio and it was “an irresistible temptation” to help the orchestra bring his music to life and feel the audience’s reaction to it.
Fortunately for music lovers, Williams was a perfect fit for the orchestra and his music aligned well with the pop style. Everyone won. It’s easy to see this synergy in retrospect, but it was still a risk for the board to offer him the job.
The next time you have a position to fill, remember the Pops and John Williams. Resumes only go so far in identifying candidates. Maybe your best person is the one who has no direct experience in the job but brings energy and attributes that will make them wildly successful anyway.