In 1957, when researcher Dr. Louis Leakey received a grant to study chimpanzees in the wild, nothing was known about their habits or how they behaved in their natural habitat. He wanted to send an unbiased researcher into Africa to observe the chimps and ended up selecting his 29-year old secretary who had no training or scientific degree.
This secretary turned out to become the acclaimed Dr. Jane Goodall who studied the chimps for 60+ years, creating the longest continuous study of any animal in their natural habitat in history.
Leakey saw in Goodall three key characteristics: a love of animals, an open mind and “monumental patience.” The third quality was especially important since it was 5 months of sitting and observing before the chips accepted her and actually behaved normally in her presence.
Two lessons for you to consider from this hiring: 1) it is incumbent upon the hiring manager to deeply consider what traits would make someone successful in the open position. By compiling a list of attributes – vs. just a list of qualifications or responsibilities — the manager has a much higher likelihood of hiring the right someone. Leakey knew that temperament was more important than credentials for this job.
2) Oftentimes, the best candidate does not fit the standard mold. Just as Dr. Leakey was seeking someone unbiased by prevailing theories about the chimps, you are well-served to be open-minded about the background of your new hire. It is often those who come to the position with unique experiences that bring new insights and innovate.
Knowing what you are truly looking for takes reflection time, but ultimately pays great benefits for the hiring manager, the employee and the organization. The next time you have the opportunity to hire, look for your own Jane.
Source: “Jane” movie, 2017, Hulu