A couple of months ago we looked at the culture of the mission critical organization.  In this blog we will look at what traits seem to work best in this field and how you spot those traits when you hire.  Most people when they go to hire people look for someone that “feels” right or “reflects our culture.”  I call these the “Boy Scout” attributes – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, et cetera – and throw in some questions around the skills required for the job.  This is not a bad thing, but I believe that you need to identify and focus on additional attributes which are of specific interest for mission critical facilities operations.  I consider the following traits important in the selection of mission critical personnel:

Attitude of service  The individual exhibits a personal culture of helpfulness, a desire to make things better for others and the environment that they are in.  This comes out in the words that they use, their demeanor, and actions.

Curiosity  The candidate shows a natural curiosity about how things work, wants to understand the science behind it and why it operates the way it does, and would explore how to make it work better.  Identify this in their stories, their educational pursuits (the fact that they have some), and the questions they ask.

Pride in one’s work - The prospective employee has an attitude of pride around what they or their teams have done.  This trait permeates their stories about challenges that were overcome and is reflected in the appreciation (awards, et cetera) that they have received. 

Competitive spirit  The individual reflects a desire to be the best, whether as an individual or associated with a team. Ask what awards they have received, what their class standings were, how they did in sports.  Again, listen to their stories.

An aptitude for mechanical, electrical, or controls This trait is apparent in the direction that their natural curiosity is most often focused.  You see this in their hobbies, educational pursuits, and the projects they undertake in their free time.

Penchant for cleanliness and attention to detail  It has been said that a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.  For the most part in this field, this is not so.  In critical facilities, cleanliness is next to godliness.  People who keep their stations and equipment clean spot things faster and before they become problems that lead to failure.  To some degree, this attribute is reflected in how they dress and how they write (resumes and correspondence).  And if you ask them, they should have stories that provide other clues around this area.

Identifies with teams  Surprisingly, identifying with teams is not the same as being a team player or team member.  Being a team player or team member is more an activity.  I’m talking about whether the person psychologically prefers to work in a team environment.  The most common mistake is to ask if they prefer to work in a team or to work individually.  The answer will always be “both” or, in reality, whatever the individual thinks will help them get the job.  To evaluate your candidate’s real preference, listen to their language.  Do they use “we” versus “I”?  Do they identify themselves as the team or as the individual that accomplished the goal?

Comfortable with military style command and control  In the critical facilities environment, a military-style command and control are essential to minimize risk due to communications and organizational actions.  It is important to note that, regardless of the culture of the parent organization, the critical facilities organization must have this rigor and precision in actions and communications.  For ex-military candidates, this is fairly easy to evaluate.  For those without military backgrounds, examine the organizations that the candidate was a member of.  Listen to the stories they tell around situations where they were given “orders” and how they reacted and felt about those situations.  (Here again, the words they use tell the story.)

These are the fundamental additional attributes that should be present in individuals for the greatest chance of success within the mission critical facilities organization.  These attributes don’t just apply to technicians, but to all personnel in the organization (engineers, managers, support specialists, et cetera).  Next month I would like to discuss training and its critical role in the operation of mission critical operations.