The 2015 movie, The Intern, told a story about a 70-year-old corporate retiree who was hired as an intern in a trendy online fashion clothing business. Beating out all the trend-setting young people, the 20-something CEO, played by Ann Hathaway, decides to take a chance on the old, seemingly oddball, Robert DeNiro, to be a set of hands at her runaway successful business that had grown so fast she could no longer keep up with orders with her cadre of skateboard riding, fun-loving, hard partying employees.

And SURPRISE!! The old geezer, corporate retiree helped to turn the company around, instill time-honored business management tools, and bring order to the company while still managing to find love and have time for outdoor Tai Chi.

The movie, The Intern, asks movie goers to buy into the idea that you really could potentially find and hire a 20 or 30 something with 30 years of experience AND that experience ages out to some obsolescence that is unredeemable.

To those who are hiring…

  • Degrees tell a fraction of a person’s story. Think of them as shiny objects that explain a person’s capabilities to master systems, critical thinking; to navigate rules and comply with defined expectations. Those are important life skills.
  • Prior Success. Look for signs of success because they speak to a person’s ability to work well with others (or not) and respect the team and even showcase the success of a team (or not). While grand scale successes are important, it is the daily signs of success that the applicant recognizes and celebrates that help you understand whether this is a team player or a solo flyer.
  • Failure. Look at the applicant’s failures. In those are written the person’s resilience, their ability to change with the lemons of any position, to respond to disappointments and sometimes, to help you see how this person can heal a team’s lowest moments.
  • Experience. Experience. Experience. Then look hard at experience and how those experiences bring missing links to your own business. Never hire someone who is “just like you” or “a great fit for the culture”. You will get in that person nothing new. They will offer no testing of your status quo. Respect that there are other ways to get somewhere and that the person sitting in front of you brings a wealth of experience that can only be earned over time with successes and failures and with the ability to bring a team along with those visions for what could be. You may well be hiring someone who is old enough to be a parent or grandparent. Respect that they bring knowledge that you can not learn in any way other than living it.
  • Understand. You will never get 20 years of experience from someone who has no experience at all. And that when you hire someone with no experience, you should expect to become mentor and teacher and make room for that new hire to learn and make mistakes and grow into the experienced staffer that you may have hoped they were initially.