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What Planes, Trains and Automobiles Taught Me About Hiring Smart

Aaron McHugh

What Planes, Trains and Automobiles Taught Me About Hiring Smart

Hire Smart. Don’t hire someone that you wouldn’t enjoy during a twelve-hour car ride through a snowstorm.

The week before Christmas, my co-worker and I flew to Baltimore, MD to close a big deal that could save our year. The CEO was rumored to be ready to sign. Despite the winter blizzard beginning to pound our home airport in Denver, we proceeded with the 8 a.m. meeting. Fifteen minutes later, we were walking out of the client’s office with a $2M signed contract in hand high-fiving our way back to BWI airport.

The Denver airport shut down before we could even return the rental car. Denver was about to receive upwards of five feet of snow over the next four days before we arrived home.

Four days to get back home

Throughout our 1695-mile return journey, we lived out scenes from the 1986 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. We pieced together one-way flights from Baltimore to Nashville, then Nashville to Kansas City. After poaching the last rental car available for 120 miles, we were dejected by a closed interstate. Holed up in Salina, KS we barely dodged sharing the last room-in-the inn “those aren’t pillows”.

On our final leg, we spent twelve-hours in the car together road tripping our way back to Denver. During the car ride this idea became crystal clear to me.

Despite the travel fiasco, I really enjoyed being with my coworker. He was a fun guy to be around and I got to know him really well. He was upbeat, optimistic and had great stories. If I were ever to get stuck like that again, I’d choose to do it with him.

This trip changed how I hire people

Back at work, I was interviewing a few new sales candidates and I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t want to hire one of them in particular. He checked out in every area but one. I realized that if I had been stuck with that candidate for 120 hours, four days, airports, hotels, dinners, delays and a blizzard, I would have wanted to jump out of the moving vehicle. He wasn’t a bad person. He was technically qualified for the role. I realized I simply didn’t enjoy conversation with him. He wore on me.

The epiphany yielded this question, “Why would I hire someone that I wouldn’t enjoy their company on a trip like this?”

The realization that I had was that, if I wasn’t enjoying the interactions with this person, then surely our clients wouldn’t either.  From that day forward, I always ask myself this question.

Would I enjoy being stuck with this person in a car for twelve hours in a snowstorm?

Try it yourself the next time you’re wondering, “Should I hire this person?”

This post is an excerpt from the Field Guide: 99 Ways to Navigate Your Best Life. Download the full guide here.