How to Hire Smart Technology Commercialization People

This article first appeared in LinkedIn. Please feel free to connect with me if you find value in it or if you’d like to know more. While it could be applied in a generic sense to any smart person, we’ll focus here on those in technology transfer and commercialization.


Steve Jobs once said,

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

But it takes a little humility (and security in one’s abilities) to hire people who are smarter than you. If you can get past that you can begin to build a really amazing team. Here’s how:


Recruiting Smart People

For the purposes of this article, I’m referring to raw intelligence or IQ, not emotional intelligence. I’m also not writing about “average” or well-educated. Tech transfer candidates are almost all well-educated with advanced degrees. When I reference “smart” I mean people in the top 10-20% of the population on an IQ test.

Before you can even begin to narrow down smart people and interview them, you need to attract them. To attract them you’ll want a few basic things:

Opportunities. Smart people aren’t going to be attracted to dead-end situations unless they are looking at you as a stepping stone to something better.

Great benefits. Smart people weigh the total package, not just healthcare. Make sure you have something impressive to offer.

Challenges. Smart people don’t “do” bored well. If they’re bored, you can be assured they will find a way to entertain themselves. This may mean questioning authority or causing drama in your department. If they’re not being challenged, their choice of entertainment may not always be productive.

Learning opportunities. There are two types of smart people, those who have always been the brightest in every room they’ve entered and those who know they are one of many smart people. You want to hire the latter. To attract them, you’ll want to showcase learning opportunities, mentoring programs, and other ways they can develop themselves personally and professionally.

Balance. While geniuses tend to be singularly focused to a sometimes frightening degree, those who share their lives are not. An exceptionally smart individual may not need to be sold on the peripheral benefits of your organization and its location, but their families will. Giving them the whole picture of who they’re working for and where may help convince them to take a unique position or one that’s far from home.


Are You Sure You Want to Hire Smart?

Keep in mind that intelligence isn’t the end all, be all of a strong department. Smart people often don’t have experience with failure. Because of this they won’t see it as a learning experience and may get defensive. Managing smart people is another experience entirely, which we’ll leave for a different blog post.

Warren Buffet said, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.” At the Vortechs Group, we can help ensure the integrity of candidates through an intense screening process. Contact us today and we’ll help you build your dream team.


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