What Warren Buffett Wants to Know Before He Hires You

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Hiring right is easier said than done. Everyone has their two cents about sourcing, screening and hiring, but what ends up mattering are the tried and true methods. Warren Buffett has been known for his no nonsense, down to earth business style, so it’s no surprise that the three main qualities Buffett looks for are simple and common sense.

We’ve all made hiring mistakes. Whether we’re in a rush to get a position filled, or simply didn’t screen well, some bad hires have slipped through the cracks. The cost of these employees can weigh heavily on the organization. Hiring practices are just another one of those processes that get refined over time and with knowledge. Take a few pointers on hiring right from a great in the business world, Warren Buffett.

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire , you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy . And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” –Warren Buffett

Scott Olson of Getty Images cleverly maps out why each candidate must possess all three of these important traits:

  • Low integrity , high energy and high intelligence and you have a smart, fast-moving thief
  • Low energy , high intelligence and integrity and you have a shopkeeper, not an engine of growth
  • Low intelligence , high energy and integrity and you have strong functionary, but not a great problem solver or visionary


Of the three main qualities that Buffett looks for in the hiring process , Integrity is listed first. A lack of integrity will inevitably lead to a lack of trust. When someone is untrustworthy, that impacts every aspect of his or her life, and work is a major one.

Regardless of how thorough each interview process is, hiring managers and recruiters can only gather a picture. Keep in mind, that picture is one that the candidate has a large part in painting. The more important the position, the more extensive the screenings, background checks and reference reviews should be. If small lies or misrepresentations are spotted, you can be sure that there will be other, more significant marks of lack of integrity.


Although this is the easiest quality to measure, it can be the hardest to spot. There are so many different types of intelligence. A complete dingbat might have the emotional intelligence of psychiatrist, while a genius coder might have the social skills of a 3 year-old. Knowing what you need in a candidate is the first step.

Employers can use several different types of test to gauge each type of intelligence. Puzzles, games, tests and interviews are all great ways to gain insight into each individual candidate’s areas of strength and intelligence. As the screening process goes on, challenge their problem solving skills, strategic abilities and ingenuity.


This doesn’t equate to finding the fast talker and walker. What companies need is someone with a lot of mental energy. The employee who is always thinking, the one who comes prepared for meetings and actually has input. Energy is pretty easy to spot in the hiring process . Body language, dialogue and facial expressions are all great indicators of energy levels.

On top of mental energy, there is the need for physical endurance. The workday can get long and tedious. The employee who doesn’t appear to need a nap by 11:00am is most likely the one who is actually getting work done. High energy is just as contagious for co-workers as it is for customers and clients.

There you have it, straight from Buffett himself, the three main characteristics to consider in the hiring process –integrity, intelligence and energy. A good mix of all three is needed for the success of the organization. As we refine recruiting and hiring processes, it never hurts to look to those who have come before us for some guidance.

photo credit: Fortune Live Media via photopin cc