As part of the celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the U.S. landing on the moon, I recently heard an interview with Gene Kranz, a veteran NASA flight director, telling stories from the early days of NASA. BTW, he was flight director for the Apollo 11 moon landing and the author of the book “Failure is Not an Option.”


He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success. 

What he talks about, that should interest anyone who is ever looking to hire quality people, is the criteria they used early on to find the kind of people they wanted (needed) for something as big as getting NASA’s space program off the ground (no pun intended).

They identified certain criteria they knew would be important for their hiring process. They knew they needed candidates that would have the right work ethic, drive and values. They didn’t hire based on just talent or college test scores.

The Right Stuff

They wanted those who were the first in their families to go to college, they looked for those whose family were from the mid-west, and especially paid attention to those who came from farming families.

They knew coming from a farming family they would have the type of work ethic they wanted; they knew being the first in their family to not only go to college but to graduate meant they were likely to have the drive and ability to overcome challenges. They knew they would need people who could work on their own, without constant supervision.

They were looking for the right “type” of person, because much of what they would be doing in NASA was all new, in many cases groundbreaking, so there would be a lot of training anyway. They wanted candidates who they thought would be able to overcome challenges and even failures.

They knew they would need the drive to keep going when there were failures. They knew they would need someone whose work ethic would not have them on their way out the door at one minute past the posted quitting time.

You see, they placed the emphasis on character traits rather than just skills, they knew many of the new hires would require a lot of training anyway because this was uncharted territory. Most new hires can be trained to do what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, as long as they have basic skills. However, it is rare to change someone’s character and values.

Real World Hiring Problems

Given the difficulty of finding quality staffing today and the frustration of hiring someone only to find out shortly afterward that they “don’t really want to work” or are ready to walk out the door at one minute past quitting time, a shift in thinking about your criteria is in order.

I have a client who recently talked of hiring someone who had great experience and checked most of the boxes for what he was looking for – in other words, he had all of the skills.

After three days the employee said everything was great, he was happy. Halfway through the first day of the second week, he said he was leaving because the owner was “too picky”, and he wanted everything done just right! Did I mention his position was one where the new employee would have 90+ percent of contact with his customers? — A good reason to have everything done just right!!!

Oh yeah, and as he was leaving, he wanted to know if the owner could “hurry up” and write up his paycheck for last week, because he needed the money, even though it wasn’t due for another week. (BTW, that didn’t happen.)

As you can see this person was lacking in work-ethic, character and…

Save Yourself Time and Money When Hiring

I do a lot of marketing consulting AND business consulting and implore my clients to find “the right type of person” when hiring. I mention how that will benefit them more than the emphasis being about skills; often that advice falls on deaf ears.

I have a current mastermind member who hired a highly talented employee whose work-ethic wasn’t up to par; the employee no longer works for him. His next hire for that position checked off many of the character boxes.

Unfortunately, too many hire out of need and sometimes frustration, unable to take the extra time and effort to go after the “right” person. However, it usually ends up costing more money and time.

In my monthly marketing newsletter, The Marketing Edge, I cover topics like this and more. If you’d like to get a FREE edition (you pay postage) along with a special bonus so you can try it out, click here.