The 4 Non-Negotiables to Look for When Hiring

photo credit:  Sara Forrest  

photo credit: Sara Forrest 

Katherine Warnock, General Manager at Darling says that one of her greatest strengths as a leader in business is her ability to hire and create a dynamic team.

Katherine says, "through the years my love for people, in all their uniqueness, coupled with my background in strategic, creative and branding-based management has developed a keen eye for talent."

Instead of trying to answer the impossible blanket questions, "how do you build a team?" she tries to point to the rarely promoted non-negotiables when it comes to building a dynamic, driven and seamless team. Here are her top four: 


This is one of the most important elements I look for when hiring. I am always asking myself when making a hire, “Is this person going to add to our culture or bring it down?”  I want contributors, not distractors. I want peaceful seekers of excellence and bold communicators, not toxic gossips or entitled mentalities. I’m very protective of the atmosphere I, as a manager, am asking my staff to spend a majority of their time in. I learned long ago that one must tend to culture the same way one tends to a garden — with intentionality, love and a commitment to warding off the weeds.


Sense of self. I want to know who you are and that you know who you are. It is important to me that you know not only your strengths, but that you are also at peace with your process in the areas you still need development in. The art of process and development is so often overlooked by managers. I have no problem hiring people that still need development. I do, however, steer away from hires where I do not feel a potential employee is self aware of what they do and do not bring to the table.

I love someone who knows their weaknesses and who isn’t afraid of the fact that they are still on a journey. I can work, mentor and shape those types of people. I don’t have room for ego or pretenses; I do have time for process.


Do they honor well? Honor and respect are the foundation from which I manage and are therefore traits that I require in any hire that I make. I want to build a culture around people who understand the potency of respect and of giving honor to those above them, around them and below them. I will not hire someone that lacks in this.

So many organizations and businesses today want to see the world changed, sustainable enterprise garnered, people united, impactful reach developed and walls broken down; it’s all an admirable pursuit that starts here, both in making the posture of respect and the ability to honor requirements in any hire.

"I want contributors, not distractors. I want peaceful seekers of excellence and bold communicators."

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Can this person be molded? Or do they think they have arrived? Can I give them constructive feedback that yields mature dialogue? Or will I be met with defensiveness? When hiring I want to make sure I am building a team of teachable people who embrace and esteem the importance of growth. I do not care if you have a list of accolades as long as Steve Jobs or Mother Theresa, if you are not willing to press into the best version of yourself, alongside a community trying to do the same, then I will not hire you.

Bottom-line, no one sprints to line up for constructive feedback. It is hard and vulnerable for all of us, but I want to search out those who are brave enough to invite and even pursue feedback. That’s how we grow, by allowing that which we cannot see about ourselves, our blind-spots, be brought to the forefront so we can get there faster, together.

What makes me good at my job? I’ve learned that these foundational pillars can be replicable for anyone, anywhere — employer and job seeker alike — if we are willing to follow them and in equal measure let them mold us. I doubt many would disagree with the above, as they are all virtuous and estimable traits. To that end I’m not actually saying anything new or controversial here.

I’m more asking the next wave of business leaders and business makers (employees) to go beyond the singular, yet necessary, pursuit of abilities by expanding their scope to include these markers which will serve them and the vision far more than skills alone ever could.

An original version of this article appeared on Darling.