Monthly Archives: August 2016

Hiring the Star Wars Bar

cantina

We may be a good nine months removed from Star Wars mania but, cultural icon that it is, you can never get too far away from thoughts and comments on the series. But although I’ll save my thoughts on Rey’s real parents for another post, there’s one Star Wars scene that always sticks with me: The “Star Wars Bar.”

For the uninitiated, the Star Wars Bar – or Cantina as some call it – is depicted in the original Star Wars film. The scene opens up to trace across the room, revealing the assorted aliens and oddball characters that the Star Wars universe is known and loved for. But while all the characters are wildly different, they nonetheless seem to be enjoying themselves, reveling in the music and libations like most pub-goers would.

I’ve always used “Star Wars Bar” to describe the talented group of misfits and strangelings one often finds in a small companies.   Many times, these are people who just don’t check every box on the wish list (job description) or have some quirk that more persnickety companies in corporate America – where your pedigree, alma mater and “look” are as important as experience and talent – tend to use as disqualifications. But just like in the Star Wars Bar, good characters (and good talent) can come from anywhere and in many forms.

What I missed initially is that hiring misfits, strangelings or quirky aliens is not just a compromise small companies deal with because they can’t hire those picture perfect, made for TV candidates. It’s a differentiation strategy—a way to make your company stand out from the competition.

Daniel M. Cable, author of Change to Strange: Create a Great Organization by Building a Strange Workforce puts it even more strongly. “If your competitive advantage depends on your people creating something valuable and distinctive, then your workforce can’t be normal.”

But what qualifies as “not normal”? In my experience, strangeness comes in different flavors:

  • A non-traditional college education
  • A stint doing something unusual and not job-related for a period of time (like creating a business or living abroad or volunteering)
  • Against-type personalities (think bold, expressive accountant)
  • Those that need slight accommodations for quirks (e.g. many creative personalities do their best work late at night)

So don’t bypass the people who don’t line up to your mental picture of the perfect candidate. Many times “perfect” is more accurately defined as “vanilla.” Start filling your bar with the strange beings from different planets who will disrupt your status quo and increase your competitiveness.