At one of my earlier start-ups we were hiring and spoke to about 30 candidates. These processes always attract a wide variety of people and, to be honest, the occasional freak. This process was no exception.

The first candidate on the second day was just amazing. We were looking for a community manager and this guy knew nearly nothing about computers or the web. He was old (compared to us), had been unemployed for years and admitted to having had some mental problems in the past. He also appeared to have bought a suit just for the meeting, a few sizes too big, and showered in aftershave that morning.

We tried to keep a straight face during the meeting and politely thanked him. Then we had a good laugh after he left and went back to business.

The next day we had a discussion on who we should hire. We all had a favorite among the candidates and were discussing which one was the most qualified. Then my partner announced his favorite candidate: the freak.

I thought he was joking and so did my other partners. That weird old guy? Who didn’t have the right qualifications and was a clear, and certified, mental case? What?

But he WAS serious and made his case: he explained to us that the candidate was surely aware he was under-qualified too, and that he had only a really small chance of getting hired, anywhere really. He said “Now imagine how grateful and motivated he would be if we would hire him?”

He had a point, and after a few hours of talking about it we decided to hire the guy. My partner was right too. He was more motivated than anyone we had ever met. The aftershave wore off and we persuaded him to wear his usual clothes instead of the baggy suit. He picked up on the work really fast and became our most valuable employee within months.

Sometimes it pays off to look at opportunities from a different perspective. Who is going to be valuable to your company? That overqualified and cocky salesguy or that highly motivated younger dude who looks weird but is willing to give his life for you and your company?

Motivation goes a long way…