A few years ago, I was a keynote speaker at an HR conference where I spoke on of one of my favorite topics: critical success factors for hiring the right employees. The room was packed full of eager young professionals who were determined to learn the “secret” of hiring the right employees in their respective organizations.

During the Q & A session, one of them asked me, “What is the single most important thing you have learned about hiring and where did you learn it from?” Although I warned her that my response would come as a surprise, she was still shocked to hear that the most profound insights I have gleaned on hiring have come from the bible!

Let me put that into context. As a certified recruitment consultant with over twenty years of hands-on experience, I have managed in excess of one thousand recruitment projects and personally conducted more than ten thousand job interviews. In addition, I have participated in hiring techniques and methodology workshops at some of the most renowned learning institutions in the world.

Yet, none of my experiences or education has successfully matched the depth of perception-expanding insights on effective hiring that I have gained from studying the single bestselling book of all time. And, what I find particularly fascinating is that the bible is well over two thousand years ago, but it contains timeless and sophisticated recruitment techniques that are relevant in today’s world. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

Let me share some of those insights with you.

Daniel 1:1-5 says:

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim King of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim King of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.”

What I hope you can see straight away is that the king was supremely clear about who he wanted to work for him. His hiring instructions to Ashpenaz, his Head of HR, specifically outlined the qualities, skills and requirements that were non-negotiable for the candidates to be selected. Isn’t it interesting that a ruler who lived two thousand years ago was a lot more competent in identifying and communicating his hiring needs than some CEOs in our ultra-modern world today?

And if Nebuchadnezzar got that right, there must be some hidden treasures we can extract from the kind of people he asked for, which we can adapt to today’s context.

Six Hiring Lessons from King Nebuchadnezzar’s Person Specifications

  • Of Noble Birth

The candidates were being recruited to serve in the palace and would interact directly with the king. During that time, kings were extremely powerful, and it was not uncommon to have a subject executed for taking the slightest step out of turn. It was therefore crucial that the candidates were as closely matched to the king’s standards as possible. They had to have come from a similar background to the king and had to have been raised to think, talk and act like a king. 

When it comes to hiring right, “fit” matters a great deal. You must do everything possible to hire people who are an appropriate fit for your organization’s specific context.

  • Handsome and Without Physical Defect

Without doubt, this specification would be heavily criticized as discriminatory today. But not during Nebuchadnezzar’s time. The king wanted people he could show off to his visitors and rivals, and who would complement the magnificence of his palace. Consequently, they had to be physically fit and handsome. 

That simply means, you must put the right people in the right roles. And this is virtually impossible to do without a clear understanding of the role, as well as the skills, qualities and attributes required to flourish in that role.

  • Aptitude for Every Kind of Learning

The king expected the right candidates to have high learning agility. They had to be capable of learning and acquiring critical competencies at an accelerated pace. With this requirement, the king demonstrated that aptitude testing is crucial in the selection process. 

In the 21st century, learning agility is even more critical, as organizations are required to outlearn their competitors if they are to survive and thrive. You must assess a potential employee’s aptitude for learning as part of your hiring process.

  • Quick to understand

The king wanted candidates who could assimilate, process, simplify and present information quickly. He was rapidly expanding his kingdom by conquering other nations and he needed men who could take complicated intelligence and break it down into usable forms. In other words, he needed problem solvers.

There is a strong correlation between high problem-solving agility and superior performance on the job.

  • Qualified to Serve in the King’s Palace

Serving in the king’s palace was not for everyone. It was the highest honor and career aspiration, and the successful candidates had to have the right qualifications.

Qualifications play a significant role in ensuring that organizations have people with the right skills and competence needed to excel in specific roles. You must identify the right qualification requirements that are vital to the success of each role.

  • To Learn Language and Literature

The two core competencies required for serving in the royal palace were language and literature. These were non-negotiable skills that everyone had to possess.

Your organization must identify the core competencies upon which its success and business continuity are hinged. You must then take deliberate steps to ensure every member of the organization, irrespective of their role, acquires a certain level of proficiency in these competencies.
These are some of the lessons that have guided me and many of our clients to success when making hiring decisions. For more compelling lessons on hiring right or to buy a copy of my book, Hiring Right – A matter of Life and Death for Businesses, Business Owners and Executives, please visit www.hiringright.wpengine.com.