Should a Bike Tour Company Hire a Guide Who Has Never Ridden a Bike?

 In Leadership

Last week, we took a fabulous bike tour from the southern end of Manhattan up through Poughkeepsie and Hudson to Albany, New York.

Along the way, I heard a great story about the bike tour company interviewing prospective tour guides.

Being a bike tour guide is a demanding job. Guides must juggle many details, deal with unexpected issues, get people safely from one location to another, cheerfully ride their bike 30 or 40 miles a day, be charming at dinner, and …make it all fun.

Among the questions the tour company asks during a job interview is, “What’s your biking experience?”

One applicant answered, “I’ve never ridden a bike.”

They hired him.

Why? He had all the other essential qualities.

The company’s theory, it seems, is that it’s easier to teach someone how to ride a bike than to teach them how to be organized, accommodating, conscientious, enthusiastic, detail-oriented, entertaining, and friendly.

I’d like to suggest that there are two lessons here.

The first is that job applicants should never sell themselves short.

Just because you lack one of the core qualifications for a job doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply. It simply means that your other assets must shine bright enough to overcome that deficit.

The second lesson is that when hiring, it pays for employers to truly understand what qualities they value most.

For example, a classic question is: Are you hiring for competency or culture? (Translation: will you hire someone very talented who you believe may treat his coworkers poorly?)

Functional skills can be taught, and knowledge can be transferred. (I often tackle challenges outside my core area of expertise; learning is the fun part!)

So when you see a job you believe you would thrive in, go for it, even if you can’t check all the boxes.

And, if you are hiring, consider what intangible traits are most important to you, and treasure those qualities above all else.

Anytime I can help you think through a challenge or opportunity, please let me know.

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