What makes people ambitious? I don't think it can be taught. You either have it or you don't. In fact, it has been my observation that this characteristic in people follows a Bell Curve. There are a small minority of super achievers on one end and another small minority of the truly uninspired on the other. That said, most people sit somewhere in the middle when it comes to ambition.

Indeed, it seems that most people are content to strive and achieve just enough to attain their desired quality of life--no less, no more. This creates quite a challenge for a business leader that wants to cultivate a winning organization comprised of achievement hungry go-getters that are willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.

What to do? Hire for ambition. Here are 5 interview questions that may help you determine where a "candidate for hire" may fall on the Ambition Curve:

  1. Do you think you're going to win when you play a game with your friends? Most ambitious people would answer "yes" to this question. They believe that they have what it takes to "win" in nearly every setting.
  2. Do you know what you want to achieve professionally? People with immense professional desire know what they want and are constantly striving to get it. If a candidate can't articulate what they want. They may not have what you need for your business.
  3. Would you sacrifice social acceptance among your peers to achieve an important personal objective? The most ambitious people are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve their goals. This question tests the candidate on their readiness to pay the price in the short-term for the promise of gains in the future.
  4. Would you be happier in a job with less pay and responsibility, or one with more pay and immense responsibility? This question gets at the candidate's desire for achievement. If they seek less responsibility, they may be a "middle of the curve" person who is seeking the "comfort zone" and they may not be the go-getter that you're looking for to round out your team of high performers.
  5. Have you ever felt content with your life? Ambitious people are always looking for the next hill to climb. Feeling content is fleeting at best for those with the greatest desire for achievement.

To be sure, you can't teach desire! While these questions will not fool-proof your hiring practices. They can be used to indicate a person's disposition to go the extra mile to achieve success. Using them will enable us to get a feel for where a job candidate sits on the "Ambition Curve" that I have outlined. Who know? With some luck, they can be used to weed out those that only prefer to find a cushy 9 to 5 work setting.

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