In a recent Inc.com video Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why, suggests that, when it comes to millennial job candidates, bosses should "try and find out who they are, not just what they do."

I have a bone to pick with this statement (and it's not just that the differences between millennials and everyone else are wildly overblown). It's that bosses should try to figure out who every job candidate is as a person, regardless of their age.

Our weekends are a window into our passions.

That's not only because showing an interest in the life of the person across from you is a sign of basic human decency. It's also smart business, according to a host of experts. For one, asking about a person's passions and off hours pursuits can be a great window into what truly motivates them when they're not trying to earn a paycheck or please a boss.

And as Sinek himself has pointed out, that sort of intrinsic motivation is the best engine for driving people to accomplish great things. When a company's goals line up with an employee's beliefs, that employee is far more likely to do great work. So of course you should try and find out what drives every job candidate.

That's why VC Brad Feld always asks those he's interviewing, "What do you do on the weekend?" "I've used it with founders of companies I'm looking at investing in, TechStars founders, and execs for early stage companies. Basically, anyone who I'm trying to understand what they are thinking about long term," he's explained. "The variety of answers is fascinating, often deeply personal, and occasionally very confusing to me. But they are always enlightening."

Another top VC, Chris Dixon, also endorses the idea of asking what people do on their off time, particularly when hiring for technical roles. Not just because those who are truly passionate about their work will almost always dabble in related projects on the weekends. For a man in his profession, the hobbies of smart people are also a window into up-and-coming tech trends, he notes.

"Engineers vote with their time, and are mostly trying to invent interesting new things. Hobbies are what the smartest people spend their time on when they aren't constrained by near-term financial goals," Dixon has written. "What the smartest people do on the weekends is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years."

Indulging your passions is the ultimate perk.

There's yet another reason that trying to probe a candidate's drives and personal situation is a good idea no matter the age of the person sitting across from you: providing a supportive environment for a candidate to exercise her passions can be the ultimate lure to land exceptional talent in a highly competitive market.

Just look at news anchor Megyn Kelly's move from Fox to NBC. Reportedly she's making much less at her new network, so how was NBC able to win her over?

The New York Times reported at the time that ""[The chairman of NBC's news division Andrew] Lack won her over by starting the talks with a question about what she was seeking, instead of flatly offering possibilities. He then came back with a deal that was tailored to her preferences. A daytime show would give her a schedule that would allow her to see her children off to school and to have dinner with them and her husband."

In other words, by taking the time to understanding the totality of who Kelly was as a person -- her passion for her family life and her struggles to balance home and work -- NBC was able to gain a big star for a bargain price. Smaller employers may be able to do much the same if they ask all candidates about who they are as humans and, if they're a good fit for the company, tailoring the role to those concerns.

Published on: Aug 30, 2017