Why Southwest Airlines likes to hire teachers

Summary:How successful companies look beyond the resume to find employees who have that extra dose of passion along with their educational or technical credentials.

Southwest Airlines has a proclivity toward hiring teachers -- regardless if they don't know anything about the airline business.  Why? Because Southwest believes passion and commitment more than makes up for a lack of specific industry experience.

Photo credit: Southwest Airlines media relations site

This a prime example of companies that look beyond the resume and basic skills and seek out a sense of passion in individuals.  In a recent interview, Ekaterina Walter, social innovator at Intel and author of the recently published Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, says teachers are attractive to Southwest because they bring with them a "curious naivete."  Companies such as Southwest want employees who "look at things that are unconventional."

That is also one of Zuck's business secrets -- find employees who have that extra dose of passion along with their educational or technical credentials. Too many employers rely on resumes to bring in job candidates, which only provides a one-dimensional view of the applicant, Walter points out. This approach is only getting narrower as there are reports that some employers look at factors such as Klout scores -- which measures their level of Twitter influence -- in their hiring decisions.

Forward-looking employers -- such as Southwest, Apple and Facebook -- look for traits not seen on resumes, such as intellectual curiosity and desire to succeed in their particular businesses, Walter adds.

Of course, such statements raise a host of questions that relate to today's difficult job market. As has been discussed a number of times here at SmartPlanet, there has been a gap between high numbers of unemployed and the technical skills required for many job openings. Still, technical skills alone will not propel companies forward. Rather, cutting-edge companies seek such skills, along with passion. "If you look at all the successful companies, their mantra is hire for attitude," Walter explains. "Skills can be taught, but passion can't.  That’s the principle that Jobs, Zuckerberg, and others use to look at the best candidates."

Is it possible to lure a teacher that is highly committed to his or her job and profession to come over and work in the airline industry? That's another question.

But, ultimately, a successful corporate culture that delivers consistent growth is built on highly committed and energized people.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation


Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. Joe is co-author, along with 16 leading industry leaders and thinkers, of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation. He speaks frequently on cloud, SOA, data, and... Full Bio

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