Why ‘lazy’ candidates make great employees

Bill Gates once said that he would always “hire a lazy person to do a difficult job” at Microsoft. When asked what prompted this response he explained it was because a lazy person will find an easy way to finish the job.

We’re not talking here about employees who don’t meet performance standards, but those seem to make little effort. Their laziness is real, but it’s a symptom of something bigger, they aren’t motivated.  After all, it’s the lazy employees who know the shortcuts, the efficiencies, how to eliminate problems, keep things running smoothly, and save time with minimal stress.  Lazy people also tend to work in bursts of productivity and tackle things as they arise.

In 2015 researchers published in the Journal of Health Psychology described “laziness” as “need for cognition” implying that lazy people craved more structure and intense mental stimulation such as debating and brainstorming. Furthermore, Michael Lewis, the bestselling author of “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” once said that “my laziness serves as a filter because something has to be really good before I’ll decide to work on it.”

If you are in the process of filtering candidates and want to hire a lazy person, make sure your shortlist possess the following:

  • Passion – The right kind of lazy person will have hobbies and require additional stimulation outside of the workplace. Ask the potential candidate if they play any sport or what they enjoy doing in their spare time.  
  • Balance – Lazy people don’t bring work home because they value their time & balance, and complete tasks efficiently for this reason. Ask them how they manage their time at work and how important it is to maintain work/life balance.
  • Resourcefulness – The wrong type of lazy people will avoid work, but the right kind of lazy will look for ways to save time, minimise stress and complete tasks before deadlines. Ask them to provide you examples of how they used a shortcut to complete a project or what they have learned recently that has made work easier.

Business today requires speed, efficiency and innovation, lazy employees produce all those things.

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