33 comments on “Hire a Rockstar? No Thanks

    • It is not unusual for companies to believe (that means HR and hiring managers) that simply hiring “the best” and placing them together guarantees success.

      Oh really?


      • HA!

        If you want a team that gives you human synergy – that is, they are more creative, productive, or whatever you need to get business done – you need people who are team players. These people will happily leave their sequined hot pants in the closet and will prefer to eat the cookies someone brought into the office rather than chomp bat guts.

        If you want to identify the good team players, you need the completely new way to predict how people will perform on a team.

        Fortunately, Steve can tell you all about it if you ask him nicely. Because, of course, I am assuming that YOU are a great team player.


      • I like “team players” who aren’t fearful of going a bit renegade (bc it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission) with a healthy dose of entrepreneur in them…


      • Entrepreneurial and renegade behaviors are Teaming Characteristics – great in some jobs, bad in others. Oh dear – I guess that explains why I was such a bad hire for the Rigid ‘rockstars-in-their-own-minds’ that I worked for in the past…

        It’s all about the fit.


      • If your recruiting order calls for independent, creative, entrepreneurial – but what you know they REALLY want is someone who won’t be a threat, won’t challenge you, and will, in the end, bring nothing innovative to the table that could cause dreaded ‘change’, you are a recruiter in a serious bind.

        The fact is, Steve, that renegade entrepreneurial types are more welcome in the fast growth, innovation, entrepreneur space than in some large companies. And, sometimes it is HR – or even recruiting – that is afraid of risk.

        And, of course, it is precisely because of your renegade, entrepreneural style that is why we love you.


  1. All of the FMLA, Employee assistance and rehab is not worth dealing with the so called rockstar. They also tend to flame out fast or move on…thank God. I don’t place “talent” or rockstars. I place good solid, smart people who understand what work is and that work life balance means having a good job with the opportunity to provide a good life for themselves and their families. When i hear, “ego, party of one”. Color me gone, the “talent Acquisition” folks can have the rockstars.


    • I wonder – if “Talent Acquisition” were simply “Recruiting” would they recruit people rather than rockstars? Do you think that TA folks up the ante so they can recruit to the level of their job title?



  2. Rrrrockstars and the behavior they generally exhibit are tolerated largely by sales organizations. However, the more their ego is fed with special treatment the more they want. It’s good for a while until the morale on the rest of the team is destroyed and another company recruits Ozzy out from under you with the lure of a Corvette and you’re left backpedaling to deal with hysteria while you fill the void and swallow bile to meet numbers. – Ex Time Share Resort Sales Manager


  3. It wasn’t that long ago hiring managers were saying, “I want a candidate who walks on water or find me that needle in the haystack.” Now it’s ‘rockstar.’ I wonder what the next overused terminology will be? And yes, rockstars eventually leave the team, once they’ve made a name for themselves they feel the need to experience their talents on their own. Good interview question to ask Steven Tyler is how that worked out for him.


  4. One more thing…just as today’s Gen Y is more spoiled than the babyboomers – todays “so called” rock stars are way more spoiled than the rock stars of yesterday. Brittany Spears (not sure if you could call her a rock star or media whore) demands her hotel room be filled with a certain color of M&M’s and cases of Coke.


  5. Fabulous post Steve. Appreciate the valuable wisdom.

    Rock stars in the music/talent world often pay a heavy price when not careful about taking periodic self-assessments ;-)

    You give us much to think about. Talk about timing – ey? Rock stars in the workplace are a very different genre indeed – often they are neither famous nor wealthy. They teach, inspire, share freely and bring their unique personality to the mix. We call them insightful “people”…some real life rock stars even dare to be under the radar. Imagine that.

    PS: You are one in my book. Thanks for rocking out on a daily basis and being a true workplace + social community player.


    • Imagine a Rockstar hidden from view? Do you think they even read ads that are looking for rockstars? Incidentally if someone is that good, they won’t refer to themselves as a rockstar! Those who do are probably divas…


  6. I am not going to disagree with the warnings against hiring rock stars. (though they do have a drive and motivation…maybe not the type that translates into longer term, mutually beneficial relationships). I will however, chime in, with the perspective that candidates need to be able to talk about their achievements and management style and team building abilities. Most of the job seekers I encounter are unable to do this convincingly.

    Could it be that many, if not all, of the 99ers seem to have misplaced their ability to talk about their achievements in ways that a future employer can appreciate? Or are they unwilling to relocate, or is there some other obstacle that plaques them?

    There has to be some solution to getting more people back to work…what’s the answer?


    • Good point Hannah Montana…I don’t believe people misplace their ability to speak about themselves (Lord knows professional athletes and rockstars are at ease with speaking about themselves in the third person.

      Saying “We” is playing it safe; if you say “I” did this or that, then you are opening yourself up to an “attack” by someone who takes your opposite point of view. “We” spreads out the blame.

      Yet business is about what have you done – and we don;t prepare people early enough with the right type of business communication training. Perhaps Career Services needs to re-brand itself as a course and a field trip for all freshmen students. If we can get “them” young enough we can help members of the future workforce understand and appreciate the difference between “We” and “I” and that, yes, there is an “I” in “team.”


  7. Wait… why can’t a rockstar be a team player? Keith Moon certainly wasn’t the only rock star member of The Who; nor were any of their albums the work of one. I have yet to meet a non-rockstar “team-player” who ever did anything without first asking for permission. No thanks! For me, a rockstar diva is ideal. Lots of talent, and an ego that can be more easily satiated with accolades than with money.


    • James, darn right a rockstar can be a team player – never said they couldn’t. Managing a diverse team, however, isn’t easy and therein lies the problem – on-going training and coaching for managers.


  8. There are some great examples of some really outlandish, ridiculous behavior here. However, as a big music fan, I am more concerned about something else I see among rockstars; a complete lack of humility and the concept that WE (fans, customers, whatever) are the reason why they are where they are.

    I saw a YouTube video where Lauryn Hill (I think it is safe to say that she is a ‘has been’ at this point), came on stage after midnight for a show that was suppossed to start at 8pm on a weeknight. No opening act; and not a huge venue (obviously). When people started booing her, she had the nerve to admonish them, saying “I think I’m worth the wait” and “You all don’t understand…there’s a lot that goes on to bring this to you.” Oh please! If those people didn’t buy those tickets in the first place, you woulnd’t be eating!

    Coming from a customer service background, I wouldn’t dare say that the customer is always right; but I WILL say that you need to appreciate your customers. That they are spending money on you, and not somewhere else. Everyone in the organization should understand that. THAT the type of people that you should have on your team!


    • Thx for the comment Rishona…my take is that many rockstars are coddled by their handlers and insulated from their responsibilities. An ego unchecked is a dangerous weapon!

      I want to recruit smart, innovative, responsible, entrepreneurial people but only if I’ve planned out their assimilation into the existing team and culture. Let them behave badly on their own time..


  9. I don’t know… I see where you’re coming from, but rock stars change the world and from that perspective, I aspire to be one and be called one in my field.

    Maybe it’s all that Teach for America pressure to constantly be a change agent in my professional endeavors, but when I look at the last ten years of education reform, it’s the “rock stars” who made things move forward and changed the game for the better, even if there was some destruction left in their wake.

    But don’t worry, I’ll never use the term to describe you again- even if I meant it as a compliment. :)


  10. Steve,

    A question was posted over at Quora as to whether referring to the terms Ninja or rockstar in a job posting were patronizing. The following was one of the answers which i found rather funny. Hope u find it funny as well;

    “These terms should only be used if one is looking to hire an actual ninja or an actual rock star. Consider: would you like your new hire to play loud music, disappear for long periods of time, have substance abuse problems, and be constantly surrounded by infinite beauties of questionable moral character? Then by all means, advertise for a rock star. Are you seeking someone who will move silently through your office, killing suddenly and without mercy, and then fading into the shadows? A ninja is your man.”


    • I prefer hiring Ninjas because they have really cool swords and frankly if I have a choice between listening to a babbling and incoherent Rockstar or a Japanese dialect of a Ninja, I’ll choose the Ninja every time.


  11. Pingback: Has “Passion” Become Another Job Seeker Buzzword? | The Savvy Intern by YouTern

  12. Truer words were never spoken! Excellent post, Steve. Many times, the “rock stars” demand so much that they take away resources from the rest of the team and impact the overall performance of the group. I’d sure as heck rather have a strong, steady team of productive workers than a ego-maniacal rock star who puts tons of demands on fellow employees which ends up demoralizing everyone.


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