Sign of the Times? How Does HR Go About Hiring Someone “Cool?”

Last week I was at the airport picking up a friend, and I overheard a discussion that two gentlemen were having about a company that is going through a major reorganization. Don’t ask me how, but if there is a discussion about HR going on somewhere within a 20 foot radius, I’ll pick up on it.

From what I could gather, the reporting structure and just about everything else was being reorganized in HR because of a recent change in senior level management.

This comes as no surprise because typically when someone new joins the “C” suite, the status quo no longer exists. Sometimes that’s a GREAT thing, and other times, well, for those who no longer fit in for one reason or another, it’s not so good.

The discussion progressed further and it appeared as though while some of the current employees would not make the cut, they needed to hire at the same time. Names of individuals started to be tossed out for consideration and for one reason or another I kept hearing “no.”

“The company wants to hire ‘cool’ people”

My ears really perked up however, when the response to one of the names was a resounding “oh no … the company wants to hire ‘cool’ people.”

Cool people? OK, now I’m intrigued but feeling slightly guilty that I am eavesdropping forced to listen to this conversation, in an airport no less, but I admit that I couldn’t wait to hear more.

Of course, I sat there trying to decide if I would be “cool” enough for them (pretending of course, that I knew exactly what skills, experience and behavioral traits they would be looking for). It’s human nature to question how we stack up against others. We learn how to do that early on in life and I don’t think it ever truly goes away no matter how confident you are.

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Can you create a culture of “cool?”

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), my friend stepped out to the waiting area after a long flight and I didn’t get to hear the rest of the story … but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

If a company is trying to create a culture of “cool” by hiring “cool” people, how do you go about doing that? Assuming that they understand that you can’t discriminate against race, gender, age, etc., what criteria WOULD they use? I guess I’ll never know.

So I’ll throw it out to you the readers. If you were charged with hiring “cool” people – what would you do? I would love to hear your thoughts.

This was originally published on Deborah Herman’s HR Optimist blog.

Deborah Herman is "Your Recruitment Business Partner" at DH Talent Strategies, LLC in Pompano Beach, FL. She's also a blogger at, and a HR professional with 20 plus plus years of director-level experience in staffing, marketing and employment communications. Deborah also serves as a District Director for HR Florida State Council. Contact her at


5 Comments on “Sign of the Times? How Does HR Go About Hiring Someone “Cool?”

  1. HR and cool don’t belong in the same sentence…cool’s a reflection of corporate culture, and unfortunately, neither can really be defined. You know it when you see it. Kind of like posturing.

  2. The coolest person for us of a certain age would have to be “Fonzy”! The younger generation might pick “Lady GaGa or “Justin Bebier” or even Charlie Sheen may be cool to some. As Matt says you know cool when you see it, it’s a reflection of a culture and that can be age or gender related. Turn the question around and think of companies you think are “cool”; who would you want to work for, maybe Facebook, Google or a startup. I don’t see GE, Sears and even Microsoft as “cool”. I’m afraid if a company says they want to hire “cool” they are really saying they want to hire “young”. Albeit I know young and old folks that are “cool” and I know young and old that are not! Perception is reality and defining cool is the perception of the hiring team – that culture you may not be able to articulate.

  3. To use the term effectively the term “cool” needs to have a definition that is consistent across the company. Using “cool” is fine with that definition, but very problematic if left to each individual’s definition. It is too dependent on your own personal experience which leads to many biases. Is under 40 cool? Is being black cool? Is being gay cool? Is being heavily tatooed or pierced cool? Without definition of the term that is accepted by everyone involved you are asking for trouble.

  4. Here’s what I hope “cool” means – I hope it refers to someone who keeps up; who has appropriate incorporated technology and its possibilities; who understand some (probably not all) the references to today’s world; who is savvy about the incoming workforce and their interests/needs; who is alert to trends, not resistant to change; and, someone who understands “not in my job description” is to job separation. That’s what I hope it means, because those are the employees who can help an organization be successful!

  5. Loved the thoughts on what’s “cool” and totally agree that it is a culture thing when it comes to companies. For individuals I think it’s about being interesting (and interested in others), being current–as in able to talk about current events/technology, and also being a little bit different. Being your own unique person, being confident, and making a contribution.

    As a former high school nerd, i am enjoying my time as a self-identifed COOL human resources director. I also think Deb Herman is pretty HR cool too! Sorry Matt, “HR and cool” are in the same sentence in my world.

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