Why one CEO hires the 'class clown' instead of the 'brainiac'

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Jay Gould, CEO of the digital advertising company Yashi, knows a thing or two about creating a favorable work environment. His company was named one of the Best Places to Work in New Jerseyin 2015.

Gould attributes his positive company culture to a happy, hard-working team.

To create that team, he says he looks for a number of specific qualities in potential employees when adding to his company, like integrity and tenacity.

However, he puts special emphasis on a quality most executives overlook in candidates: a sense of humor.

"Encouraging humor keeps things light in the office while solving problems," he says. "It manifests a supportive, collaborative environment across all departments."

He notes that humor not only promotes a positive work atmosphere, but also nurtures individual relationships between colleagues.

"When people are comfortable with each other, they work better together and aren't afraid to pitch ideas," he says.

For Gould, the in-person interview is a crucial part of the hiring process. It helps him determine whether a candidate has a lighthearted sense of humor, or can at least work productively and happily with other "class clowns."


Gould says that throwing an odd, unexpected question at candidates not only illustrates their ability to crack a joke (especially under pressure), but also tests if they possess essential critical thinking skills.

"I have a rotating list of weird, hard-to-answer questions that I like to ask candidates to see if they are the right fit," he reveals.

"For example, I'll ask, 'If you were a crayon, what color would you be and why?' If someone replies with 'I don't know' or 'I've never thought about that before,' it can be a strong indicator that they're apathetic. If the candidate responds enthusiastically with a thoughtful explanation, it can show how uniquely creative they can be."

It's not necessarily about having the right answer, he says. "How they approach it will illustrate their attitude and demonstrate their problem solving process."

While Gould sees many positives to working among comical colleagues, he would never discount hiring a "brainiac" — someone with impressive qualifications, but perhaps lacking in the charisma or creativity department — as a no-nonsense approach can be fundamental to a lucrative business.

"Employing a variety of perspectives creates a team that encompasses a depth of experience," he says. "Brainiacs execute by the book and approach things from an analytical angle, providing quality and efficiency."

However, when it boils down to it, his ideal employee is someone who can combine humor and hard work.

"Class clowns shine when it comes to being adaptable in different situations. They excel in relating to audiences, and keeping presentations engaging."

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