Fast Company has a terrific interview with Oren Jacob, former Chief Technical Officer at Pixar. Jacob describes some of the key attributes of the Pixar culture and processes. Among the many great tidbits, Jacob explains a crucial facet of the Pixar hiring process. He calls it "hire for excellence." Here's the explanation:
When Pixar is evaluating potential hires they look for three traits: humor, the ability to tell a story, and an example of excellence. These aren’t unique qualities to assess in applicants, but how excellence is defined is not that common. It doesn’t matter what you are excellent at, just that you have reached a level of excellence. It’s important that you know what excellence feels like and what it takes to achieve it. It could be gardening, jujitsu, or cooking. The main thing is you’ve had a taste of excellence and will know how to get there again.
I really like the concept of hiring for excellence. Developing mastery in a particular field or endeavor demonstrates self-discipline, work ethic, and perseverance. It also means that individuals have probably engaged in the kind of deliberate practice that is required to excel. Familiarity with that process of learning and development will suit them well when they have to develop new skills and capabilities. Finding people who have achieved excellence in a range of endeavors also creates a workforce with incredibly diverse perspectives and experiences that they can bring to bear on any problem.