How the Quran teaches us to hire top talent

How the Quran teaches us to hire top talent

How the Quran teaches us to hire top talent
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, 18 May, 2016: The Holy Quran and Tasbih / Tuahlensa /

There is a well-known passage in the Quran that describes the story of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and his dealings with two young women and their father after his escape from Egypt. As he entered the town of Madyan, he saw two women struggling to water their sheep, so he came to their aid. He then sat under a tree and made a supplication to God for help: he was hungry, tired and had nowhere to go.

A little while later, one of the women he had helped approached and invited him to the home of her father, who wished to reward him. There, one of the women said, “O my father, hire him. Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.”

As I was reflecting on this passage, I realized that it contains some powerful HR lessons we can all benefit from.


1. Look for people with a proven CV

The woman who made the suggestion had noticed Musa’s (PBUH) skills and character when he helped them out earlier in the day. When looking for top talent, don’t just hire people based on what they tell you they’ve done; let them show you their worth through clear examples.

2. Skill + character are key

The woman mentioned two qualities: “strong and trustworthy”. When looking for talent, do not look only for the most skilful; also look for character and trustworthiness. Skill alone doesn't make talent. Skill + character is the more powerful criteria as it builds trust. Consider developing two sets of questions for interviews, one that judges skill and another that judges character.

3. Start with skill

Sometimes we look for people with good character, but the ones we find don’t have the right skills. Suppose we had a choice between someone who has a good character but is not skilful (and not willing to learn) and someone who is skilful and doesn’t have the right character (but is ready to change): we should choose the latter and try to minimize the impact of their character through coaching, feedback and supervision.

The story continues when the father makes an offer to Musa (PBUH):

He said, “Indeed, I wish to wed you one of these, my two daughters, on [the condition] that you serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten, it will be [as a favour] from you. And I do not wish to put you in difficulty. You will find me, if Allah wills, from among the righteous.”


1. Make a tailor-made offer

In a corporate environment, we’re used to making cookie-cutter offers that put off the top talent. If you want to attract them to your company, offer them what they really want and what matches their needs and aspirations. Musa (PBUH) was broke, had no job and was unmarried. The women’s father gave him a job, a family and a place to stay.

2. Offer a fixed-term contract that is linked to a specific role

I loved the book The Alliance: Managed Talent in a Networked Age, which talks about the death of permanent/lifetime contracts and the birth of short-term contracts that are linked to specific projects/milestones or “tours of duty”. This is essentially what Musa was offered, a short-term contract (eight years) to fulfil certain duties.

3. Promote your company

Notice that as the father made the offer, he said, “You will find me, if Allah wills, from among the righteous”. If companies want to attract the top talent, they too need to be “righteous”. If I come to your company and you treat me poorly, exhibit a terrible and skewed performance management system and make my life stressful, you’d lose me. Think of righteousness as a virtue not just for saints but for the corporate citizen as well.

These were some of the insights I got from this story. What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts below.

Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author and speaker who helps professionals and entrepreneurs live the best versions of themselves spiritually, physically and socially. He’s the founder of and author of The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.

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