When I ask this question, I’m not asking it in the general context of something like creating art, where an answer is truly elusive. Instead I’m asking in the context of business: what is the value of passion when looking for a business partner or hiring staff?Although it is probably impossible to isolate and quantify passion in monetary terms, I think the value of passion is easy to underestimate. Say for example that you’re running a house painting business. You have the option of hiring a recent graduate who claims to enjoy painting but has little experience, or hiring an experienced veteran. You can pay the recent grad a significantly lower wage, maybe as little as a third of what you’d pay the veteran. Does that make the grad an obvious choice?

This is where the element of passion comes in. I would ask these questions:

  • The grad enjoys painting, but is it the work they enjoy more than anything else?
  • Does the veteran paint because they love it, or is this just their most marketable skill?
  • Does the grad want to learn everything they can about the craft or just enough to do a competent job?
  • Why does the veteran want to work for you instead of running their own business?
  • Are either of them keen to keep learning and improving?
  • Are the skills they learn and use in the job their end career goal, or just prerequisites for something else?

Personally, if the economics made it possible, I’d always hire for passion. I’d rather hire an inexperienced grad who would need a lot of support through the learning process than a veteran who just wanted a job and pay commensurate with experience. At the same time, I’d rather hire an experienced, passionate master craftsperson and pay them well than hire a grad who saw the job as a paycheque on the way to tide them over while they found the job/career they really wanted.