LIVE FROM THE CEO TALENT SUMMIT: Southwest Airlines’ Secret to Staying Nimble Amid High Growth

How does an airline company grow to be the nation’s largest carrier while maintaining the maverick, innovative culture that propelled it to the top and, in the process, earning multiple accolades on industry lists (Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies,’s Best Travel & Leisure Company,’s Best Places to Work)?

You acquire the best talent available. How do you do that? “Our mantra is, we hire for attitude and train for skill,” Gary Kelly, chairman, president and CEO of Southwest Airlines, told attendees gathered for the 2015 CEO Talent Summit in Dallas, Texas. “We want people who don’t just have the skill, but also have the passion and attitude to take care of each other and to take care of our customers.”

Prospective employees are not subjected to rigorous personality tests. Instead the company relies on a team approach to hiring, with hiring managers receiving feedback from multiple sources. “If someone comes in for an interview and is rude to the receptionist, that person isn’t for us. We look for people who are humble, who have a great sense of humor, who are goodhearted and want to work hard,” Kelly said, noting that it’s a process that is “probably more art than science.”


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