The Howard Marks Guide to Hiring - Vintage Value Investing

A few months ago I wrote an article called How to Get Hired by Warren Buffett.

That article described the three characteristics Warren Buffett looks for in people when he hires them: intelligence, energy, and integrity.

Well, I recently came across a video interview with famous value investor Howard Marks – who co-founded Oaktree Capital Management and wrote the great investment book The Most Important Thing – where Marks also talked about what he looks for in people when hiring them.

As it turns out, Howard Marks – just like Buffett – looks for just three (very similar) things when hiring: intelligence, curiosity, and the ability and willingness to be a team player.

How to Get Hired by Howard Marks


Number one: There’s no substitute for IQ. But it’s not technical knowledge which is essential – it’s intelligence and in particular the ability to learn (the technical skills).”

As I pointed out in How to Get Hired by Warren Buffett, everyone wants to hire and work with smart people. So intelligence is often a baseline requirement to do any job. And it’s the first thing Warren Buffett looks for when hiring as well.

But as Howard Marks notes, it’s not technical knowledge. It’s raw intellectual power, and more importantly the ability to learn those technical skills and whatever else is required to be successful at that job.


“Number two: Curiosity. Curiosity leads you to read, curiosity leads you to make the connections – like ‘something I read over here and something I read over here, they connect and together they mean something that nobody’s ever thought of.’ I think curiosity and intellectual drive are very important.”

Howard Marks likes people who are intellectually curious and have the drive to read, learn, and to be successful.

It’s interesting that Howard Marks keeps coming back to learning – he’s looking for people with a desire to learn and a thirst for knowledge. And it’s also interesting that he specifically mentions curiosity and reading.

Warren Buffett is famous for his reading voracity (Buffett says he reads 500 pages a day and, when he was first starting his career, he says he used to read 1,000 pages a day).

Charlie Munger is also famous for how much he reads. He jokes that his grandchildren call him an encyclopedia with two legs sticking out. Here are some great quotes from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger on the subject of curiosity, learning, and reading:

[Tweet ““Read, cultivate curiosity, and strive to become a little wiser every day.” – Charlie Munger”] [Tweet ““Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.” – Charlie Munger”] [Tweet ““I just read and read and read… I have always enjoyed reading.” – Warren Buffett”] [Tweet ““I just sit in my office and read all day.” – Warren Buffett”]

Team Player

“And then what we look for is we look for team players. The investment business is full of testosterone and machismo and, you know, there’s a mentality in some parts of the investment business that you eat what you kill. Whoever makes the most money gets the highest bonus, and the others we don’t care about.

But we want people who want to work together to form a successful team and contribute to the success of each other and of the whole company, and people who want to exchange information and exchange expertise and help their colleagues. And clearly I think we’ll get much more out of our people that way than people who are lone wolves, who are just trying to gain an advantage. I think there’s such a thing as being too Darwinian.”

Finally, in an industry where it’s usually every man for himself, Howard Marks says he looks for people who are willing and able to be team players.

Warren Buffett’s third criteria was a similar intangible: integrity. Buffett described integrity as being honest, being generous, doing your fair share, and being someone that other people want to work with… all of which are characteristics that make up a great team player.


Howard Marks and Warren Buffett make leading a team and building world class organizations seem so easy.

They both look for just three simple things when hiring people. For Marks, it’s intelligence, curiosity, and being a team player. For Buffett, it’s intelligence, energy, and integrity.

The Howard Marks Guide to Hiring - Vintage Value Investing The Warren Buffett Guide to Hiring

There definitely seems to be a common theme between these two great investors (and great managers). They’ve built their teams and filled their businesses with people who are (#1) incredibly smart, (#2) have a drive to learn and to make things happen, and (#3) have great moral character that allows them to work with other people effectively.

So my question to you is: Do you think you have these characteristics? Does your team?

While you can’t really control your raw IQ, the good news is that it doesn’t matter beyond a certain point. So focus on what you can control: your desire to learn and your willingness to set your ego aside and be a team player.

Do you think Howard Marks is missing any key qualities? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And don’t forget to get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Value Investing today! Your support helps keep Vintage Value Investing ad-free!

The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor

by Howard Marks

Chairman and cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management, Howard Marks has been linked to Warren Buffett for his lucid assessments of market opportunities and risks. His memos to clients have long been consulted by the world’s leading value investors. Now he brings his insightful commentary and investment philosophy to everyone.