What to Hire in People

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Scenario: "Dude, just make sure they can do the job. Yay!" You have two choices when you're hiring your next employee:

  • a) Hire her to do a job.
  • b) Hire her to kick major ass, take names, and rock the world like a crazy !@^^%^ for your company.

Most companies hire for the former; rock-star organizations like GE's Leadership Center, McKinsey, Google, Goldman Sachs, and Patagonia focus on the latter. There's an amateur way to hiring; then, there's the sexy way.

How to Hire Like a Badass

Based on a decade of studies by Researcher Jim Collins, ask yourselves these checkpoint questions:

1) "Has Darlene ridiculously blown us away?"

After checking for references, pinpointing weaknesses, doing the interviews, and all the yadda shizzle that goes into hiring for your company, ask yourself: 'Did Darlene super excite me?' If you're in doubt, don't hire; keep looking. Filling your company with mediocrity will rub off on your team.

2) "Will we need to hand-hold Darlene?"

A chunk of people need hand-holding; others just need some basic guidance, who will then blow you away with their initiative. You want the latter; otherwise, you'll consume masses of resources/time ensuring the person doesn't mess up at every freakish thing that the person freakishly does every freakish hour. A question to check for initiative: Ask her: "If the company you're working with has horrible marketing materials that's preventing you from doing your job, what do you do?"

  • The wrong answer (lacks initiative): "I would tell them to redo their marketing materials."
  • The right answer (shows super-initiative): "I would work with them to provide the most effective marketing material."

3) "Can Darlene excel like the biggest-baddest-mofo in her intended position?"

In other words, paraphrasing Collins: In the seat that she'll hold, could she potentially be one of the best in that particular seat? Some clues to ask yourself:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how passionate is she with the position?
  2. On another scale of 1-10: How good is she now? How good can she potentially become?

If you ultimately tell yourself she's destined for greatness, you're potentially looking at a great hire.

4) "Does she display a pattern of concrete results in positions she's held in the past?"

Results might include: increased sales by 10% quarterly, made company 50% more efficient, increased referral rates by 2x, etc.

  • If she's humble about those results = good. (i.e. She's doing stuff to benefit the company, not her.)
  • If the results continue after she takes on a new responsibility = good. (i.e. Again: she's doing stuff to benefit the company, not her.)

5) "Does Darlene share our core values?"

A company meshed with altering values loses its identity; instead of seeking greatness, it becomes another boring-blah organization trying to make everyone happy -- but passionately exciting no one. So, seek people who share your core values (e.g. innovation, fun, rebellious, customer-obsessed, etc.) Do this test: If you were imprisoned for the rest of your life in a 10x10 cell, would you choose your potential hire as your cellmate for the rest of your life? Tip: Don't wait to get this part absolutely right, as people can be a little tricky if you've never worked with them -- and you'll spend the rest of your life wondering if the person could've been a great asset to your company. Instead, build your company in a way such that those who fit your values succeed -- and those who don't will quit, quickly.

  • For instance, Google can ensure their contract-to-hire engineers fit their core value of 'technical contribution' by incorporating a policy that engineers must create X innovations in Y months -- before they're hired as long-term employees.

"Will that checklist help me hire, perfectly?"

It'll astronomically boost your chances of hiring correctly for your company, but it's not the be-all-end-all to hiring your next superstars. According to the study, the visionary companies rarely hired correctly. Yet, they experienced a double-hump to their hiring:

  1. Those who suck get blown out the door -- viciously quickly.
  2. Those who rock, the companies ensured they stayed at the company for a long time.

In other words, it's not how you hire -- but what happens after you hire.

  1. Do the wrong people run for the exits quickly?
  2. Do the right people stay on for a long time?

If you get two positives, rock on.

Hire the sexy way.


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Posted on April 02

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