Lessons Learned: Hire Wisely

You may have heard that the economy is in the dumps.  Companies are doing more with less, than ever before.  Well, except the Federal government which has conveniently cut payroll by having contractors do the work…at even higher cost than when people were on the payroll.

But I digress.  Whether you are hiring contract work or employees, the related costs of having people do work are way more than just the salary.   There is the time factor of training, supervising and communicating with them that makes it even more critical that you get it right in the first place.

During my ISC I was fortunate to hire way more good people than bad.  And the few mistakes I made were great learning for future interviews and hires.  In today’s economy you just cannot make mistakes.  Yes, you can hire friends and “nice people” and skimp on the references, but you may have to pay the piper later.

So,  here are some things I found over the years that really helped when it came to hiring wisely. 

  • Hire people who are smart.  Duh.  I guess you could choose to hire dolts but why would you?  It stands to reason that the more robust their thinking power the better the solutions that person can bring to every problem.  And trust me, you want problem solvers.
  • Hire people who are simplifiers.  People who can get to the heart of a situation by stripping away extraneous stuff and find the solution are way more productive because they quickly get to the heart of the issue.
  • Hire people willing to commit themselves.  Work is hard, that’s why it’s not called play.  Commitment to work has nothing to do with the quantity of hours or robotic diligence.  It is about a sense of personal satisfaction that comes from a job well done which is way different than working for accolades or tangible rewards.  It’s about working smart.
  • Hire people who are different.  Don’t hire someone who acts and talks and thinks just like you.  You already have your own point of view.  Find people who have their own unique take on things.
  • Hire people who show signs of entrepreneurship.  Look for signs of independence and gaps in your interviewee’s history.  I always found the best interviews were the conversations about the missing years on a resume.  That time was often the most instructive about the prospective hire.   Every company needs some entrepreneurs who think about ways the business challenges affect their job.  And no has a better understanding of the realities of the job than the individual doing it.  Thus, no one has more motivation to make progress than the emerging entrepreneur.
  • Hire original thinkers.  Don’t get me wrong, not every job requires original thinking.  (See the next bullet.)  But you do need people who have unique ideas.  Innovation is the heartbeat of growth and growth is the engine for a successful and profitable organization.  People who bring insight and fresh thinking to problems are gold.  Ask candidates questions that will inform your decision.  For example:  What state would you eliminate and why?  The candidate has 50 choices so there is a lot of room for original thinking.
  • Hire soldiers as well as captains.  I once told a person:  “You are a great player, but you’re not a coach.”  You need to find and value the soldiers as well as the leaders and future leaders.  People who get shit done are often more valuable than people who come up with grand ideas.  The soldiers are the ones who make sure the ideas actually work.  And not all soldiers make great officers.  Know the difference.
  • Listen to the prospect.   You need a right-brainer.  The candidate tells you how much she loves lists, matrices and research.  Don’t hire that person just because she is smart.  You need to match talents with the job.  If you put a left-brainer in a right brain position, that person will fail.  And you will have wasted a lot of time and money. 

The job interview is a bit of a dance.  There a lot of pre-programmed questions and answers.  Here are a few questions guaranteed to give you almost no insight.  (What they really thought in parenthesis)  “Why do you want to work here?”  (“I need a fucking job.”)  “Tell me about why you left your last company.”  (My boss was an asshole and he fired me for no good reason.”)  “What are your career goals?” (“Career? I’m just doing this so I can finance my next road trip.”)      “Tell me your greatest professional achievement.” (“I won the karaoke contest at the company Christmas party.”)  “What are you best at?” (” I do great interviews…the rest not so much.”)

So, when it comes to hiring wisely you have a choice.   You can be unclear about what you really need, ask lame questions and find yourself frustrated in a few months.  Or you can work really hard at making sure the candidate will be an asset.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Other than the state question, can you share some others you think are good?


  2. […] I found myself becoming more frustrated with the interview process.  As I mentioned here last week https://ps1944.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/lessons-learned-hire-wisely/, the interview is a game that both particpants understand very well.  The questions and answers […]


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