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Hiring well is not magic. It is not luck.
Far too many lazy entrepreneurs claim that no matter the effort, half of the people you hire won’t work out. They’re wrong. They lack process. They lack discipline. They don’t believe that hiring well is a skill that can be learned and studied. Aspire to be better at the skill that will influence your startup’s success more than any other. Here are my 10 commandments for good hiring.
A quality job spec is not just the purview of large corporations. The job description informs recruiting efforts, educates internal stakeholders, and guides the interview team. Everyone knows what is being sought, why it’s needed, and how to vet candidates. For some, just writing a good spec can help clarify what the company really needs. Shirk this step, and team quality will decline.
It’s possible that a well-placed job posting might generate some good applicants…but don’t bet on it. The best talent is already working. To pry them from their current gig will take courtship. Build a list, reach out directly, and woo them. The less assertive will see lesser talent.
The hiring manager has a need. There are deadlines to hit and too few resources with which to achieve them. The hiring manager can’t help but accentuate a candidate’s strengths and minimize the weaknesses. They need this person. It’s natural to see past the gaps to ease one’s pain.
So how do you both have the hiring manager on the search while defending against confirmation bias? Give everyone involved in the interview process (aka the hiring team) veto power… With the group, better decisions are made.
Too often, I hear CEOs question the virtue of candidate-provided references. “They only provide people who are positively biased!” This is the excuse of the apathetic. Much can be learned from these calls. “How does the candidate like to be managed?” “How well do you know the candidate?” “Would you hire this person?” The answers can be illuminating.
With a little hustle, I’m sure you can find someone who knows the candidate. Find them. You’ll get a response often enough for the effort to be worthwhile. Did the candidate do the job they claimed on their resume? Did they leave their last company as they had described? What is the candidate’s kryptonite? In other words, do these discrete investigations corroborate what we know about the candidate or open up new areas of inquiry?
Then remember that great cultural fit is rare.
The employee who bleeds for your company does not do it for money. The employee who works nights and weekends rallies his/her colleagues and immerses themself in the mission does not do so for stock options. Passion is what drives great effort, and that comes from a shared vision. Ask why the employee wants to join your company — if the answer doesn’t feel real, it probably isn’t.
There are those who wish to join your company and those who desperately want to leave their current circumstance. Do they spend the interviews complaining about their prior boss or fantasizing about a possible future with you? Learn to spot the difference.
Do team members work 12-hour days? Tell the candidate. Is the team under pressure to deliver a challenging milestone? Tell the candidate. Is the company young, growing, and therefore lacking the discipline of more established organizations? Tell the candidate. Bait and switch not only leads to new hires leaving quickly but also erodes organizational honesty and trust. If the hiring manager is willing to shape a false narrative to close a candidate, what else might not be true?
The candidate is not yours when they say ‘yes.’ The candidate is not yours when they sign the offer letter. The candidate is not yours until they’ve informed their current boss and given notice. And even then, they’re not yours until their last day of work at their current gig is behind them. Keep the candidate engaged, support them through their transition, send them materials to read, invite them to social settings, and adorn them with swag. Don’t stop near the finish line — cross it.
(Bonus Commandment) Employ F-yes or F-no.
Read this. Now apply it to hiring.
TLDR: If you’re not enormously excited about hiring someone, don’t hire them. When hiring managers don’t listen to their gut, they regret it. Anything short of unambiguous enthusiasm is a pass.