Who: The A Method For Hiring

"To improve your life and enable you to have greater career and financial success by helping you to make better hiring decisions!"

- Who, Excerpt from Seminar

Do you own a small business and seek someone to help your business grow?  Are you on the board of directors searching for new CEO? Perhaps you’re a parent who had a bad experience with a baby sitter.  Geoff Smart and Randy Street provide a simple, practical, and effective solution to hiring the A players in their New York Times bestseller, Who.

If you have had a problem hiring, you’re not alone.  The Economist recently reported that finding the right people is the single biggest problem in business today (Who, page 4).  Who provides learning acquired from an unprecedented assemblage of more than 20 billionaires, over 30 CEOs of multi billion dollar companies, plus other CEOs, managers, investors, non-profit heads and management experts who were interviewed over more than 1300 hours.

There’s an equally powerful side benefit to Who: The A Method For Hiring. You can turn it around and apply the learning to help you define the right job for yourself and impress the hiring team, even if they don’t ask the right questions.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Who Matters

"Who is where the magic begins, or where the problems start."
- Who, page xiv

“The most important decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions but who decisions.” (Jim Collins, Good to Great).   What refers to your strategies, your products, services and processes.  It’s people (the who) who decide the what.  Without the people, there is no what. This may be obvious but we often waste time trying to fix the process when the right person would have fixed it long ago.  We make do with what we have and set up a culture of adequacy.  What a disservice to ourselves and to our staff.  “Your success as a manager is simply the result of how good you are at hiring the people around you” (Joe Mansueto, Founder of Morningstar).

“The leaders we interviewed for this book spend as much as 60% of their time thinking about people.” (Who, page 149).

Based on their research, the authors have concluded that a single hiring blunder can cost 15 times the person’s base annual salary.  Some of that is in hard costs such as recruitment, compensation, training and severance.  Go beneath the surface and it’s worse; what about the mistakes, missed opportunities, damaged customer relationships, disruption to the team and management time?

Who mistakes happen when managers:

  • Are unclear about what is needed in a job
  • Have a weak flow of candidates
  • Do not trust their ability to pick out the right candidate from a group of similar looking candidates
  • Lose candidates they really want to join their team

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Beware the Resume... and your response to it

"What is a resume? It is a record of a person’s career with all of the accomplishments embellished and all the failures removed."
- CEO George Buckley, quoted in Who, page xvii

Before we learn how to hire the right candidate, it’s worth looking at our own hiring mistakes.  The authors refer to “voodoo hiring methods”, some of which you may be guilty of using in the past.  These practices include:

  • The Art Critic
  • The Sponge
  • The Animal Lover
  • The Chatterbox
  • The Prosecutor
  • The Fortune Teller

“The Art Critic” prides herself on her ability to judge what she sees.  Her gut tells her all she needs to know but she ends up with a stomach ache.  Don’t trust your gut – your instinct can help you tell someone is wrong for the job but not that someone will amaze you with the results.  “The Sponge” likes to let everyone interview a candidate – the more the merrier.  If everyone likes him, he’s got to be good.  Typically the same superficial questions get asked by each team member and all you actually learn is that this candidate is patient enough to handle repetition.  Then there’s “The Animal Lover” with his back pocket list of pet interview questions that he brings to every interview.   He’s looking for the cleverest response – fun, but what does that have to do with this job?  Pick up a copy of Who to find out about “The Chatterbox”, “The Prosecutor” and “The Fortune-teller” and more.  There’s a profile or two for each of us who have hired poorly or who have occasionally hired well through sheer luck.  No more will we “voodoo hire”.   Embrace the knowledge in this book and you will see how to hire A Players, consistently.

As a starting point, beware how much stock you put in the resume.  It’s a good conversation starter, but remember that the depth of that conversation (and the value of it) is up to you.  As we walk through insight #2, start to think through the specific questions you can ask a candidate – questions that well help you quantify the value this person could have to the role and the team.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Power of Priority

"We define an A Player this way:  a candidate who has at least a 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve."
- Who, page 12

An A Player is usually not a brilliant all rounder who comes to you immaculately dressed with the gift of the gab and a winning smile.  The A player is in the top 10% in a specific quality.  Think “All Star Goaltender” rather than “Good Hockey Player”.  To better qualify fit with the role, consider the following pieces of information:  This where you define what you need (few companies or individuals do this):

  • Create a scorecard with 3 parts – 1) the job’s core purpose, 2) what does success look like for this role, including the metrics to measure the results and 3) what behaviours, skills and  values match this role?
  • The source of your applicants.  can you gather background information on the person, beyond what they’re telling you, and beyond the typical “reference calls?”
  • How to sell the selected person on the job.  Understand what she or he cares about, and look for the real opportunities in the role to provide them with it.

Who is exceptional because it offers us achievable techniques to hire people who will ensure that they (and our businesses!) thrive.

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John Blick

ABOUT John Blick

WHO ARE YOU? I’m John Blick, married father of three teenaged boys living in Toronto. Hobbies include reading, music listening and playing guitar. Read the Economist to keep up to date on world events...
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