Hire Slow to Achieve Excellence

Hire Slow Fire FastHire Slow is absolutely the single most important strategy to achieving excellence. That is because excellence starts and end with the people you hire and the team that you build. Therefore, hire slow is the first part of an overall staffing strategy to hire slow, fire fast. So if you read the last post Fire Fast: Fixing Bad Hiring Decisions and have your own issues with firing people, the solution is to do a better job in the hiring process.

Is Hire Slow, Fire Fast BS?

Since I am not new to the hire slow fire fast way of thinking I feel it only right to share a recent article by Danny Boice with an opposing view from Fast Company. “Why “Hire Slow, Fire Fast” Is A Bunch Of BS” offers a compelling argument to refute the benefits of the hire slow fire fast strategy. Boice even acknowledges the differences between start-ups and established businesses which are certainly valid. So you decide.

Hire Slow is Not About Speed

I don’t know if my own views on hire slow fits with most others. I just don’t understand it to be about speed as much as I view it as being about deliberateness and decisiveness.

Certainly, if you choose to use hire slow to also mean deceleration, than I might agree more with Boice than I do. That is because time, fast or slow, doesn’t usually improve the result. Bad candidates are still bad. Bad hiring practices are still bad. And bad decision making won’t change just because you slowed down.

Hire Slow is Not About Perfection

If you understand that perfection is the enemy of good, then you should have no trouble recognizing that hire slow is not about achieving perfection. It is about not hiring any turds that not only may take forever to get rid of, turds can be a drag on productivity, morale and many other factors that affect performance. It comes as no surprise in this circumstance when the hiring team look do more research into finding a solution that can help them pick out potential candidates. No wonder why methods such as the Berke pre hire test can make all the difference in the hiring process, especially when many candidates apply for one position.

Boice is right, hire slow is another one of those business cliches. But like most other cliches that have a sensibility to them, hire slow is based on the real world. And, as anyone with real world experience knows you can’t polish a turd.

7 Tips for Hiring Good People

In order to offer a counterbalance to Firing Fast so you can avoid the issue altogether, I am sharing an updated version of my tips for hiring good people and building great teams.

  1. Hire better than yourself: I prefer Guy Kawasaki’s explanation on the old saying that an “A players hire A players; B players hire C players”–meaning that good people are hiring good people. On the other hand, mediocre people hire candidates who are not as good as they are, so they can feel superior to them. This takes self-confidence if you are trying to build a great team. So be honest with yourself so you don’t hire a thoroughbred for a draft horse job.
  2. Culture matters: Often thought of as simply “fit”, organizational culture matters. This isn’t the platitudes of mission, visions and values, it’s about the reality of who you are as an organization. Relating to #1, don’t hire “A” players if institutionally everyone is working for a gentleman’s “C”. So consider if you really want a change agent or a natural born innovator? The culture and the person have to fit each other for mutual benefit.
  3. Attitude over Aptitude: Don’t misunderstand this idea by neglecting to acknowledge that everyone you hire needs to be seriously smart / talented in their field to make the minimum grade. From there, when all other things are essentially equal, always hire for attitude over additional aptitude. IT is almost 100% about service to customers and you can’t afford people with crappy attitudes no matter how talented they are. And if you already have difficulty dealing with the bad apples you already have, you don’t need to add to the problem.
  4. Hire infected people: It is all too easy to allow the “right” educational and professional backgrounds to dominate the selection process as if there was a science to it. So be sure you are giving serious consideration for identifying those candidates infected with a love of your product and your customers. Remember in a service culture those are the characteristics that carry the day and motivate people towards excellence even when no one is looking.
  5. Ignore the irrelevant: This is somewhat redundant with the prior point, but a candidate’s educational and work experience is often only relevant on paper and not in the real world of IT. Service mindset, attention to detail, commitment to quality, and an instinct for continuous improvement are almost impossible to learn in a classroom and success at another place isn’t a guarantee in your culture where expectations and demands are likely different.
  6. Find people to “punch above their weight class”: This is an idea about hiring good people on their way up who are motivated and a little scrappy. You want people who want more for themselves and for their customers and will adapt in order to deliver. Mark Suster has entire post about hiring people who “punch above their weight class that is worth the read. Some caution is needed here as this can go wrong if you are not prepared or are slightly off in your judgement. So if you make a mistake fix it fast.
  7. Don’t Settle: I am astounded by the number of managers that settle on for an unqualified candidate simply to put a warm body in an open position. If you are just looking for a pair of hands to share the workload, use a contractor or a temp-to-hire who can hit the ground running. The price premium will more than offset the cost of a bad hiring decision and give you time to find the right person.
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