Feb 13 2009

Book Short: Hire Great

Book Short: Hire Great

It’s certainly not hiring season for most of America The World The Universe, but we are still making some limited hires here at Return Path, and I thought – what better time to retool our interviewing and hiring process than in a relatively slow period?

So I just read Who: The A Method for Hiring, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.  It’s a bit of a sequel, or I guess more of a successor book, to the best book I’ve ever read about hiring and interviewing, Topgrading, by Geoff Smart and his father Brad (post, link to buy).  This one wasn’t bad, and it was much shorter and crisper.

I’m not sure I believe the oft-quoted stat that a bad hire costs a company $1.5mm.  Maybe sometimes (say, if the person embezzles $1.4mm), but certainly the point that bad hires are a nightmare for an organization in any number of ways is well taken.   The book does a good job of explaining the linkage from strategy and execution straight to recruiting, with good examples and tips for how to create the linkage.  That alone makes it a worthwhile read.

The method they describe may seem like common sense, but I bet 95 out of 100 companies don’t come close.  We are very good and quite deliberate about the hiring process and have a good success average, but even we have a lot of room to improve.  The book is divided into four main sections:

  • Scorecard: creating job descriptions that are linked to company strategy and that are outcome and competency based, not task based
  • Sourcing: going beyond internal and external recruiters to make your entire company a talent seeker and magnet
  • Selection: the meat of the book – good detail on how to conduct lots of different kinds of interviews, from screening to topgrading (a must) to focused to reference
  • Sell:  how to reel ’em in once they’re on the line (for us anyway, the least useful section as we rarely lose a candidate once we have an offer out)

One of the most poignant examples in the book centered around hiring someone who had been fired from his previous job.  The hiring method in the book uncovered it (that’s hard enough to do sometimes) but then dug deep enough to understand the context and reasons why, and, matching up what they then knew about the candidate to their required competencies and outcomes for the job, decided the firing wasn’t a show-stopper and went ahead and made the hire.

I’d think of these two books the way I think about the Covey books.  If you have never read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you could just get away with reading Stephen Covey’s newer book, The 8th Habit:  From Effectiveness to Greatness, though the original is much richer.