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Why you are probably hiring the wrong people

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If you wanted to be slightly glib, you could say that all you have to do to build a great business is to:

  • have a clear vision
  • hire the right people
  • then retain them

The renowned American industrialist Lee laccoca is famous for saying:

I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.

But the devil, as always, is in the detail. It's hard to hire the right people, and even harder to keep them. The basic building block, though, is hiring them in the first place. So why do so many people get it wrong?

There are two major problems with traditional hiring processes

Why you are probably hiring the wrong people, interviewing

  1. People tend to use interviews as the primary filter
  2. Most people hire for relevant experience

Typical interviews have been shown to be about 25% effective at selecting the right person for the job. While you can improve that number through more structured, or competency-based interviewing, few people in fast growth businesses have the necessary training to perform them.

As a result, we tend to be influenced by our unconscious biases. We like people that are similar to ourselves. We also conflate confidence and ability to come across well in an interview with the ability to do a job well.

How can you improve your odds?

  1. learn about competency-based interviewing techniques
  2. try to build a practical element (a test or project) into the process
  3. test for what is called a 'Growth Mindset'

Carol Dweck in her awesome book 'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success defines this as someone who believes that their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness rather than innate abilities.

People with a growth mindset will:

  • try harder
  • give up less easily
  • continually improve through feedback

People with a fixed mindset generally look to blame outside factors when something goes wrong, rather than learning from their mistakes.

NASA starting hiring for growth mindset many years ago by asking candidates to give an example of when a project they were involved with went wrong and what they learnt from it.

But surely people with the right experience must be able to do the job?

This is another massive misconception.

For many jobs, the candidate needs to have a base level of aptitude. You can't hire just anyone to be a brain surgeon. But:

it is the aptitude coupled with the attitude that counts.

Value of person vs. value of their results

People also find it hard to separate the value of the person from the value of the seat they are sitting in.

Salespeople provide a great example of this. If you hire a salesperson from a big competitor who is selling tens or hundreds of pounds of product a month, it’s hard to know whether those sales are generated from their efforts and skills or the quality of:

  • product
  • brand
  • marketing spend

Their past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future success.

The important thing is to find people that:

  • share your vision and values
  • have the right level of persistence and ambition
  • have the key skills you require

You can always train for skills and behaviours; it’s much harder to change values and ambition.

Growth Builder

I chair Growth Builder: a free programme for growth businesses focused on practical lessons for successful scaling.

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