Who Is More Important Than What

The right who brings the how with her.-Author Unknown

The book Who is a follow-on to one of my favorite books on hiring entitled, Top Grading. Who is written by Geoff Smart, author of Top Grading, and Randy Street, the son of the second author of Top Grading. In the book Who, the authors outline their "A" method for hiring. Geoff and Randy believe that who you hire in business is more important that what you plan to do (your strategic business plan).

They cite that the cost of a bad hire can be as much as 13X the cost of a candidate's base salary when opportunity cost is considered. Other estimates I have seen in the past are that the cost of hiring and on-boarding alone can be $80,000 to $240,000. With statistics like these, you don't want to rely on what Geoff and Randy refer to as "Voodoo Hiring."

In the planning phase of the hiring process, the book outlines four steps for building a scorecard that will be used to rank candidates.

  1. What is your company's mission?

  2. What outcomes do you expect this hire to achieve?

  3. What competencies are required to achieve these outcomes?

  4. Is this individual a good cultural fit?

The scorecard is used to build the job description and keep everybody on the same page during the interview process. Geoff and Randy partnered with the University of Chicago to research which competencies are important in successful hiring. The research is used to identify key competencies in order to narrow a hiring pool down to the candidates who are predicted to have a 90% chance of achieving desired outcomes.

Geoff and Randy provide great advice in the book on the 5 steps of the interview process. They provide advice on how to become competent at each stage of the process. The steps are…

  1. Screening

  2. The Top Grading Interview

  3. Competency Focused Interviews

  4. Reference Checking

  5. Selling the Candidate on the Position

I recommend reading the book to learn the "A" method for hiring. Incorporating the Top Grading Interview and the authors' reference checking process into my hiring practices has benefited the companies I have worked for tremendously. In the Top Grading Interview, they recommend getting the name of every boss the candidate reported to over the last ten years and then ask the candidate, "When I call this person, what will they say about you?" This sets you up for calling references of your choosing, not just the references of the candidate's choosing. In my opinion, reference checking is the most important and often the most poorly implemented part of the hiring process. The purpose of the Top Grading Interview and Reference Checking is to establish patterns of behavior and to use past outcomes to predict whether or not your candidate has a 90% chance of achieving the desired outcome.

Now that you understand how important it is to have a great interview process, what are you going to do to improve your process and ensure you will hire more A players? If you are a hiring manager who relies on your human resources department to perform reference checks, changing this is a great place to start. If you are an executive, make sure your managers are measured on their ability to hire and retain 90% A players. As a hiring manager, I recommend spending at least one hour every week building a network of candidates you would hire if a position opened on your team.

What are your best practices?

Once you master hiring, make sure you have a great process for onboarding.