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A Better Way to Hire People

Are you the sort of person that likes getting married after 3 dates?

Perfect! Then standard corporate hiring practices are for you.

However, if you aren't the type of person that likes making huge life-altering decisions on a whim (with very little knowledge about that decision)... might I propose a different solution?

I think the way we hire people is backwards.

... well sort of at least. There are two ways that people get hired: 1) they hire people that they've known for a while, or 2) They do this wonkey interview process where different people in a company try to guess if you are as good as you say you are at what you do.

It's the second one that doesn't make any sense to me.

When you hire people you don't know it usually looks like this:

  • Phone Screen with HR
  • Talk to someone that will/ could work with the candidate
  • [For technical positions] Some sort of a example/puzzle/game type thing related to technical skills (Chefs cook omelets, Sales people make cold calls, Coders do little coding problems)
  • A conversation with someone (A "Big Boss") that signs checks

... it probably feels eerily familiar. But you're probably wondering why this is backwards? Here are some observations:

  • At no point in this process do you actually see what the person is like to work with. They never do any work!
  • When you do 2 to 4 interviews for 1 hour each you are only spending 2 to 4 hours with the person, and a similar observation... the person only has to be able to fool you for 2 to 4 hours!
  • This process favors people that are good at interviewing over people that are good at working. In some professions that might be similar to what they will be doing for work... but in other professions it couldn't be a more different skill set.
  • It discourages "taking a chance" on individuals that have the potiental to be really amazing. You are forced to filter out candidates that could have tremendous upside due to "red flags".

How to hire better (in the real world):

(The Secret: look at what people do... not what people say they can do.)

Step 1: Use resumes, referrals, and phone screens to filter down to candidates that you could actually want to hire if everything is as good as advertised. Spend the least amount of time on this process that you can.

Step 2: Actually do work with the person. Hire the individual(s) for a 1 or 2 month long contract. Structure the contract as follows:

  • Write down your expectations beforehand and what you hope to get accomplished. This will be the candidate's grade/ hiring criteria. Be open with the candidate about this.
  • Pay them well. Really Well. Even if you don't hire them, they should feel as though it were a good experience.
  • Set up the contract so that they are working in longer chunks of time (5+ hours) on real work with you. Unfornutately for you, this will occur on their off day. Don't make it every Saturday or Sunday throughout the time period (they are giving you precious time) or else you're both going to be unhappy.
  • (Note: don't be afraid to cut the contract early if they aren't meeting your expectations. I also recommend starting on work that is non-critical for your company.)

Step 3: At the end of the contract evaluate what you have learned about the candidate and make a decision on whether or not you want to hire them. You now know what you are both in for and that makes decisions a lot easier.

How this works?

This technique is designed to build trust and a relationship slowly between both parties. It's designed to know what you are getting as opposed to guessing.

  • Multiple hours > a few hours
  • Actually Doing work with someone > Looking at proxies about how they work
  • Waiting to hire > hiring quickly

Best of all? You can both make mistakes, while still seeing if the person is a good fit.

Of course your process won't be exactly like this... but by virtue of removing the bad things from your hiring process you will have improved the quality of your results. Is this process perfect? Nope... we're just looking at better.

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