Dug Campbell

Two Thoughts on Hiring

I’ve come across a couple of different thoughts about the hiring process this week which I thought were worth adding here. Broadly speaking, they focus on culture and capacity.

First up is this gem:

Anyone who’s ever been involved in a hiring process knows this subconsciously. But next time you’re involved in selecting someone new for the team, it’s worth reminding yourself about the multiplier effect.

If you’re successful, the people you hire in the early days will end up being the ones who do all the hiring to build up their teams. And given that people tend to hire people who are similar, you’d better think twice before hiring an asshole – unless you want to spend many future meetings locked in with many more just like them. Like everything, there’s a Shakespearean quote that fits perfectly, in this case it’s found in the Tempest:

“Would’t had been done! Thou didst prevent me. I had peopled else this isle with Calibans.”

Second thought: is rejecting a job applicant for being ‘over-qualified’ a fundamental error?

We all know why this is perceived as a normal response to a CV that’s packed with qualifications. From the FT:

“The glib rejection hides a range of concerns including the fear that such applicants will be too costly (even if they protest they are ready to work for below their market rate); too snooty (despite their grovelling displays of humility), or too hard to please (notwithstanding their desire for one thing and one thing only: that job).”

But there’s some evidence that if you get it right, these are precisely the sorts of individuals who have a little spare capacity to do some hugely valuable thinking – perhaps about the way that the daily process of the job or team. Or perhaps that element of spare time is now spent on considering strategy and the bigger picture, something that’s exceptionally difficult for many who have been chosen to grow into the role and are consequently stretched to the limit of their existing talents.

Clearly it depends on the individual. Many would take the opportunity to spend time in less productive pursuits (aka skiving…) or be increasingly deafened by creeping boredom over time. But get the right person and it seems that the potential may be huge for the organisation as a whole to win big out of the arrangement.

And as an aside, I wonder how many people also use this as an excuse. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve known have had one thing in common – an insistence on hiring people far more talented than they are. Part of this comes from a rare ability to be able to accurately assess one’s own level of skills whilst remaining laser-focused on increasing the overall output and efficiency of their baby.

But for the rest? It’s often a convenient card to play when you’re concerned that you’re hiring someone that could have the skills to replace you. Human nature being what it is, most are simply happy to hire those that won’t challenge their ability to put food on the table.


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