Are you a leader? Here is the one rule great leaders follow when hiring: They hire people smarter than them.
Guess what? Hiring people smarter than you are is very smart. II have found in most organizations managers are specialists and leaders are generalists. Let me give you a hospital example. I am sure that the chief of surgery is not necessarily always the best surgeon in the hospital, or the best specialist. However, they may be the best leader. For the same reason, I’m sure that Richard Branson has never actually manufactured records, flown a plane as a pilot, or assembled a cell phone, but he has led a great organization for years. What we must realize is that the work is not done by the leader; the team does the work. Therefore, if we hire the best team, we get the best results.
One area that the leaders need to overcome is their own sense of ego, or in some cases, even arrogance. I have met leaders who suffer from “Eogtis Giantitus” (a disease of the mind) this prevents them from thinking about the possibility of hiring someone who is smarter than they are in their specific area of expertise. If you’re hiring someone for finance, you may not be the ultimate expert in finance yourself. So, the goal is to find the best of the best in the world of finance. Also, think about the fact that when a leader is surrounded by an incredibly knowledgeable team (that is smarter than they are) then the leader looks more intelligent by reflection.
7 Tips for Hiring Smarter
Here are 7 tips for ensuring that you hire and keep the smartest and best:
- Make it Your Goal to Find the Best. I see leaders in many industries who settle for a candidate who seems okay but is not the best of the best. If you do that, you’ll pay for it later. Be the tortoise, not the hare. Take your time, be patient, and make sure that you’re hiring the cream of the crop.
- Always Be Looking for New Talent. When you attend industry conferences and meetings, and as you network, stay on the lookout for new talent. Sometimes when we least expect it, we come across the talent we will someday want to be part of the team. Talk to them and get to know them professionally. Perhaps even ask them to send you a resume and put it in your file of future talent. Stay connected with this talent on a regular basis, and when you are ready to make a move, you now have an extraordinarily strong “best of the best” candidate.
- Become an Interviewing Artist. Really strive to become an expert interviewer. This is a skill and a science. Identify people in your organization who are known as being great interviewers. Ask them if you could sit in on one of their interviews. Be the proverbial “fly on the wall” and observe their techniques and approaches. I learned all my best interviewing skills from a gentleman I once reported to. He taught me the subtleties of effective interviewing approaches and techniques. If internal training on effective interviewing is available, take advantage of it. Read and study books and online courses on effective interviewing; you will learn a lot. Strive to be a master.
- Have Multiple Interviews with Multiple People. In my experience, I have found that interviews which incorporate multiple people, along with the candidate coming back for several interviews, are much more effective. Why does this work so well? The reason this is so effective is that each time the candidate comes back for an interview, they become more relaxed and comfortable. This allows you, as the leader, to get beyond the techniques that they’ve learned in their interviewing books and classes and to try to get to the real person beyond the techniques. Additionally, if multiple people are interviewing the candidate there may be areas identified by one person that were not identified by another. The reason for this is simple; some people have chemistry with one interviewer and not another. I once had a strong candidate who I interviewed two times and was practically ready to make them a job offer. That is when it got remarkably interesting! I took the candidate to lunch for a third interview, and over lunch she revealed some ethical problems that she had in her last job (plagiarism), which clearly told me that she was not appropriate for our team. I believe that this would not have been revealed if we had only done two interviews, and if she had not been interviewed by multiple people. You’ll notice the classic technique mentioned above, the infamous “meal” technique (which works like a charm). If you want to find out more about the real person, get them to dine with you. The candidate will disappear, and a real person will emerge.
- Look for Hidden Assets. I often find that in corporations and organizations, there is hidden talent just waiting to be discovered. I was once a Vice President of Training and Development for a large company. I received a resume from an internal candidate who wanted to fill the position of trainer. I called the Human Resources Department and asked them why they sent me her resume. They explained that even though this candidate worked in the Accounts Payable Department, she had indeed developed and designed a significant amount of training on her own to train Accounts Payable people around the country. “Besides,” the H.R. person said, “you must interview her – she has passion!” Of course, we interviewed her, and after several interviews and a live training audition, she was hired as a trainer. We discovered a talented trainer who was buried in another department in the organization who was truly a hidden asset. Take the time to look around your organization for talented people who are waiting for an opportunity to be recognized and to apply their hidden talents. Also, look within your own team. Are there people on your team who, if given proper development, could move into a new role or responsibility?
- Hire for Diversity. I find that the great leaders hiring people are always looking for diversity. Yes, I know it’s the right thing to do, it adds to the company’s PR reputation. The fact that leaders are sensitive to and addressing diversity issues in terms of hiring has immense value. But I think there’s a more important reason, the real reason, why you should hire for diversity. You should hire for diversity to get to people who think differently. My definition of hiring for diversity means that you get people on your team who are completely different than you. You get diversity in race, creed, color, religion, geography, lifestyle, age, culture. The advantage of having this kind of diversity on your team is that each person brings a unique perspective to both the projects and the work. That way, you get a much broader perspective of opinions. Take the leap and hire people who are completely different than you. In fact, the opposite of your own image. Hire people radically different than you.
- Don’t Hire in Your Own Image. This sounds like a repeat of No. 6, but it certainly is not. What I’m talking about here is hiring people who have your same personality style, or remarkably similar ways of thinking. For example, I noticed that leaders who are extroverts often hire other extroverts. Each leader will hire people that match their own style. Make sure that your team does not reflect your image and reflects a wide variety of styles.
Be smart and hire people that can delver amazing results for your team. As Steve Jobs once said, “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”