Myths of Hiring the Best Employees

The dirty secret of most companies in all industries and certainly true of the tech and digital worlds is that when it comes to hiring we make it up as we go along. It is the idea we that know the best routes be it networking events, the right job sites, the best recruiters or internal HR folks or past colleagues and referrals that get us the initial pool of talent.

The phrase I am sure you have heard repeatedly and probably used itself if you are responsible for hiring people is to the affect of
“…..we only hire the best/smartest/A players here who are committed and passionate about what we are building/delivering to clients/vision we are creating and who fit well into the great/close knit/strong culture we have uniquely build that is unlike any other company….”

This approach at times finds ways to work even if not initially in smaller companies because often most key decision makers in the company will be involved in hiring anyone so bad seeds are weeded out in the hiring process. In the worst cases if they slip through they are gone soon after hire because everyone is visible to all in a small environment and a lack of contribution or disruption to harmony from any single member is more broadly felt and noticed across the organization. Ultimately if a bad seeds remain it is symbolic of the leadership and founders of the company and is probably not a place that is desirably to be nor will have lasting success with the current leadership if ever.








Here is the general sequence of events in 9 Steps that happens in a company with no functional HR/Recruitment people internally;

  1. CEO/Department Head has budget approval to make hire and will lead process
  2. Will either look frantically for the last written job specifications document for hire they did, online site logins and/or last recruiter used contact details (in absence of this either source this information from another hiring lead in company who hired recently or search for what was used in last company)
  3. Draft a quick set of general criteria for the role (often partially copied and modified from another posting by another company for a similar role) and paste in a copied paragraph of company overview and culture and post or send off to recruiter
  4. Over next week or two or three see leads come in via email from posting or recruiter and ad hoc look at some resumes in between regular role and more fun things on laptop
  5. Finally after reminder from recruiter, online post expiry notification, follow up emails from potential candidates or status update requests from colleagues actually go through the various candidate resumes and profiles (this might go quicker if the hiring need is urgent but usually it doesn’t b/c where it is really urgent it often means the hiring lead is so busy that recuriting falls down the to do list)
  6. Pick an initial 3-5 candidates based on a general combination of being at past companies you have heard of, have past job titles that seem in line for the open role, show contact details that indicate could come in for interview easily, are not too similar to each other and have a written style of resume you like maybe using a single word or reference you were looking for
  7. Initially have a bias in mind as to who is likely to be best candidates but reach out to group and schedule at least 2-3 for phone screenings. If two of them respond too late often don’t schedule those until after seeing how initial 3 do on the phone. (the initial bias might change depending on speed/nature of responders to scheduling)
  8. From phone interviews have an excel sheet of anwers to questions or markings in notes or on resume of each with an arbitrary score or Yes/No
  9. Likely unless all were beyond terrible bring 1-2 in for in person meetings with at least 2 people in the company and often coordination between interviewer’s questions is done in 5 mins before candidate arrives or in between the different conversations

At this point whether someone is hired, additional tasks are given, negotiation period, additional interviews, wait period, etc. means the process can go on a whole host of tangents. However as you can see there is so many potential points for improvement or lax standards throughout and we are all guilty of this at some point, repeatedly or hopefully reformed with occasional bad habits.

The obvious thing you might say is if the organization was larger/more mature and there was a structure in place much of the problems may be mitigated. In some cases that may be true but often new issues are created such as following strict processes of advertising on certain sites or reaching in certain ways might be great at getting marketing hires but not engineers.

This brings us to the greatest myth and thus problem of all; The Recruiter (internal or external)

I should explicitly say I am not anti the Recruiter be internal or external. In fact the recruiter may be the single most important person or people you outsource to at a company because the first thing any company sells is themselves to potential hires. Then without continual great hires you can’t do great things and make a business and sell something to customers that grows into a great brand and financial reward.

Thus instead of an afterthought the recruiter hired or engaged should be of a person, to use a cliche, is in the A++ realm of folks. It should be someone you trust without pause and has the integrity to represent you personally in any forum without any concern on your part. If that is not the person currently doing your recruiting then you are likely being fed mediocre candidates relative to your role and any great hire is mostly dumb luck.

As the recruiter is essentially there at Step 1 of the process I have outlined above and largely throughout no single person has a great influence on the success and thus all that can go wrong in the entire process. A bad decision made at an earlier stage either makes it impossible or extremely unlikely that it will be rectified at a future stage. Therefore the only way to succeed is to start all over again which means wasted time and money and that is poison for any business. As someone who has had to deal with Immigration often in hiring, it is laughable the lack of understanding in the industry for anything beyond plain vanilla situations.

Recruiters in the main today both internally and externally have are the laughing stock of the professional world with one of the most over inflated sense of important relative to output and ability of any professional group. My general rule of thumb is that 8 out of 10 are crap or worse, 1 is ok in certain circumstances and the remaining one hold onto like gold throughout your working life. The fundamental two reasons why they are almost universally mediocre;

  • In most cases the commission payment structure resembles that of the insurance, auto or real estates sales markets and we all know the quality and integrity that abounds in those sectors
  • They largely don’t nor have the desire to possess the skill of empathy. However empathy is their entire role, by putting themselves in the shoes of their client hiring manager and what that person wants in an employee and what is a good long term worker for him. Then in the shoes of the candidates as to what are their goals and desires and how with good folks can they entice them to a particular role

Soon I will do a post on the things I have heard some recruiters say and they would be so funny if it wasn’t so stupid that it is a tragedy for the companies in question and their prospects ahead. It’s kind of like watching certain politicians get interviewed in the media or The Daily Show and that realization of horror you have when you realize these people make the decisions that affect our lives.

My actual solution to all of this is that I don’t have a true answer. I have made some great hires in my journey and made some really lousy ones and adopted so many different avenues, tactics and methods of getting to know someone in advance. What I do advocate is us all stop kidding ourselves that we do have a great solution for this today and realize that much like dating right now we are really guessing until we find the right one!

The first step to finding a better way is admitting we have a problem to begin with …..