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Methods of hiring

Nasser Oudjidane
December 19, 2022

There are enough books on recruitment to fill the Grand Canyon, but every once in a while, you find some pearls of wisdom amongst the pulp fiction. Below, we share some gems from the Intrro library and take a deep dive into different methods of hiring.

Focus on who you hire, not what they do

It’s tempting to think there’s a silver bullet that can make your life 100% easier as a hiring manager. But below, we’ll explore an idea that’s way simpler than fancy tools and sprawling org charts.

What is the ‘who’?

No, not the 1960s rock band – the ‘who’ in hiring means being choosy about who you hire. It’s a principle summed up by Jim Collins, business management guru and author of Good to Great. In the book, he offers an analogy in comparing a business to a bus:

As recruiters, are we overlooking the simplest of things? We can waste a lot of time training staff, trying new strategies and going on endless team-building canoe trips, but quality of hire is ultimately going to determine whether a business can walk or fly.

The ‘A Method for Hiring’

Similarly, we’re big fans of Geoff Smart and Randy Street’s book, Who: The A Method for Hiring, which makes a persuasive case that recruitment is about who you hire. While the book was published in 2008, the insights are just as useful for hiring managers today.

Smart and Street (or Street-Smart, if you will) make the case that hiring is about constantly being on the lookout for the best people and developing a reliable talent pool, even when you’re not actively recruiting. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the main pointers.

Watch out for ‘who mistakes’

Here’s what they say about “who mistakes” – in other words, why people make the wrong appointment:

Beware ‘voodoo hiring methods’

Smart and Street have lots of fun in identifying different types of hiring manager who get recruitment wrong, which they dub “voodoo hiring methods”. Here’s a summary of these awkward archetypes:

  1. 👨🎨 The Art Critic – “hiring people based on gut instinct”.
  2. 🧽 The Sponge – busy hiring managers who “let everybody interview a candidate, with the risk of interviewers asking candidates exactly the same questions”.
  3. 👨⚖️ The Prosecutor – managers who “aggressively question candidates, attempting to trip them up with trick questions and logic problems”.
  4. 🤵 The Suitor – “...some managers spend all of their energy selling the applicant on the opportunity. Suitors are more concerned with impressing than assessing…”
  5. 🤹 The Trickster – “...interviewers who use gimmicks to test for certain behaviours”, like throwing a wad of paper on the floor “to see if a candidate is willing to clean it up”.
  6. 🐶 The Animal Lover – managers who “hold on stubbornly to their favourite pet questions – questions they think will reveal something uniquely important about a candidate”.
  7. 🗣The Chatterbox – “The conversation usually goes something like this: ‘How about them Yankees! Man, the weather is rough this time of year. You grew up in California? So did I!’”
  8. 🧠 The Psychological and Personality Tester – managers who ask candidates “bubble-test questions like ‘do you tease small animals?’” which are “not predictive of success on the job”.
  9. ❓The Aptitude Tester – managers who use tests as the “sole determinant in a hiring decision”.
  10.  🔮 The Fortune-Teller – “...some interviewers look into the future regarding the job at hand by asking hypothetical questions”.
Embrace ‘systemic sourcing’

Smart and Street see hiring as an ongoing, proactive process, rather than something to pursue in a panic. “Systematic sourcing before you have slots to fill ensures you have high quality candidates waiting when you need them,” they write.

The authors also give a helpful list as to ‘how to source’, with various rich seams of recruiting as follows:

Use a scorecard

Moreover, they recommend using a scorecard to help flesh out what you want from a role. It’s “not a job description, but rather a set of outcomes and competencies that define a job well”. Here’s an example:

What about a trial week?

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there are other hiring methods to be found elsewhere. Sequoia Capital run a trial week where they put candidates up in a hotel, host activities like go-karting, and prepare a project for them to work on. Sequoia say the trial week has a 66% hire rate and allows them to “take chances on candidates who might not interview well and weed out people who make a good first impression but can’t back it up”.

Similarly, in our podcast with Amandeep Shergil, director of tech recruiting at Automattic, we cover the trial method of recruiting

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