4 people you will want on your hiring committee

Google’s manager use hiring committees, calling the process consensus-based hiring. But I found little on exactly how they do it.

Luckily, Tom Foster of Management Blog has more concrete advice. He suggests having 4 people on the hiring committee.

Each person has a unique role. They value one aspect of work more than others. So they will pick up things other people might miss.  

These 4 people are:

Hiring Manager

The central position in the hiring committee. They should have final say or at least have the most weighting in the final decision.

Manager’s Manager

Their role is to guide and support the hiring manager’s decision. They most likely have hired the same or similar role in the past.

Technical Person

Renowned for the technical skills and ability to see it in others. They will ideally work in the same area as the new hire. 

Culture Person

Helps you gain a better glimpse into the job candidate’s interpersonal skills and fit with the team’s culture. Could be someone from HR. 

Final thoughts

Remember you’re gathering data during interviews to get the complete picture. That’s the greatest strength of a hiring committee.

Let each committee member contribute to that end.


3 simple thoughts to better focus your hiring

You’re busy. I get it. Hiring is another thing on your already full plate.

Then again, the last thing you want to do is make a bad hire. But that’s what happens when you hire without prior thinking.

So let me simplify hiring for you with 3 thoughts. These will help you get laser focused when you start the process.

Thought #1 – Which qualities would get a new hire fired?

It’s not the most ideal situation to have to fire a new hire. So think about at least 3 bad traits that would get them fired.

You should be able to pick up telltale signs of bad traits during interviews. That is, if your interviewing is structured vs an informal talk.

I’ll give 2 examples of “fireable traits” to kickstart your thought process:

Example – which traits would get you fired in a customer-facing role?

  • Bad speaking manner
  • Lack of empathy
  • Low on the helpfulness scale
  • Goldfish-like memory

Example – which traits would get you fired in an analytical role?

  • Poor mathematical skills 
  • Can’t turn data into insight
  • Valuing theory over business problems
  • Lacking technical knowledge of key tools

Thought #2 – What qualities would help them gel with the team?

You’ll need to think about how your team – as a whole – likes to operate when getting work done. Here are examples:

  • Open vs Discrete/need-to-know communication
  • Informal (“call me when…”) vs Formal (written) reporting
  • Supportive of others or Solitary achiever
  • Casual vs Formal approach to stakeholders

Once again, your interview questions should help extract this data from job candidates. And now for the final thought…

Thought #3 – How can they prove to you they can get up to speed?

Regardless of how much skill or experience a job candidate has, they will take time to get on the same page as your team.

Every industry and work environment faces changes to process and technology at different speed and intensity. 

Moving forward, you’ll want to hire someone who will adapt well to these ongoing changes.

So think of job candidates as a blank slate. No skills, no experience. This will force you to ponder whether they could be adaptable.

How can they prove to you that they will:

  • Get up to speed fast with your team’s work AND
  • Continue doing so when technologies and processes change

One telltale trait of adaptable people is being a self-starter. They are more likely to take ambiguous situations (and so, change) head-on.

Summing these thoughts up

Bring a more focused approach to your hiring process by knowing the qualities you should and shouldn’t hire.

At the same time, think about how you can work out if the new hire will pick things up or bog your team down.

Final thought: it’s best to think about these things upfront. Way less stressful than doing so during the job interviews! 


Top employee resigned? Here’s how you deal with it.

You’ll want to hire a replacement. It’ll be like a reflex, but…

DON’T rush the replacement hire

  • Well, you can try to hire a replacement as fast as possible BUT
  • You should not hire fast without following protocol 
  • Protocol? Check references, ask structured interview questions, run a hiring committee if you have the resources
  • This is your opportunity to fill skill and mindset gaps your team might experience in the medium-to-long-term

But before you start your hiring campaign…

DO think about the impact of the departure 

  • Write down who and what depends on the departing employee
  • In this datasheet, cover internal (team, company) and external (customers, suppliers) relationships as well as key tasks
  • Now rank each relationship and task by level and urgency of impact
  • Work out what you have to do to smooth over these dependencies 

Transition relationships over with this 3-step approach:

  1. Get the leaving employee to say their goodbyes (if possible) with you being present to take the reigns of the relationship
  2. Personally handle key relationships in the short-term while you work out which employees can handle them in the long run
  3. Pass the reigns to capable employees as you feel confident in the strength of the new relationship 

Transition tasks over with this approach:

5-step task handover process:

  1. Write down the leaving employee’s key tasks
  2. Audit each team member’s current workload and capabilities
  3. Assign the task to at least 2 people for redundancy and competition 
  4. Review how they are doing after 1, 3 and 6 months – change assignments if you see poor quality work
  5. Fit replacement hires into this process if and when they happen

Here’s the time horizon for this transition:

  • Immediately after employee leaves – assign tasks to other team members; outsource to contractors if they’re too busy
  • While you’re hiring for a replacement – continue to do the above and outsource key tasks if required
  • Once a replacement has been found – start the new hire per onboarding protocol on core tasks that are not mission critical
  • Once replacement has proven value – slowly transition key tasks over to them keeping their competence level in mind 

Speaking of competence levels…

DON’T expect A-Player results from the replacement hire

  • Don’t expect the replacement hire to blow your mind straight away
  • You never hire A-Players – even if they say they are one – because that’s a status they held in another work environment, not yours 
  • Only time can tell the value each hire will add – wait at least 3 months before classifying a new hire as an A- B- or C- Player

But at least you can reduce your risk of complete chaos…

DO plan for this kind of scenario

  • You don’t have to wait until a top employee hands in their notice
  • Think about what would happen if key people on your team left
  • This is risk management – managers should do it at least once a year 
  • Run the impact analysis I mentioned earlier even when noone’s left
  • It’ll be easier to deal with issues when a key employee does leave – because they will

If you want to explore this issue further:


How to hire without regretting your decision

You’re reading this right now for a good reason. You want to be a better manager.

And one key aspect of achieving that is hiring without regret. So let’s uncover the mindset it takes to achieve this.

Let’s firstly cover what will cause you to regret your hiring decision.

Remember, the passive and aggressive manager? Both types of manager risk making regrettable hires. Here’s how:

Passive managers get the leftovers

Their want-no-trouble mindset causes them to be loose with their hiring process and easy on candidates. They risk hiring C, maybe even D players.

Aggressive managers get pushback

Unlike passive managers, aggressive managers unashamedly want results, so they chase after A-Players. 

But A-Players know they’re a hot commodity and will have their own wants. Can you see how both demanding parties would butt heads?

What’s the alternative?

Alpha Managers know that hiring isn’t straightforward and there’s a high risk of making bad hires or even rejecting A-Players

Ultimately, they know hiring an A-Player isn’t the be all and end all. There’s no promise that a once-A-Player will perform well in your situation.

An Alpha Manager is OK with hiring a B- or even a C-Player, so long as they show potential to step up their game.

The best hire will have solid interpersonal skills and intrapersonal skills
like being a self-starter, having a growth mindset etc.

Here’s the cherry on top – they’ll gel with how your team works:

  • If your team values open collaboration, they do too
  • If it values solitary work, they feel the same way

Hiring is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But it can be a lot less painful a decision if you seek the right traits and fit.


Is hiring hard because it’s a game of chance?

Popular manager thinking would have you think hiring is an exact science. But in reality, hiring is a game of chance. 

Have a look at this graph:

Job candidates end up on one of these 4 squares

That graph looks pretty complicated, right? A candidate’s dice can land anywhere on it. But it largely depends on you.

This is why it’s a game of chance

Every time you interview a candidate, at best, you are making an educated guess of how well they’ll fit into your team.

The less educated your decision, the greater your chance of making a bad hire. That’s what makes hiring so hard!

Your decision gets telegraphed on this graph as the right hiring choice or the wrong hiring choice.

The right hiring choice is your skill (and luck) at play

I’m sure you are eager to know what the right choices are. They are:

  • True Positive. You hired a good fit candidate who eventually became an A player in your team 
  • True Negative. You rightly rejected a bad fit candidate

Now the hard part: when you’ve made the wrong hiring choice.

According to Henry Ward, CEO of software company Carta, this is how the wrong hiring choice pans out:

A False Positive (FP) is when we hire somebody who doesn’t work out (i.e. we falsely believed they would be great). A False Negative (FN) is when we did not hire somebody who would have been great.

How to Hire, Henry Ward of Carta (via Medium)

What causes the wrong hiring choice?

What kind of candidate causes False Positives? A sweet talker or someone with a promising resume who convinces you that they are an A-player.

And what about False Negatives? For example, these can be true A-players who for some reason don’t interview well

How to make the right hiring choice

Here’s the beauty of hiring. Unlike most other games of chance, you can stack the hiring odds in your favour.

You can do this by carefully thinking about how to reduce False Positives and False Negatives.

The True Positives (and Negatives) will follow suit and naturally increase. 


3 mistakes that guarantee you’ll make bad hires

A bad hire might not perform to the level you expect. They might not gel with your team. There are 3 leading causes of bad hires.

I’ve listed these 3 mistakes in order. From the one you have the least control over to the one you have most control over. Here goes…

Mistake #3 – Your employer brand is weak

Do potential employees know what makes you a better employer than your competitors? Are you selling the job to them?

If not, the good fit candidates (who have options) might look right past you. Meanwhile, less able candidates will see your job as a low hanging fruit.

With fewer A- and B-players applying for the job, there’s a greater chance of you hiring a less able applicant. Big risk.

I recommend you start exploring this topic by first reading this practical employer branding guide on LinkedIn.

Mistake #2 – You base your hire on personality or hard skills 

Richard Branson recommends hiring people who are “fun, friendly, caring and love helping others.”

Apparently the “rest of the job can be taught.” Maybe yes, since he was talking about hiring customer-facing employees like flight attendants.

I can’t say that’s a winning recipe if you need to hire for a professional or technical role.

Something makes me think that a set level of proven skills are key.

You wouldn’t want Virgin Atlantic to hire for a pilot’s role solely on the condition that they’re fun. 

The other end of the spectrum is no better. I’ve known managers who hire someone with a promising resume only to regret it later.

They see the laundry list of skills, years of experience and marquee past employers and think they’ve found a winner.

Without verifying what the person actually did day-to-day with those skills in those years at those companies, you risk hiring a dud.

Mistake #1 – Your interviewing isn’t rock solid

Mistake #3 is an external factor. It’s about how outsiders see your company. You only have a degree of control over that. 

Mistake #2 is a mistake of false mindset. It’s indirect because you’re often not doing it consciously and takes time to evolve from. 

But Mistake #1 is something you do consciously and you have direct control over it. You own your interview process.   

Sadly, if you end up with low quality data on candidates, it’s on you. All this does it make your decision hard or worse, guesswork.

What causes you to have low quality candidate data?

Having a weak (list of random questions) all the way to non-existent (“It’s a conversation”) interview structure.

It’s critical that you work out the key traits that make your employees successful and seek these in your new hire.

Here’s a simple fix: write at least 5 questions that compare the candidate to how your top performers go about doing the work.

Ask each and every job candidate. That way you’ll truly know if the person in front of you will work the way your team does.


Is it risky to hire people with promising resumes?

This might seem like a rhetorical question, but it’s not. My first thought to this question was, “What’s wrong with hiring a strong resume?”

Well, after a little thinking, I noticed the problem. Hiring managers risk being biased toward people with promising resumes.

Here’s the issue I have with that: people with such resumes might not actually live up to the hype on paper.

We risk valuing the “good resume candidate” more than a better fit candidate with an average looking resume.

So it’s risky if you hire someone solely for the quality of their resume.

A story can explain this best

We needed to hire during a tough time

I recently helped a fellow manager at my employer with the task of shortlisting candidates for a critical role.

Let’s call this manager Dirk. A key staff member left Dirk’s team right as our company approached a busy period.

I was on vacation at the time, but I had to help because I knew how swamped he was. I offered to review resumes and qualify candidates.

After culling what felt like 99% of the resumes we received, I forwarded a handful to Dirk for his thoughts.

Surprise! Someone got hired fast

The next email took me by surprise. It went to the affect of, “I’ve made a verbal offer. Who in HR do I ask to draft the written offer?”

“Wow, that was quick. I only emailed the resumes yesterday,” I thought.

How could this be?

After I got back from vacation, I learned that Dirk phone offered the job to a candidate after a 5 minute call. Yes, 5 minutes.

“Did you hire this… Morgan for his resume?,” I queried Dirk, “OK, he’s racked in a lot of years, but is he right for us?”

Dirk retorted, “Look at his resume! He’s gotta be good. He couldn’t have lasted for 15 years in our industry by being ordinary.”

I didn’t say any more and left Dirk to complete his new hire.

And then came trouble…

Fast forward a few months. Dirk came to my desk a little pale in the face. He asked for my opinion on how to get rid of Morgan.

I wasn’t exactly gobsmacked by this revelation, but still, I needed to probe the issue properly.

It turned out that months had passed and Morgan was still not showing any results. This despite Dirk rolling the red carpet for Morgan.

Morgan was given special access to mentoring from our company’s senior contributors on top of HR’s standard onboarding program.

So I had a casual talk with Morgan.

This is how Morgan ended that conversation, “I know I’ve got 15 years experience, but I expected a little more support. Dirk kind of expects me to do things on my own most of the time. I thought this’d be a team effort.”

His words neatly summed up the problem for me. Morgan’s idea of support was our idea of heavy supervision.

That’s what he was used to, but our work culture valued the opposite. We expected people to operate – for the most part – on their own.

Could this built-up pressure get released?

Then I spoke with Dirk’s other employees. I learned that he was rubbing off the wrong way on them too.

He constantly asked banal questions. They had to triple check his work. He dropped the ball on some important tasks.

All this was making both Dirk and me very, very worried. Why me? Because problems in Dirk’s team had potential to ripple onto my team’s work.

But a few days after my conversation with Morgan, he emailed Dirk his notice. He wrote this at the end: “This job isn’t for me”. We agreed.

Dirk could not believe his luck. He still thinks my casual talk with Morgan was the catalyst for him quitting. I can be very useful sometimes!

Moral of the story

This is one example of how a resume can show great promise, but doesn’t translate to greatness in reality.

We need to really understand how the job candidate would behave in our work environment. A resume can’t do that for us.

That’s why we need to look beyond what the resume tells us to understand if the job candidate is the right fit for us.

It’s a balancing act

The ideal world you would take the high road and not fall for a pumped up resume. The real world you needs to think it through.

A lot of old-school managers value resumes as indicators of ability. Going against the grain can risk your standing in the company.

Consider your decision by putting on the lens of influential company insiders and pondering:

How would your boss and other managers interpret your hiring someone with a less impressive resume than other candidates?

It’s hard to put on a solid defence to this question in the beginning. Best to err on cautious side until you’ve had a few hiring wins.

Give the resume quality some weight in your hiring decision.

That’s besides all the other facets of hiring like testing for culture fit, interest in the work and hard skills.   

By doing this, you are sprinkling a little of what others value into your hiring process. Makes it palatable for them.

At the same time, it gives you room to be the ideal world you of not just hiring a promising resume.


3 questions proven to spotlight emerging top performers

Valve Software has a quick 3 question guide to work out if your employee is a top performer (aka A-Player) or not.

Never heard of Valve? In 2010, this publisher of popular video games made $500 million+ with only 250 employees.

The company’s approach to hiring and keeping the best people has clearly paid dividends.

Best of all, these 3 questions aren’t limited to the software or gaming industry. They are industry-agnostic.

Valve asks its managers to think through these questions as early as before they hire a new employee.

The 3 questions to think about are:

  1. Would I want this person to be my boss?
  2. Would I learn a significant amount from him or her?
  3. What would we lose if this person went to work for a competitor?

This kind of introspection could help us alpha managers work out if someone adds value to the team. 

Certainly more food for thought than if the employee meets our archetype of a “good person”. That’s none of our business.


Can fear of bad hires make you reject good people?

It makes perfect sense to be on guard for potential bad hires. After all, a bad hire can bring down your team’s performance.

I’ve seen managers try to control this risk by asking tough interview questions.

They ask “curveball questions” designed to really test the job candidate. Think brain teasers and personality-focused questions.

Here are examples of curveball questions

How many golf balls can fit in a 747? (Wait, calculating… calculating…)

What is your spirit animal? (Gives me the feels)

What is your greatest weakness? (Quite the classic)

Before you start writing these down, let me tell you something…

There’s a problem with relying too heavily on responses to such questions for your interview data.

These questions can make you reject good candidates

Google this query if you’re curious: ‘How to answer tough interview questions’. There’s so much advice out there.

Job candidates have a lot of advice to choose from to thwart your curveball interview questions

You might think, “I don’t see the harm in an interviewee putting in such an effort to prepare for the interview.”

But this exact thing might increase your risk of bad hires rather than cutting it. Here’s how:

  • You risk downplaying people who are a good fit for the role, but didn’t get coaching for handling such questions
  • Worse, you risk overvaluing bad fits who just happened to have prepared for your curveball questions 

“Nah, that won’t happen to me”

At this point, you might be thinking, “But I’ll be hiring someone I think is good. So what’s the big deal if I reject some good people?”

There are two issues with relying on curveball questions. When:

  1. More bad fits answer the curveball questions better than good fit candidates – increases probability of bad hire
  2. A bad fit candidate answers the question in a way that amuses or impresses you on a personal level – risk of bias

Let’s see this issue through example responses

Imagine you’re interviewing 3 candidates with these initials: TM, BD, CP. You don’t know who’s the best fit for the job.

One is the perfect fit, one is so-so and one is a complete dud.

Shall we see how they respond to two of your curveball Qs?

Curveball Q1 – Which is your spirit animal?

Candidate TM
“My spirit animal? Maybe a tiger? Haven’t really thought about this kind of thing.”
Candidate BD
“My spirit animal would be a duck. Calm above water, working hard beneath the surface.”
Candidate CP
“I think I’d channel a bonobo. They’re very extroverted and social attuned; just like me.”

TM tanked this question. BD edged above CP for describing what seems like a strong personal quality.  

Curveball Q2 – What is your greatest weakness?

Candidate TM
“I sometimes work more than I should for my own well-being.”

Candidate BD
“I can get really absorbed in a task, to the point I won’t stop ’til it’s done.”
Candidate CP
“I am obsessed with  perfecting my skills. Past coworkers have gotten envious.”

TM sounds like a killjoy. BD gave a fairly canned answer compared to CP’s more unique take on perfecting skills.

So TM seems like the dud here, right? What if I told you that in reality:

  • TM is the most skilled and best culture fit for your team
  • BD has average skills, but is too inward-focused to be a team player
  • CP has average skills too, but likes to play workplace politics

These curveball questions made the best candidate seem like a reject while making worse fits seem better. 

How we can we solve this issue?

Let’s say you want to hire someone who will work well with your team. You need to identify how they’d work in such situations.

Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, advocates using paid trials and “show me, not tell me” interviews to evaluate candidates.

You might not have the time or logistics needed to do this. So do the next best thing: ask behavior-focused questions.

More than a single question, it’s a drill-in questioning technique that digs into key details of a past situation.

Here’s an example of drill-in questioning:

  • Recall a time when you had to work in a team
  • What was your role in that situation?
  • How did you perceive your role?
  • Who were the main people on the team?
  • Who was responsible for coordinating the work?
  • What issues came up along the way?
  • How did the team work to resolve these?
  • What was your contribution to making this happen?
  • What do you think could have increase the team’s success?

Here’s the pattern for this technique:

  1. Start with a statement that sets the scene, “Recall a time…”
  2. Then get a background like “Your role”, “Who else was there”
  3. Now, dig a little deeper “What issues came up?”
  4. Finally, focus on working out how the candidate contributed

Yes, this technique needs a little more thinking on your part than picking a canned brain-teaser or personality question.

But it will give you more concrete interview data.

Less bad fits would be able to make it all the way through these questions without showing a mismatch with your needs.

The inverse would work for good candidates. Less chance of inadvertently canning them vs. weak answers to less concrete questions.


Could self-starters really blow your mind?

Alpha managers tend to hire self-starter employees because there are 5+ good reasons to hire them.

Managers from startup entrepreneurs up to as famous as Steve Jobs have even been quoted about hiring self-starters.

If the self starter trait is crucial to the role you’re hiring for, ask this set of job interview questions to identify genuine self-starters.

But there are 2 particular situations where self-starters need to dial down the “let’s get on it now” work ethic.

If your work environment and the role you’re hiring for could benefit, try to hire self-starters.