12 People Principles for the Best Hiring Decisions

Hiring wisely is one of the keys to building a successful business, and also one of the most challenging. Many owners and hiring managers don't know how to assess talent; many others dread the hiring process altogether. To make smart decisions, you need to adopt the role of a professional head coach or talent scout. Like these professionals, you need clear criteria and a thoughtful, consistent process. This article addresses one step of the process: criteria for evaluating prospects.

One of the many factors that makes hiring so challenging is that it’s a very imprecise, flawed process rife with baseless assumptions, bias (both implicit and explicit), and uncertainty. People simply don’t know what’s important, and what’s not, when evaluating prospects. The infamous Moneyball scouting scene illustrates this painfully and hilariously. Fortunately, you don’t need to rely on some self-anointed guru who claims to have the magic hiring elixir; data actually exists on what matters, thanks to both academia and data-minded companies like google and Kenexa.


Following is a list of 12 People Principles you can apply when assessing prospects, synthesized from the data and research of numerous academic studies as well as the recent work of google, Kenexa, and other corporate pioneers. Some principles will be more important than others, depending on the type of work (e.g. highly creative and intellectual work versus consistent and repetitive work). Two narrative descriptions are provided for each principle: the first version is labeled “Consultantese”, and the second is labeled “Layman’s.” Use whichever is most appropriate for your situation and audience.


Hire people who are:

1

RESILIENT & PERSISTENT

Consultantese:

You have the emotional fortitude, grit, and determination to succeed even in the face of setbacks. You focus on opportunities and possibilities, not problems, and are optimistic and determined in the face of difficulty.



Layman's:

Work is hard -- that's why it's called work! Making excuses is easy; getting results is hard. When you run into problems or resistance, you can give up and make excuses, or you can roll up your sleeves and cross the finish line. Winning isn't easy, but you have the grit and determination to find solutions and keep moving forward.

2

INNOVATIVE & CREATIVE

Consultantese:

You are inquisitive, open-minded to unorthodox ideas, and willing to ignore conventional wisdom. You ask questions, are willing to let evidence change your views, and are comfortable with ambiguity.



Layman's:

Innovators and creative people aren't trapped by "conventional wisdom" and existing practices. You see the world differently, see opportunities others don't see, and ask questions others don't ask. You're also comfortable with situations where no single "right" answer exists, and open to changing your mind when you learn new information.

3

VISIONARY & STRATEGIC

Consultantese:

Your ideas aren't limited by the current situation or environment; rather, you are able to imagine and create a compelling image of the future, of how things can be different and better -- and you can chart a strategy to create that future.



Layman's:

You "think outside the box," seeing things other people don't see and generating unique ideas and solutions. But you don't just dream, you find ways to make your ideas into reality.

4

ACTION-ORIENTED

Consultantese:

You are decisive and capable of calculated risk-taking. You realize and value the primacy of action over endless talking and analysis paralysis.



Layman's:

You make the best decision you can based on the info you have, and get to work.

5

PRODUCTIVE & DELIVER RESULTS

Consultantese:

You convert vision and purpose to action and results.



Layman's:

You get sh*t done quickly, efficiently, and skillfully. You deliver lots of good work and good results.

6

WISE

Consultantese:

You have good judgment and instincts and a track record of making sound decisions. You have solid pattern recognition and the ability to synthesize (not just analyze) information to determine the best course of action.



Layman's:

You make far more smart decisions than foolish ones.

7

DRIVEN

Consultantese:

You have a will to achieve and you find meaning, fulfillment, and purpose in work. You have a passion to work beyond status, ego, and money.



Layman's:

You don't show up at the office just to earn money to pay your bills, you actually enjoy what you do and want to accomplish something in life.

8

HUMBLE & SELF-AWARE

Consultantese:

You realize your imperfections and admit your mistakes, value your colleagues and their contributions, and can admit when your colleagues are right and tell them so. Humility is not timidity; rather, it's quiet confidence that earns the trust of others.



Layman's:

You know you're not perfect, and you can even admit it when you've screwed up. Sometimes other people do good work too, and you can even admit that as well.

9

CONSCIENTIOUS

Consultantese:

You are dependable, reliable, responsible, and trustworthy; your colleagues can count on you. You are a good team player and good sport, never complaining about minor matters or wallowing in office politics. You hold yourself and your colleagues to high standards and do what's right for the company, not just your own career.



Layman's:

You follow Wheaton's Law; you don't act like an asshole. You're a true team player who's reliable, honest, hardworking, and a good egg.

10

INVESTIGATIVE

Consultantese:

You dive deep to find the true drivers of trends, causal reasons, and resolution to problems. You don't make assumptions or accept unsubstantiated assertions.



Layman's:

Like Sherlock Holmes, you dig into the details to find out what's really going on.

11

GOOD COLLABORATORS & COMMUNICATORS

Consultantese:

You establish rapport and trust with others, strategize collaboratively, listen genuinely, and build consensus instead of dictating answers. You communicate clearly and share information to build trust, cohesion, and efficacy.



Layman's:

Guess what: it's not all about you. You actually listen to what other folks have to say, share your ideas and info, and generally play well with others. Good things result.

12

GOOD TALENT SCOUTS & COACHES

Consultantese:

Believing that a rising tide lifts all boats, you hire the best people you can find, for the right reasons. You welcome talented people as great additions to a collaborative endeavor. You're a good coach who cultivates your team members' skills, development, and success.



Layman's:

If you want to win the SuperBowl, you need two things: great players and great coaches. The best players don't want any weak links who might hurt the team's chances; they want to play with other top players in pursuit of the overall team goal: winning. When you hire, you ask yourself "is this person an A player who can help us win?" After you hire, you coach them to develop their skills, bring out their best, and help the team win.

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Derek Chapin

Derek Chapin provides growth strategies & solutions for small & mid-size companies. Previous successes include CxO at Woot! (sold to Amazon in 2010), meh, and Vinli.