How to Hire the right people

One of the problems with hiring is that it’s boring. Extremely boring. There is almost nothing worse than starting off an interview and realising immediately that there is no way you’re going to hire this person.

A lot of the time because it’s so boring, the moment we find someone even borderline suitable for the role we convince ourselves that they’re the right hire. The problem is that in an interview, liking someone will trump a lot of other things. If someone is just likeable, that can mask the fact that they might not be the best person for the job.

When you’re hiring someone, you should actually be making three decisions, not one. You are deciding:


Can they do the job?

What are the skills necessary to perform this role, and do they have them?

Will they do the job?

What are the behaviours and traits that are important for this role, and do they exhibit them?

Do I want them to do the job?

Are they the kind of person you want working with you?

I’m not going to cover how to answer those questions here as that’s standard hiring practice. Skills testing and behavioural interviews or questionnaires are all common approaches and you can pick the appropriate methods for your needs. What I think is worth spending some time on is why the order in which you go about answering these questions matters.

With the Minimum Effective Management approach, we want to minimise the amount of time we spend on hiring, whilst still giving ourselves the best chance of making the right decision. To do that, we need to adjust our hiring process depending on the role we’re hiring for, and the circumstance we’re in.

For each hire, we need to consider the following:

What’s the cost of answering each question?

Let’s say you’ve decided on this approach to answering the three questions:

  • Can they do the job - A technical test completed remotely that takes 45 minutes for a senior worker to evaluate
  • Will they do the job - An online behavioural test that’s evaluated automatically, but that you’re charged for.
  • Do I want them to do the job - A face to face interview with management

These each present different costs which depending on your circumstance may be more or less palettable. If one of those costs is far less than another, it makes sense to put the lower cost steps higher up the process.

But making the decision just on this factor isn’t enough. There’s another key piece of information you need.

How likely is the Yes?

Depending on the role, the hardest Yes to find will be different. For a senior technical role for example, it might be much harder to find someone with the skills you need than the behaviours. If you’re hiring a Junior however, you might not need them to be very skilled already as you intend to train them. If you have a particularly strong culture, finding people you want to work with who will fit in might be the most challenging.

Depending on who you are, and the role you’re hiring for, a Yes is going to be less likely in certain parts of the process, so it makes sense to look for that first before wasting time on the other questions.

Putting this together

Once you know what it costs you to answer a question, and which question is most likely to be a no, you can order your interview process with that in mind. If you think twice as many people are going to be No when it comes to skills as for the other areas, and testing for skills costs the same, then test for skills first.

But, if you think twice as many people are going to be a No when it comes to skills as for the other areas, but testing for skills costs three times as much, then it shouldn’t be the first step.

If you approach it this way, you’ll spend the least amount of money cutting out the most number of inappropriate people.

There shouldn’t be a single approach to the way you hire. You should ask yourself these questions each time you’re putting together a hiring process so you can keep your effort to minimum.

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