1C h a p t e rThe POWER Hiring
Approach toHiring Top Talent
Hire smart, or manage tough.
A RUDE AWAKENINGWHAT IT REALLYTAKES TO GET AHEAD
I still remember this like it was yesterday. I got the call some-time in the morning on a mid-October day in 1972. It was myfirst management job, Financial Planning Manager at Rock-wells Automotive Group in Troy, Michigan. At the time, I wasworking on my first presentation to the Group President andVice President of Finance, due the next day. It was going to bea very long night. I didnt mind, since my new wife hadntmade the move yet. My boss, Chuck Jacob, and the reason formy being in Detroit, was on the phone with a desperate plea.Chuck was a 29-year-old Harvard MBA whiz kid, just out of FordMotor Company, trying to prove to everyone that he deservedhis position as Controller for this $900 million truck-axle busi-ness. He was also my idol. I listened. He was at the Universityof Michigan interviewing MBA students for planning analystpositions to fill out our department. We needed these people
adle_c01.qxd 7/30/02 10:38 AM Page 1
2 HIRE WITH YOUR HEAD
urgently. The good newstoo many had signed up for the in-terview, and Chuck needed me there to interview the overflow.We were going head-to-head with Ford, P&G, IBM, and everyother top Fortune 500 company, who wanted the best candi-dates from this prestigious MBA program. He told me therewere stars in this group that we needed on our team. The badnewsI didnt have a minute to spare. I protested, vehemently,pleading 14-hour days, a long night, and a critical presentationthe next day. There was a momentary delay. Chucks responsestill blasts in my ears today. There is nothing more important toyour success than hiring great people! Well somehow get the workdone. Get your ____ over here now. He then hung up.
I was there within the hour. Together we interviewed about20 people, took eight of them to dinner that night in AnnArbor, and hired three of the top MBA students within twoweeks. Ive lost track of Russ, Joe, and Vivek, but I want tothank them and Chuck (who passed away at too early an age)for an invaluable lesson: There is nothing more important toyour personal and companys success than hiring great people.Nothing. Chuck and I got back to the office at 10 P.M. that nightand worked together until about 3 A.M. to finish the report. Thehandwritten version was presented the next day to BobWorsnop and Bill Panny. We apologized for the format and lackof preparation, but told them we were doing something moreimportant. They agreed.
BENCHMARKING THE BEST
I learned 50 percent of what I needed to know about hiring thatday. Since then, Ive been trying to understand the rest. Im notquite there yet, but close. For the past 25 years, Ive been fortu-nate to be able to work with other people, like Chuck, who al-ways seem to hire great people, year-in and year-out. Few havehad any formal training. They learned through trial and error.Equally important, Ive lived and worked with managerswhove made every possible hiring mistake in the book. This istheir book, too. Its the collective stories of the good and thebad. What to do and what not to do. Youll find some great tech-niques in this book, but none are more important than your
adle_c01.qxd 7/30/02 10:38 AM Page 2
The POWER Hiring Approach 3
belief that hiring great people is the single most importantthing you can do to ensure your own success.
Many years later, I heard Red Scotts adage, Hire smart, ormanage tough. This said it all to me. Ive never met anybodywho could manage tough enough. No matter how hard you try,you can never atone for a weak hiring decision. A weak candi-date rarely becomes a great employee, no matter how muchyou wish or how hard you work. Instead, hire smart. Use thesame time and energy to do it right the first time. Brian Tracyof Nightingale-Conant fame said on one of his recent tape pro-grams that effective hiring represents 95 percent of a man-agers success. This seems a little high, but with what Ive seen,70 percent to 80 percent seems about right to me. This is stillenough to keep hiring in the number one position.
Every manager says that hiring great people is his or hermost important task; however, few walk the talk. Although im-portant, it never seems urgent enough until its too late. Whenit comes down to the actual hiring process, our words dontmatch our actions. Test yourself and see how you score as a hir-ing manager. Rank the performance of every member of yourown team. Are most of them top-notch and exceeding expecta-tions? If they are, consider yourself a strong manager. Unlessyoure hiring people like this 80 percent to 90 percent of thetime, you need to throw out everything youve learned abouthiring, and start with a fresh slate. If youre already in the elite80 percent to 90 percent, this book reinforces how you gotthere, and gives you a few new techniques that will boost yourperformance even further.
You might try a similar exercise with your next candidatefor a management position. This should become part of yourstandard interviewing practices. When youre hiring a man-ager, make sure he or she has a track record of hiring good peo-ple. Have the candidate draw an organization chart and rankeach persons performance. Ask him or her to describe all hir-ing successes and failures. Do this for the last two or threemanagement positions. Youll quickly discover if the person isa good manager or not.
Most managers find the hiring process frustrating and timeconsuming. With this built-in negative bias, its not surprising
adle_c01.qxd 7/30/02 10:38 AM Page 3
4 HIRE WITH YOUR HEAD
were easy prey to the energetic, attractive, affable, and articu-late candidate. This is the one who eventually falls short of ourlofty expectations once on the job. Knowing were prone to thisproblem is the first step to overcoming it.
We have developed many of the techniques presented inthis book by observing people who consistently hire top peo-ple. This is a process called benchmarking, and much of thebook has been developed this way. Just do what the best inter-viewers do, and youll get similar results. In fact, modelinggood interviewers this way is similar to modeling good per-formers for any type of job. Just find out what the most suc-cessful people do that makes them successful, and find otherpeople who can do the same things. This principle of bench-marking is a theme of the book and is at the heart of thePOWER Hiring performance-based hiring system we present.You dont need to be a trained psychologist to hire good people.Psychologists look for the underlying traits of high performers.Why bother? Just look for high performers. They possess thenecessary underlying traits.
One critical factor has been observed through our bench-marking: The best interviewers use two different critical think-ing skills, one for the hiring decision and another forinformation gathering. They recognize that the hiring decisionmust be intuitive, since theres never enough information tomatch abilities, needs, and interests completely. Instead, theysubstitute a broader group of 8 to 10 generic and job-specific fac-tors to assess competency. Despite this intuitive approach, theyrecognize that an analytical, fact-finding method is needed tocollect as much appropriate data as possible about these traitsbefore making the hiring decision. These great interviewers alsohave the ability to suspend their personal reaction to the candi-date long enough to make an unbiased assessment.
From my observations, it appears that weaker interviewers,those who make many mistakes, fall within three broad cate-gories. A large percentage of them are too emotional. Thesepeople make quick, simplistic judgments based largely on firstimpressions and personality. Not unexpectedly, their hiring re-sults are random. The overly intuitive interviewer short-circuitsthe process, superficially assessing only a narrow group of im-portant traits. Every now and then, theyll hire a star, but more
adle_c01.qxd 7/30/02 10:38 AM Page 4
The POWER Hiring Approach 5
often its a person strong in only a few areas and not broadenough to handle the whole job. I call these the partially com-petent. The technical interviewers are at the other extreme.These people are good at the fact-finding part of the process,but weak at decision making, believing they never have enoughinformation. As a substitute, they overemphasize the need foryears of experience and an abundance of skills. The result is asolid, but often unspectacular staff, since they ignored hard-to-measure potential. The key to hiring both competent and high-potential people is to collect enough of the right facts. Troubleoccurs when this delicate balance is broken.
HIRING IS TOO IMPORTANT TOLEAVE TO CHANCE
If you want to hire superior people, use a system designed tohire superior people, not one designed to fill jobs. The emphasisof too many hiring processes is to reduce costs and fill jobs asrapidly as possible. Somehow the idea of hiring the best is an af-terthought. Hiring the best must dominate every aspect of acompanys hiring process. This is the clear theme of the latestMcKinsey Consulting research project, The War for Talent.1 Theauthors surveyed over 200 major companies. The conclusionswere obvioushiring the best is an essential component oflong-term success, requiring a comprehensive and well-executedplan. Talk by itself, no matter how eloquent, is not enough.
In the mid-1990s, everyone thought the Internet was going tobe the new tool that allowed everyone to hire great peoplequickly and at low cost. What a terrible forecast. For 2001, sur-veys indicate that less than 10 percent of all hires were made asa result of job boards on the