Sound Bites and Running your Business by

Giff Constable’s post, Hire Carefully Doesn’t Have the Same Ring, is spot-on.  He is riffing on a Fast Company article:

“Why ‘Hire Slow, Fire Fast’ Is A Bunch Of BS,” or so says Danny Boice in a recent Fast Company article that was sent my way.

Well, it is a catch phrase, and as such, has to be catchy and over-simplified.

“Hire as quickly and carefully as you can without screwing your business objectives, and also fire as quickly as you should,” is a pretty banal tweet, isn’t it?  BTW, hiring carefully is not the same as waiting for perfection.

I like Giff’s take – awesome people and duds are easy.  People who are good but not great (or as he put it, ok but not great) are hard.

They seemed awesome when outside of your walls, but inside, they are decent but not great. It is harder to fire these people fast. Is it them, or you? Perhaps they just need a bit more management attention? better feedback? time to get up the learning curve or settle in? And, since they are not a total wash, and given that everyone on the team is overstretched even with this person, it becomes hard to imagine going back to one less pair of hands.

Look, hiring a great team is hard.  But perfection isn’t attainable. Some things can only be determined by working together.

There are some obvious shortcuts you can take to improve your hiring accuracy:

  • Hire people you’ve worked with before
  • Hire people your colleagues have worked with before and recommend
  • Hire people you’ve interviewed for other jobs but missed out on the first time, who’ve been successful where they went
  • Hire people with a lot of context in what you do – where you share expertise on multiple levels – it makes it easier to assess their talent and understanding.
  • Have a long-term view
  • Have a process. Follow it. Improve upon it.

Those are just a few ideas…

The larger point to me is that you have to take all of the pithy advice that sounds so good with a grain of salt. Hire Slow, Fire Fast was a nice shorthand for correcting a tendency people have to hire too optimistically and make decisions to terminate too slowly.  But depending who you are, your natural tendencies might be overcautious hiring, and too quick to give up on someone and fire them.  You have to assess whether you’re behaving in the best interests of your firm and act (or correct) accordingly.