Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who - by Geoff Smart & Randy Street

“Who – The A Method for Hiring” was written by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. Smart and Street manage ghSMART, a management assessment company that helps corporations and big investors hire CEO’s and senior managers.

The book starts by two features that I found particularly engaging. One is this quote of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: “The most important decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions, but who decisions”.

The other is a funny and pertinent critic of the avatars of incompetent interviewers:
  • The Art Critic, who goes on gut instinct
  • The Sponge, that lets as many people as possible interview the candidate, and gathers tons of mostly irrelevant information
  • The Prosecutor, aggressively asking tricky questions
  • The Suitor, who spends all the time selling the job and forgets to ask questions
  • The Trickster, who will throw a paper on the floor to see which candidate cleans it up
  • The Animal Lover, stubbornly sticking to his or her pet questions
  • The Chatterbox,who manages a conversation rather than a selection interview
  • The Psychological Tester – I'm afraid I don't agree with Smart and Street on this one because I believe in the interest of psychometric and personality tests as long as they are built and used rigorously.
  • The Aptitude Tester, who makes tests the only determinant of the hiring decision
  • The Fortune-Teller who likes to ask candidates questions about a hypothetical future, like “What would you do if...”. This one is the most common in my personal experience.

Those poor hiring methods continue to be very widely spread: a recent Forbes article commented a scientific study showing that hiring managers select people who they think could be their friends instead of the most qualified applicants.

In contrast, Smart and Street use a rigorous method to select “A players”. They define an A player as “a candidate who has at least 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates could achieve”.

The “ghSMART A Method for Hiring” includes four steps:
  • Scorecard: It's a concise document describing the mission, the exact outcomes that should be achieved, and the competencies needed. The scorecard is the link between your strategy and the people you want to hire.
  • Source: The book explains how to generate a continuous flow of good candidates. Smart and Street are convinced that referrals by your employees or your professional network are by far the best sourcing method. They also give practical advice about other sourcing canals: external recruiters, recruiting researchers and sourcing systems.
  • Select: In my humble opinion, the most practical and useful part of “Who” is the chapter that describes ghSMART's interviewing method. It describes a series of four interviews:
    • The screening interview should be short, phone-based, and structured. It's mainly about the candidate's career goals, interests, and strengths and weaknesses.
    • The Topgrading Interview® goes into more details in order to uncover the patterns of somebody's career history. It doesn't focus only on the candidate's opinions, but also on hard facts and on the views of former bosses, peers and reports.
    • The focused interview is used to gather more information about a particular outcome or competency listed in the scorecard.
    • The reference interview is a phone call to the candidate's references. Smart and Street think you should call seven of them: three past bosses, two peers or customers and two subordinates. They explain how to structure the conversation and how to read between the lines, as people generally don't like to give a negative reference.
  • Sell: To convince the best candidate to join your organization, you shouldn't focus on the comp and ben package only. There are other elements you can use to sell the position, that the book calls the five F's of selling:
    • Fit
    • Family
    • Freedom
    • Fortune
    • Fun
The book offers many anecdotes about successful or unsuccessful recruiting experiences. It is very practical, going into many details about the way to organize a day of interviews, to ask questions, to interrupt a candidate, to gather more precise facts about a candidate's accomplishments, etc.

It has been immediately useful to me, giving me several new ideas on how to strengthen my recruiting process.

If you are interested in books about recruiting, you might also be interested in:

Book data

  • Who: The A Method for Hiring - Solve Your #1 Problem
  • By Geoff Smart and Randy Street, from ghSMART
  • Ballantine Books
  • 188 pages
  • Available on Who: The A Method for Hiring

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