I have hired dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people. In 2000, I became the first employee and Chief Marketing Officer for a startup that eventually grew to be 700 employees. During the first few years when adding a new employee was a major decision, I interviewed almost every hire in the areas of sales, marketing and customer service. As the company grew, I focused on finding the right people for marketing for a wide range of positions including graphic/web design, SEO, SEM, email marketing, public relations, and media buying. Based on my wide range of hiring experiences, I have come to believe the following ideas are at best true in limited circumstance and at worse lead to bad hiring decision:

Myth 1: You want to hire “A” players:

In articles about hiring, there are numerous mentions about hiring “A” players or differentiating “A” players from “B” and “C” players. These discussions tend to be based on the premise that there is one type of model employee for every type of position (sales, computer programming, etc.) and that companies should hire employees that are as close as possible to the ideal. Generally speaking that ideal employee is extremely productive, intelligent and has great communication skills.

What these discussions tend to skip over is that not every company and every position is a good match for the “A” players. I have been lucky to manage a few “A” player employees and they as a rule are very ambitious. They are looking for rapid advancement and compensation for their efforts. At the very least, they want to gain new skills and experience which they can parlay into a better job. If the position does not provide these opportunities, you will not be able to keep your A player and will need to find a replacement when that person quickly moves on.

Instead of A players, I tend to go for solid contributors. Can the person do good to great work in the position which is open? Will the person be satisfied if they are in that position for one year, two years or even three years? Is the person reliable and responsible? As you can tell by these questions, I place high emphasis on employee retention. A company of superstars may be able to produce fantastic results over short-periods of time, but business is a marathon not a race. A company with too many A players can be hobbled by departures at inopportune times.

Myth 2: Intelligence is a good yardstick for job performance:

In some circles, giving employees puzzles and games has become the rage. The practice started in companies like Google and Microsoft when they were trying to find candidates for programming jobs. However, the practice has become more widespread for non-programming jobs, and other jobs outside of the technology sector. There is a wonderful book on how this practice became mainstream, How Would You Move Mt. Fuji? by William Poundstone.

Unfortunately, intelligence tests are not a good predictor of how well a person will perform in a job. While a number of jobs require intelligence, there are all different types of intelligence, and the ability to solve mathematical puzzles is not indicative of all types of intelligence. For example, a good salesperson may have the natural ability to read people, something which is not captured by solving a puzzle.

However, I understand the need to have an “objective” or “quantifiable” way of separating good job candidates from bad. The popularity of puzzles is in part due to the failure of traditional interviewing techniques in which the candidate provides rehearsed answers.

Myth 3: You want to hire someone that already has a job

There is an old saying “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” I have generally found this statement to be true. Busy people tend to be productive as they value time. However, some managers believe that “If you want a good employee, find an employee that is already working.” The idea being that the good employees have jobs and if they were not good they would have been fired. The remaining employees are there because their bosses believe they are good.

This thinking is outdated for several reasons:

  1. Many good employees lost their jobs over the last number of years because of overall economic conditions which have nothing to do with their skills or performance.
  2. Managers are not always capable of objectively evaluating the performance of employees. Sometimes those with jobs are better at playing politics than those without jobs.

By limiting hiring to people already working, you’re going to be limiting your talent pool and going to miss some great candidates that may be extremely grateful for the opportunity to work. Also, a person without a job might be willing to take a lower salary than one that already has a job.

Author: Marc Prosser is the publisher of FitSmallBusiness.com. Prior to starting his own company, Marc served as the Chief Marketing Officer of FXCM for over a decade.

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