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  • Writer's pictureClint Greenleaf

Finding the Who

I just finished re-reading the book Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. Wow, it's good. Really good. I first read this in 2008 and it’s still a timeless business classic.

Geoff and his father Brad Smart are well-known as the team that popularized Topgrading, a thorough interview process that takes the success rate for new hires from the average of about 50 percent to just over 90 percent. I don’t know of a business owner alive who wouldn’t love to increase the effectiveness of the interview and hire more effectively.

Smart and Street are experts in their field -- they are paid huge sums of money to do this for some of the biggest and best companies in the world. Their research estimates that the average hiring mistake costs employers 15 times the salary of the incorrect hire. The number sounds absurdly high, but when you include salary, lost productivity, and opportunity costs, it's plausible. Frightening.

Who is a fast and simple read, but is heavy on content. It begins with a discussion of what they call voodoo hiring, or the process most business owners use during the interview process, and it was painful for me. I'm guilty of voodoo hiring and I'm guessing most of you are, too. Much of my process is guessing and gut feel, and is done over too short of a period of time. It's not hard to see the need for a change.

Next comes a simple explanation of why hiring "A" players is so important. They define an "A" player as the right superstar for the job, a talented person who fits in well with your company culture. B and C hires cost you money; an A hire makes you rich.

The meat of the book is about the four keys to what they call the A Method: Scorecard, Source, Select, and Sell. I can't do justice to the brilliance of the system in this short review, but here are the basics. The scorecard is your blueprint for the job -- not a description, but the criteria you will be using to judge the person who is ultimately hired. Source is how you find your candidates, primarily referrals and recruiting. Select goes over the four interviews that need to be conducted -- screening, Topgrading, focused, and reference. Sell is important and often overlooked, selling your top candidate on taking the job. With great people in demand, you need to fight for your best people.

Many of us have read Topgrading -- it's a long read but describes the theory well. Even so, countless managers still have trouble implementing the system. Who bridges that gap and helps us see the whole process, then implement it well.

I’ve personally used this book to hire over 100 employees over the years, and it’s proven an invaluable resource. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve hiring practices and remove a huge piece of the risk. I also recommend making it required reading at your company for anyone involved in making any type of hiring decisions.

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