Making A Hiring Decision? Default To No

Robert De Niro (Ronin, 1998) – “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt”

NOTE: I make some rather sweeping statements about Recruitment Agencies in this post. Enjoy.

I’ve learnt a lot about making quality hires through transitioning from Agency Recruiter to Internal Recruiter. The most valuable lesson being a fundamental shift in mind-set. Recruitment Agencies default to yes, while companies should default to no.

Explain yourself Joe!

One thing I’ll miss from working in agencies are the one-liners; “work hard play hard”, “recruitment’s a contact sport”, “remember the rule of ‘5 No’s’” and “let’s touch base and grab coffee” etc.

But the one I want to focus on is “if in doubt, send them out”. In other words, if you’re on the fence about whether to send a CV to a company or allow your candidate to go for interview, just do it as there is a chance they’re the lucky one that gets hired. This is defaulting to yes.

But defaulting to yes is not a qualitative approach. It has the potential to waste thousands of your employees’ hours through interviewing every year and will ultimately lead to average hires. The best way to think about this is in terms of false positives and false negatives, you don’t want any of the former.

A recent blog post from First Round Interview, detailing Max Levchin’s (Co-Founder of PayPal) key to making exceptional hires, puts it this way:

“”I’m sure we had lots of false negatives, but we have very few false positives.” It’s better to err on the side of losing a superstar here or there than make a hire that’ll disrupt or ruin a company[1].”

Many companies claim to hire the best, but when it comes to crunch time the proof isn’t there. And this may be due to headcount targets, a sudden urgent need to fill a vacancy or that a manager has a tendency to hire his friends. Don’t crumble, hold out for the best and ensure that when you extend that offer you are in no doubt (aahhh, the picture makes sense) it’s the right decision.

Being tough on hiring may be slower, but having a company of exceptional talent is priceless. Remember the words of Alan Eustace (SVP at Google):

“A top-notch engineer is worth three hundred times or more than an average engineer … I’d rather lose an entire incoming class of engineering graduates than one exceptional technologist.”[2]


[2] Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock

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