By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, Silicon Edge
In a recent blog post entitled "How to Deal with Pure Recruiting Mistakes", Mark Suster, a partner at Upfront Ventures gives his take on fixing recruiting or hiring mistakes. He has written some other posts on the subject as well in terms of hiring and firing fast.
In regards to hiring and firing fast, I want to be clear and fair that his post is primarily referring to startups (whose needs may be well different than a large, more established company) and is not a "just pull anyone in and see who makes it" mentality.
There is a lot of merit in moving quickly in the hiring process, in fact, many companies lose key talent because they move to slow. This slowness in hiring often comes from several factors which may include an overly subjective interview process, the inability to get all people to agree to a hire (e.g,. a group decision) or "cock-blocking" office politics.
What I want to do today, is to delve a little deeper into why recruiting mistakes happen. Why are people hired who don't work out? Is it skills, attitude, cultural fit or some other factor or combination?
There are many factors and they come from both sides of the table -- the candidate's side and the hiring firm's side. Each situation is different (ESID), but we can usually boil it down to several factors:
1. The candidate doesn't have the aptitude (skills).
2. The candidate doesn't have the attitude (mind set and motivation).
3. The candidate doesn't mesh / can't find his or her way in the corporate culture. That is, it moves too fast or too slow for the candidate.
4, The company improperly assessed the candidates skills sets and fit.
5. The company selected the candidate to fail (e.g,. "Rank & Yank" and this candidate is the group's Sacrificial Lamb).
6. The company applied a selection shortcut -- "Oh he worked at XYZ company, must be good..."
7. The candidate's new peers or one peer sees the new hire as threat and works to remove (have fired) him or her.
Of these factors, #6 is perhaps the most critical error (along with #4) when we make hiring decisions quickly. What happens is that unless we know exactly how to interview AND are interested in a very objective, brass-tacks assessment of how the candidate really is rather than how we'd wish would be or hope the candidate is, we will get fooled and made bad decisions.
Most often this happens when we rely on Social Proof, assume the Portability of Talent (namely, the inability to identify and separate the success of the candidate from the success or support provided by the system, company or brand) and engage in Trait Ascription Bias while applying the Just World Hypothesis (sometimes known as Just World Theory, Fallacy or Phenomenon. It's a cognitive bias).
Two of the more insidious reasons the wrong hires occur is when the hiring authority's (or future peer group's) ego as well as internal politics are injected into the hiring and assessment process. This is a killer. Often resulting in hiring the wrong talent, while driving away and 86'ing the key talent.
Here's a quickly illustration of several of these factors at play simultaneously. And just for the record, please don't read anything into the universities or companies that I have chosen to illustrate this with. They were simply chosen because of their impact in terms of having or lacking social proof and so on.
Hiring Manager / Hiring Authority:
"Hey, this candidate is a stud/studette. He/she was the Sales Director at Google so he'd/she'd make the perfect first hire for our startup sales team."
When you're selling for Google or IBM among other well-known firms, you'll find that about 90% of the sales mojo comes from your brand, team and resources. Conversely, when you're selling from Puntster Analytics from Podunk. Iowa, it's all about your game and skills -- pure talent.
Similar mishires are also clearly seen when hiring shortcuts are taken by hiring from direct competitors (or hiring industry insiders) and misattributing their past successes to the candidate rather than seeing what the system provided. Conversely, an excellent person may be turned away and they often are, because their stats aren't as good BUT their stats are the result of Jedi-level talent in the face of a poor brand or system. Yet they are rejected.
There are countless other examples, but another common one is the filtering out or rejecting of highly-qualified talent because the current interviewers or team see the candidate as a clear and present danger and threat to someone's salary, position, title and/or ego on the team.
How to Deal with Pure Recruiting Mistakes
Posted on November 27, 2013
by Mark Suster
One of the unavoidable realities of building a startup is having to fire people.
In a normal business you can often sweep bad performers under the rug and not deal with them. When you have millions or billions of dollars of revenue you can suffer a few bad performers or bad apples. You can miss a quarter’s target and not cull the inefficiencies. I’m not saying you should, but you could.
But in startups this equals death.
Death because just 3 extra non-performing employees in a company of 15 can either accelerate cash out date or can dramatically lower your productivity.
I’ve spoken about this before and my mantra, “Hire Fast, Fire Fast.”
When I first started my career I came across a term for this that has always stuck in my head and serves as a useful reminder of this mantra.
We called it “PURE.”
Previously. Undetected. Recruiting. Error.
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