Your Crystal Ball For Hiring
by Geoff Smart
I don’t know if what I’m about to share with you is impressive or pathetic…
First, a brief history, to earn your trust. I studied in graduate school 20 years ago with the Father of Management, Peter Drucker. He estimated that managers make hiring mistakes 50% of the time.
This topic of hiring talented teams always intrigued me. My father was an industrial psychologist, so I had been around this topic for my whole life. In 1998 I finished my PhD dissertation on this topic of evaluating various methods for hiring. I had read about 50 years’ worth of research and noted some interesting findings, like “Don’t ask hypothetical questions.” As it turns out, candidates give you hypothetical answers. Yet today, so many leaders pose hypothetical questions to their candidates – “How would you do this? How might you do that?”
During my PhD dissertation study, I found that, consistent with the field of research, there were a few key things that really worked in interviewing: 1) to have a specific set of criteria in mind (scorecard), 2) to collect not a little, but a lot – hundreds of data points – on a candidate’s accomplishments and failures from their actual past experiences, and 3) then scoring candidates on a consistent set of criteria (apples to apples).
These “past-oriented interviews,” as I called them in my PhD dissertation, were the most valid and reliable predictor of a candidate’s future performance on the job (as opposed to “future-oriented” or hypothetical interview formats). I wanted to share this important insight with the world. To give leaders a crystal ball.
An interview process, if done right, gives you a crystal ball.
For the last 20 years, my colleagues and I have used this approach to evaluate over 15,000 candidates for leadership jobs in all industries. We have taught thousands of people how to use this method for hiring – business leaders, entrepreneurs, as well as government leaders, including three sitting US governors, and top brass in the military. It works. Clients who follow our methods achieve a 90% hiring success rate. And you can too. (Come to my SMARTfest event and I’ll teach you how!)
And this approach follows a very simple structure of collecting highs and lows from a candidate’s education years, then asking five questions about every job: What were they hired to do? What did they accomplish that they were proud of? What were mistakes in that job? Who did they work with and how were they viewed? And why did they leave that job?
This is straight out of our book Who, which has been – since its publication in 2008 – the #1 top-selling and most-acclaimed book on this topic in the world. And this topic, hiring talented teams, has become the #1 topic in business, if you look at any recent survey of what’s on the minds of CEOs and investors.
Geoff is Chairman & Founder of ghSMART. Geoff is co-author, with his colleague Randy Street, of the New York Times bestselling book Who: The A Method for Hiring and the author of the #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) into Government. Geoff co-created the Topgrading brand of talent management. Geoff is the Founder of two 501c3 not-for-profit organizations. SMARTKids Leadership Program™ provides 10 years of leadership tutoring and The Leaders Initiative™ seeks to deploy society’s greatest leaders into government. Geoff earned a B.A. in Economics with Honors from Northwestern University, an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Claremont Graduate University.