Newsletter – August 1, 2012

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How long does it take to hire well?

Hello friends,

Ever feel like you can’t find enough time to devote to hiring? So does this reader, who writes:

I know you recommend being really thorough when hiring – headhunting, phone screens, multiple interviews, exercises, etc. But I don’t have a ton of time to spend on hiring, which means that if I do all those steps, the process really stretches out over a long period of time … which leaves me with a vacancy longer and has sometimes meant that I’ve lost good candidates. How do I balance being thorough with moving reasonably quickly, while still getting all the rest of my work done?

Hiring does take a lot of time. But it should – after all, think about what hiring is: it’s selecting the make-up of your team, and little is more fundamental or crucial. If you really believe that great people make a huge difference in what you’re able to get done (and that not-so-great people also have a huge impact, in the other direction), then you’ve got to invest significant time in your hiring process.

But you’re right that if it drags on too long, you risk losing good candidates. And that’s why you’ve got to carve out significant time to spend on the process every week – or close to every week – when you have an open position. (Note to anyone who’s applied for a job with us: We haven’t always modeled this!)

Here are four keys that will help balance speed and thoroughness when you’re hiring:

1. Set aside serious time each week to dedicate solely to hiring work – ideally a full day and an additional two-hour block. Use that time to build your pool of candidates, review resumes, schedule and conduct interviews, and keep the process moving. You can get a ton accomplished in these chunks if you’re vigilant about protecting them on your calendar!

2. Put a lot of time into building the pool – things like personal outreach to sources of potential candidates and recruiting “passive candidates” (those who might not be actively job searching). When you’re trying to fill a position quickly, you might be tempted to skip this step, but you’ll cripple your hiring if you do – this type of personal outreach is the biggest thing you can do to make sure that you have the right candidates in your pool, which will help you find the right person faster.

3. Find alternatives to rushing into a hire. No matter how urgently you need to fill a vacancy, you’re nearly always better off keeping the position open and searching for the right person than hiring someone who isn’t quite right. You’ll spend far more time and energy dealing with the consequences of a bad hire than you’ll save by filling the position quickly (to say nothing of the enormous opportunity loss from not hiring a super star). Instead, look for interim solutions so that you don’t hire out of desperation. For instance, you might be able to bring someone in temporarily or pull someone in from another part of the organization where the needs aren’t as critical right now.

4. Keeping reminding yourself of why it matters. If you’re not truly convinced of how important hiring is, you’ll find excuses to spend less time on it. So keep reminding yourself that if you’re going to get great results, you’ve got to start with people who are truly right for the job, not just almost right – and it’s worth the work to find them.


Here are some more resources you might find useful:

1. This Forbes article has a great list of seven common goal-setting mistakes, from negotiating goals downward to accepting seesaw trades. (Check out the account of how one nonprofit charged staffers with focusing on – and excelling at – a single goal in order to jumpstart their results.)

2. Are you making these 10 feedback mistakes?
Do a quick rundown of this list and test your feedback habits.
3. How did Genghis Khan manage telecommuters?
Genghis Khan didn’t have web conferencing software but still oversaw a widespread team. Here’s how.


If you have a question that you’d like us to answer in a future newsletter, we want to hear it!  Email it to us at We’ll field as many of them as we can.


Alison Green and Jerry Hauser
The Management Center

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