“You can either work hard or hire smart.  I’d prefer not to work hard.”

    Now that the economy has lessened its death grip on business and companies are hiring to replace workers (instead of downsizing through attrition)  I thought I’d share what I have learned about hiring smart.  Hiring smart people is the #1 way to ensure success for your company and you, personally.  Anyone who hires acceptable candidates is set up for failure.  You need to hire incredible candidates who are smarter than you are about whatever you ask them to do (including answering the phone) to build a thriving company.

    How can you tell if they’re good?  Ask them about the area you are hiring for. Look for people who tell you about new ideas you’ve  never thought about.  Tell them what is happening in your company and ask them what other things could be done in the space.  If they see their area of expertise as a green field in your organization and they can back it up with a few interesting ideas, they may be the right candidate.  Even a receptionist position should be filled with someone who has ideas about automating steps, using internet tools for forwarding calls or creating a more friendly environment at the front door.

    How to hire smart? I have used this in the past and it is great for those “new positions” that don’t really have a job description yet or for any management position.  Ask your final candidates to write down on 1 page what she or he will do in the first 60 days of starting the job.  Look at the submissions.  Is it more or less than the 1 page you asked for?  That is an indication of what they will do in the future.  Is it clear or vague? Realistic or conceptual? Measurable or unquantifiable?  You will learn a lot about their style and approach with this exercise.  Once you have selected the candidate with the most appealing 60 day plan, hire them…with a 60 day probationary period and tell them you expect them to complete the plan they put together.  It becomes their de facto job description.  After 60 days, you’ll know if you hired smart or need to move on to other candidates.

    HIring smart is an important step in building a culture of accountability.  And how to succeed without working hard!