On hiring smarter than you and according to strengths

Photo by Sekimura

It is all one to me if a man comes for Sing Sing Prison or Harvard. We hire a man, not his history. (Malcolm S. Forbes)

I was finishing my reading of Guy Kawasaki’s great book Reality Check and encountered a few thought provoking paragraphs in The Art of Recruiting chapter. This was the first one that struck me as interesting:

Hire better than yourself. In the Macintosh Division, we had a saying, “A players hire A players; B players hire C players”- meaning that great people hire great people. On the other hand, mediocre people hire candidates who are not as good as they are, so they can feel superior to them … I have come to believe that we were wrong – A players hire A+ Players, not merely A players. It takes self-confidence and self-awareness, but it is the only way to build a great team.

Such a strong statement. As I said before – The biggest challenge modern managers have is managing people who are smarter than them:

The more our society advances the smarter people will get. They will get more specialized. Most problems today can’t be covered by one individual so each team members must know only part of the problem very well. And the manager needs to coordinate all of that. He needs to make sure that each team member has the ability to excel with his specific knowledge and skills; has to ability to use his strength for the good of the team; to create a synergy from the separate members of the team.

I totally agree with Kawasaki. You need humility, self awareness and self confidence to hire somebody who would not want you to tell him what to do and who will want to work without rules.

And this is what I want to add to Kawasaki’s advice. You don’t only to be confident and aware enough to hire A+ players that are better than you. You also need to be confident enough to hire A+ players who are different than you and complement you and the team with their strengths.  Granted, Kawasaki does say something similar about hiring according to strengths when he writes about hiring not according to experience but according to what candidates  have to offer in a broader term:

Give young people a break. In the past of great employees are managers who gave them a break. Maybe they didn’t have the ideal educational or work experience – for example, an ex-jewelry schlepper. More important than what’s on-screen is what’s in mind, soul and attitude of candidates.

What do you look for when you hire new people?