How to hire the right/best people?

Recently, I have been getting questions on how to make hiring decisions. As always, I will try to lay out my thinking here.

When I contemplate on a response like this, I usually dig back into what I have learnt from others, either through books or talking to someone with the relevant experiences, or from myself, either through my own actual experiences or things that I have analyzed.

So I have been thinking, what have I done right? Who are the best hires that I had?

Here is the problem.

First, even for someone who has quite a bit of interviewing experiences, the sample size, at least relevant to the potential talents, is still pretty small. Second, which is perhaps even worse, we don’t know what happens to the ones whom we have rejected. Even if we somehow keep track of everyone that we have rejected, surely their career paths would have been very different from had they were hired by us, therefore it is impossible to judge. Without this feedback, all we have on hands are the ones who we have actually hired. And most people will then focus on these ones and find successful stories, and reverse engineered back to what they have done right.

A classic case of confirmation bias.

So without knowing how well I have done, how can I give advice? In fact, how can anyone give real advice on hiring?

I believe the reason why people are so interested in hiring is that it involves prediction. We predict how well a person will perform in the future (after he is hired). And as humans, we all LOVE to predict. Perhaps a bit too much.

I am not saying prediction is not useful. Yes, we need to predict. We develop knowledge, for the most part, is to predict. But the world is infinitely more complicated than our past experiences.

So my suggestion is, instead of putting so much focus and energy on hiring, focus on staff development and firing!

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