Should You Hire Someone Smarter Than You?
“A good rule of thumb is to only hire people better than you no matter how long it takes to find them” Lazlow Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google.
“You can’t get better if you don’t hire better. Hiring under the level of talent you have now is a slow slide to becoming an organization no one wants to work for.” Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR and EVP of HRU Technical Resources.
The message above is clear. To have a first class organization you must hire first class people but why hire someone smarter or more skilled than you? Often managers will not employ someone who will upstage them or one day take their job. As a result the hiring manager may hire an individual slightly less talented/skilled than they. This person in turn may hire an individual slightly less talented and that person hires an individual less talented and so on. Your hiring process becomes a descending slope into mediocrity and you wake up to discover you are employing an army of D-listers and your company is falling behind its competitors.
Great benefits and salary attract top talent but what also attracts top talent is top talent. Why do so many high school graduates strive to enter Ivy League institutions? We assume they do so because they want a great job after receiving their college diploma, but their diploma would be worth little if not for the superior talent at the Ivy League university which supposedly provides a superior education. If every department chair hired new educators slightly less brilliant than them, within a few decades the Ivy League might be no more special than a local community college. No offense to them of course.
What about the specialized divisions of our armed forces such as the SEALs or the Deltas? Soldiers strive to be among the best of the best not the best of the okay. If drill instructors accepted soldiers who were a little slower, a little less intelligent than their predecessors eventually they would find themselves with a platoon of Bill Murray, John Candy and Harold Ramis like recruits.
During free agency, athletes who want to win championships go to where the talent is. They want to play with guys like Lebron James, Peyton Manning or Mike Trout. They want to play for Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Belichek and Phil Jackson; coaches who are proven leaders and players who will help them elevate their game. In the workplace shouldn’t we strive to hire top talent to recruit future top talent? As Lazlow Bock put it, “Make clear why the work you are doing matters, and let the candidate experience the astounding people they will get to work with.”
According to Tim Sackett, “You are overqualified” is the biggest lie HR has told for decades and rather than fearing those better than us we should be taking advantage of their skills even if the candidate leaves in a year for a better position. “You simply need to take the best and most qualified person you can get for every position you have in your organization and let them do great things. Just hire great talent and get out of their way.”
Do you agree?