The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Grady Burnett, president and COO of HackerRank.
Hiring someone onto a growing team is like introducing a new organism into a thriving ecosystem. It’s hard to predict the ripple effect, but it’s your responsibility to increase the odds of a positive change.
After scaling high-performing teams to thousands of people at DoubleClick, Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Flurry, and now HackerRank, I know that hiring mistakes happen. But managers often perceive unsuccessful team members as low performers. More often than not, these team members may have had the odds stacked against them. They could have been great candidates, but not the right candidates at the time.
For instance, after Ron Johnson revolutionized the retail industry with an imaginative approach to retail at Target (TGT) and Apple (AAPL), he took on the challenge of transforming J.C. Penney (JCP) as its new CEO in 2011. As he said in a stimulating, educational talk at Stanford Business School—in hindsight—his fast-paced shift to boutique-style brands was simply not a good fit for the century-old retailer. Here’s somebody with a track record of success, but given the nature of the industry and company, he wasn’t the right person at that moment in time, and ultimately decided to pursue another opportunity in 2013.
Hiring missteps generally happen because you’re unclear on what you need, growing uncontrollably fast, and (most importantly) overcome by a deep-seated fear of stagnation.
Demand clarity from yourself
By the time you need to hire someone, the ecosystem has already been suffering from gaping holes. You’re strapped for resources, missing supply to support exponential growth. This puts you in an impaired frame of mind, and ambitious leaders often feel a rush of anxiety about looming drops of revenue or customers.
In the midst of all of this, you or your team of recruiters have to sift through dozens of resumes, take phone calls, and invite a handful of candidates onsite to find the right people. Under this natural pressure, stress changes our brains. We’re forced to make important decisions with limited information and time. But as soon as you start feeling like you’re compromising your hiring criteria, it’s time to slow down.
To grow fast, slow down
It sounds counterintuitive when you’re growing fast, but the best way to hire the right people is to slow down. It’s the best way to link your current business needs with the skills in which you invest—even if it means leaving a job open for a while. The right candidate in a month is better than the wrong candidate today.
It’s tempting to rush through the hiring process so that you can focus on other important goals. But each candidate who comes through at a lower hiring criteria is like a small infiltration of your ecosystem. Unqualified talent not only produces poor results, but also lowers your team’s morale and motivation. When one contributor falls short, the rest of the team is left to pick up the slack. This is largely why many teams at companies like Facebook are relentless about finding high-quality talent.
Unless you have a mechanism to also automatically evaluate skills, it’s a lot harder (and more time-consuming) to find the right person. You might be hard-pressed without talent for a little while, but the cost of rushing a person into the wrong job is far greater than brief stagnation. Plus, when you finally find the right person to fill the gap, he or she will ignite a growth spurt exponentially higher than you would have otherwise.
Another facet to hiring the right people at the right time is having the right process. There’s a really surprising study on judgement and decision-making that discusses how many American decision-makers choose candidates by conducting “unstructured interviews,” meaning people ask different questions of different applicants in whatever way they prefer. They hire based on coffee meetings, referrals, and glowing resumes.
While unstructured interviews could lead to successful hires, such inconsistencies can’t scale. They’re also suboptimal in measuring a person’s current skills. Adding structure improves your odds of finding strong candidates because it reduces hires based on random luck or biases.
When all’s said and done, slowing down, looking at the bigger picture, and standardizing a screening process is the best way to prevent your high-performing ecosystem from faltering.