Who – The A Method for Hiring
By Geoff Smart and Randy Street
[Full book report available to download here on Google Drive]
The book teaches you a simple, practical, and effective solution to the single biggest problem in business today – unsuccessful hiring! Who is your #1 problem! Not what.
4 Key Parts of the A Method
- A Scorecard – mission (role’s executive summary), outcomes, and competencies
- A Source – referrals, recruiters, and researchers
- A Select – series of structured interviews
- A Sell – you are not finished until candidate starts working with you
We define an A Player this way:
A candidate who has at least a 90%+ chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates could achieve.
Pay attention to the two mathematical elements of that definition
Stack the odds in your favor by hiring people who have 90%+ chance of succeeding
A Players have a 90%+ chance of accomplishing what only 10% of possible hires can
Scorecard (Part 1 of 4)
3 Parts of Job Scorecard
- Mission – executive summary of the job’s core purpose
- Outcomes – describe what a person needs to accomplish in a role
- Competencies – define how you expect a new hire to operate in the fulfillment of the job and the achievement of outcomes
Scorecards need to be evolving documents (i.e., Google Sheets)
See Sample Scorecard in Appendix at the bottom and Critical Competencies for A Players
Nick Chabraja, CEO of General Dynamics, says, “I think success comes from having the right person in the right job at the right time with the right skill set for the business problem that exists.”
Deliberately seek leaders whose skills were optimized for each phase of the company’s growth.
Scorecards succeed because they focus on outcomes – what a person must get done.
Mission defines the essence of the job to a high degree of specificity.
Outcomes describe what must be accomplished.
Competencies define how you expect a new hire to operate in the fulfillment of the job and the achievement of outcomes.
“Management by objectives.” – Peter Drucker
Bill Johnson, CEO of Heinz, says:
- Chemistry is always important for both the individual and the company
- Commitment? Theirs to you and yours to them.
- Coachable? You can pass on learnings and shortcut their development cycle
- Ego under control? Focus on current job/task at hand
- Do they have requisite intellect?
Competencies work at two levels
- Define the skills and behaviors required for a job
- Reflect the broader demands of your organizational culture
Be clear about what types of people we are looking for to build trust and gain respect.
Key competencies for every role may include “treats people with respect” and “trustworthiness”
Part of successful hiring means having the discipline to pass on talented people who are not a fit
Scorecards are the guardians of our culture à time very well spent on scorecards
Scorecards translate your business plans into role-by-role outcomes and create alignment among your team, and they unify our culture and ensure people understand our expectations
Successful scorecard process translates objectives of strategy into clear outcomes for the CEO and senior leadership team
Link our business plan to people’s jobs
Hiring is all about the specific skill set you need, when you need it
The board decided on a few competencies that really mattered to fit the culture they wanted to build and support the outcomes for the role
Set expectations with new hires
Monitor employee progress over time
Objectify your annual review system
Allow you to rate your team annually as part of a talent review process
How to Create a Scorecard
- Mission – Develop a short statement of one to five sentences that describes why a role exists. This is the Executive Summary of the role. For example, “The mission for the customer service representative is to help customers resolve their questions and complaints with the highest level of courtesy possible.”
- Outcomes – Develop 3-8 specific, objective outcomes that a person much accomplish to achieve an A Performance. For example, “Improve customer satisfaction on a ten-point scale from 7.1 to 9.0 by December 31.”
- Competencies – Identify as many role-based competencies as you think appropriate to describe the behaviors someone must demonstrate to achieve the outcomes. Next identify 5-8 competencies that describe your culture and place those on every scorecard. For example, “Competencies include efficiency, honesty, high standards, and a customer service mentality.”
- Ensure Alignment and Communicate – Pressure-test your scorecard by comparing it with the business plan and scorecards of the people who will interface with the role. Ensure there is consistency and alignment. Then, share the scorecard with relevant parties, including peers, colleagues, and recruiters.
Source (Part 2 of 4)
How do I source A Players?
This is an instance where innovation matters far less than process and discipline.
“Who are the most talented people you know that I should hire?” – ask everyone!
Best Methods for Sourcing Talent
- Referrals from business network (77%)
- Referrals from personal network (77%)
- Hire external recruiter (65%)
- Hire a recruiting researcher (47%) [note: researches but does not conduct interviews]
- Hire internal recruiter (24%)
Set a goal of personally recruiting thirty people a year to company
Ask all the managers to do the same
Constantly ask people we know to introduce us to the talented people they know
Ask customers for the names of the most talented salespeople who call on them
People you interact with every day are the most powerful sources of talent you will ever find
Follow up with high-potential candidates to maintain long-term relationships
It takes A Players to know A Players
On manager scorecards, include “Source 10 A Player candidates per year”
One of the greatest benefits of in-house sourcing is how it alters the mindset throughout company
When employees turn into talent spotters, everyone starts viewing the business through a who lens
Deputize friends of the firm to help with talent spotting and recruiting
Think of recruiters much the way you would think of a doctor or a financial advisor
The more you keep them in the dark about who you are, what’s wrong, and what you really need, the less effective they will be
Successfully sourcing requires putting a system in place to manage the process
AND having the discipline to follow through
The most high-tech tracking system in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t use it on a systematic basis…
Schedule 30 minutes on your calendar every week to identify and nurture A Players
A standing meeting on Monday or Friday will keep you honest by forcing you to call the top talent on your radar screen – start making calls until you have at least one live conversation
Talent is what you need. Focus and commitment will get you there.
Intro Call Script
“Sue recommended that you and I connect. I understand you are great at what you do. We are always on the lookout for talented people and would love the chance to get know you. Even if you are perfectly content in your current job, I’d love to introduce myself and hear about your career interests.”
Key Follow Up Question
“Now that you know a little about me, who are the most talented people you know who might be a good fit for my company?”
How to Source
- Referrals from Your Professional and Personal Networks – Create a list of the 10 most talented people you know and commit to speaking with at least one of them per week for the next 10 weeks. At the end of each conversation, ask, “Who are the most talented people you know?” Continue to build your list and talk to at least one person per week.
- Referrals from Your Employees – Add sourcing as an outcome on every scorecard on your team. Source 5 A Players per year who pass our phone screen. Encourage your employees to ask their networks, “Who are the most talented people you know whom we should hire?” Offer a referral bonus.
- Deputizing Friends of the Firm – Consider offering a referral bounty to select friends of the firm. It could be an inexpensive gift card or a significant cash bonus.
- Hiring Recruiters – Use the method described in this book to identify and hire A Player recruiters. Build a scorecard for your recruiting needs, and hold the recruiters you hire accountable for the items on that scorecard. Invest time to ensure the recruiters understand your business and culture.
- Hiring Researchers – Identify recruiting researchers whom you can hire on contract, using a scorecard to specify your requirements. Ensure they understand your business and culture.
- Sourcing Systems – Create a system that:
- Captures the names and contact info on everybody you should source
- Schedules weekly time on your calendar to follow up
- Simple spreadsheets vs. complex candidate tracking system integrated calendar
Select (Part 3 of 4)
Four Interviews for Spotting A Players
- Screening Interview
- Who Interview
- Focused Interview
- Reference Interview
- Skill-Will Bullseye
The best and surest way we have found to select A Players is through a series of four interviews that build on each other
Stop your habit of passively witnessing how somebody acts during an interview
Time to collect facts and data about somebody’s performance track record that spans decades
Screening Interview – Culling the List
Short, phone based interview designed to clear out B and C players from your candidate roster
Goal = save time by eliminating people who are inappropriate for the position as quick as possible
Screening Interview Guide
- What are your career goals?
- a. Ideally candidate shares career goals that match company needs
- What are you great at professionally?
- Push candidates for 8-12 positives so you can build a complete picture of their professional aptitude
- What are you [really] not good at or not interested in doing professionally?
- At least 5-8 areas where a persona falls short, lacks interest, or doesn’t want to operate in our organization
- Leverage TORC (Threat Of Reference Check) to pull out things that former bosses would say you are not good at or not interested in
- Who were your last 5 bosses, and how will they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them?
- Confirm TORC (Threat Of Reference Check) by using will and when
Screening Interview Intro Script
“I am really looking forward to our time together. Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to spend the first 20 minutes of our call getting to know you. After that, I’m happy to answer any questions you have so you can get to know us. Sound good?”
Getting Curious – What, How, and Tell Me More Framework
After a candidate answers one of the primary questions above, get curious about their answer by asking a follow-up question that begins with “What…” “How…” or “Tell me more…”
Keep using this framework until you are clear about what the person is really saying
- What do you mean?
- What did that look like?
- What happened?
- What is a good example of that?
- What was your role?
- What did you do?
- What did your boss say?
- What were the results?
- What else?
- How did you do that?
- How did that go?
- How did you feel?
- How much money did you save?
- How much money did you earn?
- How did you deal with that?
- Tell me more…
The Who Interview – Power of Patterns for Choosing Who
This is a chronological walkthrough of a person’s career
Begin by asking about the highs and lows of a person’s educational experience to gain background insights
Then, ask 5 simple questions for each job in the past 15 years, beginning with earliest and working your way forward to the present day
Who Interview Guide
1. What were you hired to do?
- Clear window into candidates’ goals and targets for specific job
- Coach to answer how they thought their success was measure in the role
- What were their mission and key outcomes?
- What competencies might have mattered?
2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- Generate wonderful discussions about the peaks of a person’s career
- A Players talk about outcomes linked to expectations
- B or C players talk generally about events, people, or aspects without results
3. What were some low points during that job?
- Everybody has work lows
- Reframe as needed to ask, “What went really wrong?”
- What was your biggest mistake?
- What would you have done differently?
- What part of the job did you not like?
- In what ways were your peers stronger than you?
4. Who were the people you worked with? Specifically:
- What was your boss’s name, and how do you spell that?
- Powerful message that says you are going to call, so tell the truth
- TORC = Threat Of Reference Check
- What was it like working with him/her?
- What will he/she tell me were your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?
- How would you rate the team you inherited on an A, B, C scale?
- What changes did you make?
- Did you hire anybody? Fire anybody?
- How would you rate the team when you left it on an A, B, C scale?
5. Why did you leave the job?
- A Players are highly valued by their bosses
- A Players decide to leave a job after being successful (pull)
- B or C players are pushed out of a job by a boss who did not value them (push)
- Aim for < 25% pushed out of prior jobs to find A Players
Who Interview Opening Script
Thank you for taking the time to visit us today. As we have already discussed, we are going to do a chronological interview to walk through each job you have held. For each job I am going to ask you five core questions:
- What were you hired to do?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- What were some low points during that job?
- Who were the people you worked with?
- Why did you leave that job?
At the end of the interview we will discuss your career goals and aspirations, and you will have a chance to ask me questions.
80% of the process is in this room, but if we mutually decide to continue, we will conduct reference calls to complete the process.
Finally, while this sounds like a lengthy interview, it will go remarkably fast. I want to make sure you can share your full story, so it is my job to guide the pace of the discussion. Sometimes, we’ll go into more depth in a period of your career. Other times, I will politely ask that we move onto the next topic. I’ll try to make sure we leave plenty of time to cover your most recent and most relevant jobs.
Do you have any questions about the process?
Master Tactics for Who Interviews
1. Interrupting – You must interrupt the candidate
- Smile broadly, match their enthusiasm level, and use reflective listening to get them to stop talking without demoralizing them
- Smile and nod and redirect with bridging technique to next question/topic
- By maintaining very high rapport, you will get the most valuable data, and polite interrupting can build that rapport
2. The Three P’s
- How did your Performance compare to the Previous Year’s Performance?
- How did your Performance compare to the Plan?
- How did your Performance compare to that of Peers?
3. Push vs. Pull
- Do not hire anybody who has been pushed out of 20%+ of their jobs
- Push = It was mutual. My boss and I were not getting along. Judy got promoted, and I did not. My role shrank. I missed my numbers.
- Pull = My biggest client hired me. My old boss recruited me for a bigger job. I launched my own company. A former peer went to a competitor and referred me.
4. Painting a Picture
- Empathic Imagination
- Visualize life in their shoes during candidate’s story telling
5. Stopping at the Stop Signs
- Watch for shifts in body language and inconsistencies during in person interview
- You are a biographer interviewing a subject
- Make an informed who decision
The Focused Interview – Getting to Know More
Conduct it in tandem with a colleague, and the two of you will have a rich data set to work from
This is “leg three” of the Select step
This is *not* meant to be another Who Interview
Everyone is to follow this script
Avoid falling back on old voodoo hiring methods
This interview is focused on the outcomes and competencies on the scorecard
This interview is your odds enhancer to increase the likelihood of successfully hiring A Players
Focused Interview Guide
- The purpose of this interview is to talk about ____________________.
- Fill in the blank with a specific outcome or competency, such as person’s experience selling to new customers, building and leading teams, creating strategic plans, acting aggressively and persistently, etc.)
- What are your biggest accomplishments in this area during your career?
- What are your insights into your biggest mistakes or lessons learned in this area?
The Reference Interview – Testing What You Learned
Without reference calls, you lose 25% of the information you should know about a candidate
The best way to learn about a CEO is not to talk to their bosses, but to their subordinates
People don’t like to give a negative reference and want to feel good about themselves
Pay very close attention to what people say and how they say it
You want to hear tremendous enthusiasm, not um’s and er’s and carefully chosen words
The absence of enthusiasm is a terrible sign
Excitement and spark are the clearest indicators you are both talking about the same A Player
Three successful parts of the Reference Interview:
- Pick the right references
- Add a few not provided by the applicant
- Ask the candidate to contact the references to set up the calls
- Higher success rate of getting the meeting setup
- Conduct the right number of reference interviews
- 7 – 3 past bosses, 2 peers or customers, 2 subordinates
Reference Interview Guide
- In what context did you work with this person?
- What were the person’s biggest strengths?
- What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?
- Make it comfortable for reference to discuss old behaviors from their experiences
- Past performance really is an indicator of future performance
- How would you rate his/her overall performance in the job on a 1-10 scale? What about his or her performance causes you to give that rating?
- 8,9,10 are good
- More than one 6 or lower is a red flag to not hire
- The candidate mentioned that he/she struggled with _______ in that job. Can you tell me more about that?
- Rephrase: “The person mentioned that you might say he was disorganized. Can you tell me more about that?”
- You might say suggests to the reference that she has permission to talk about the subject because the candidate raised it
Decide Who to Hire – The Skill-Will Bullseye
The goal of the “Select” step of the A Method is to gather the facts you need to decide if somebody’s skill (what they can do) and will (what they want to do) match your scorecard = Skill-Will Profile
When you believe there is a 90%+ chance the candidate can achieve an outcome based on the data you gathered during the interview, rate him or her an A for that outcome
When the data does not support that conclusion, give the candidate a B or C
Repeat this process for each outcome on the scorecard
Will relates to the motivations and competencies a candidate brings to the table
For each competency, ask yourself the same question
Does the data suggest there is a 90%+ chance that the candidate will display this competency?
If yes, then A. Else B or C.
Repeat for each competency on the scorecard
An A Player is someone whose skill and will match your scorecard.
Skill-Will Bullseye is hit when:
You are 90%+ confident that a candidate can get the job done because her skills match outcomes on your scorecard
You are 90%+ confident that the candidate will be a good fit because her will matches the mission and competencies of the role
Red Flags – When to Dive Beneath the Surface
Major flags during the hiring process include:
- Candidate does not mention past failures
- Candidate exaggerates his or her answers
- Candidate takes credit for work of others
- Candidate speaks poorly of past bosses
- Candidate cannot explain job moves
- Candidate does not have support from people most important to them (family)
- Candidate has never had to hire or fire anybody (for manager role)
- Candidate seems more interested in compensation and benefits than the job itself
- Candidate tries too hard to look like an expert
- Candidate is self-absorbed
Marshall Goldsmith’s Behavioral Warning Signs
There are 20 behavioral issues that can hurt an executive’s career from his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, and these are the most important to consider during hiring process:
- Winning too much
- Adding too much value
- Starting a sentence with no, but, or however
- Telling the world how smart you are
- Making destructive comments
- Passing the buck
- Making excuses
- Excessive need to “be me”
Decide Who to Hire
With all this great data, the decision should be easy! Here’s what to do:
- Take out your scorecards that you have completed on each candidate
- Make sure you have rated all of the candidates on the scorecard
- If you have not given each candidate an overall A, B, C, do so now
- Make any updates you need based on reference interviews
- Look at the data, consider the opinions and observations of the interview team, and give a final grade
- If you have no A’s, then restart your process at the second step: source
- If you have one A, decide to hire that person
- If you have multiple A’s, then rank them and decide to hire the best A Player
How to Select an A Player
- Screening Interview – Conduct 20-30 minutes phone screening interview using four Qs
- Probe for more info by using the What? How? Tell me more… Framework
- Filter out obvious B and C players from your hiring pipeline
- Who Interview – Conduct Who Interview for 90-180 minutes
- Walk chronologically through a candidate’s career, using five Qs for each job
- Hiring manager and one other colleague should conduct the interview in tandem
- Focused Interviews – Involve others in the hiring process
- Assign team members to focus on outcomes and competencies on scorecard
- Candidate Discussion – Following each day of interviews, grade the scorecard
- Use the skill-will framework
- Advance those whose skill (what they are fundamentally good at doing) and will (what they want to do, and in what type of culture) match the mission, outcomes, and competencies on your scorecard
- Look for people whom you would rate an A on critical outcomes and competencies
- Reference Interview – Conduct 7 reference calls with people you choose
- Ask candidate to set up the calls to break through gatekeepers while minimizing your own effort
- Final Decision – Repeat your analysis of the skill-will profile to ensure you hit the bullseye
Sell (Part 4 of 4)
Most managers fail to sell a candidate
You are not finished until the candidate becomes an employee
The key is putting yourself in his or her shoes – care about what they care about
Five F’s of Selling
- Fit ties together company’s vision, needs, and culture with candidate’s goals, strengths, and values
- We are all in the same boat – we make money the same way – we go forward the same way
- Show that you are as concerned with the fit for them as you are in the fit for you
- This can be a key differentiator against other job opportunities
- Position + Company + Culture must all be aligned to ensure proper fit
- Family considers the broader trauma of changing jobs
- What can we do to make this change as easy as possible for your family?
- You can use family ties as a lure to recruit A Players
- Make a point to personally welcome spouses and children of candidates
- It’s all about the relationship, so in every conversation with the candidate, you can ask, “How is your partner feeling about this? How excited are your kids to live in this city?”
- Focus on selling the spouse, children, parents, and friends of the candidate
- They will have a much greater role in the decision than you think
- Be sincere
- Introduce new families to the other awesome families of your teammates
- Freedom is the autonomy the candidate will have to make her own decisions
- A Players have never liked being micromanaged
- Great leaders gain more control by ceding control to their A Players
- Scorecard tells new A Players the outcomes by which they will be measured
- Role of CEO is to inspire people – and it takes energy
- It’s about confidence that builds that competency
- Extend the hand of trust – extend the hand of friendship
- Nothing sells freedom more than giving candidates free access to the people around you, so they can ask whatever they want about your style
- Need to feel productive and know what their responsibilities are going to be
- Fortune reflects the stability of your company and the overall financial upside
- Compensation will eventually enter the equation
- No such thing as a bargain in the labor market – easy to underpay or overpay
- Cannot try to steal them because they will want to go somewhere else
- Paying people on performance basis gets you good people who believe in themselves
- Ensure you pay top compensation only when you get A Performance
- Fun describes the work environment and personal relationships the candidate will make
- Fun’s definition is closely tied to corporate culture
- Fun means doing what you love
- Thoroughly enjoy every member of your team
- Strive to have fun at work every single day
- Fun is the chance to use his or her talents and experience to maximum advantage
Five Waves of Selling
Selling is something you should be doing throughout the entire process
Like sourcing, selling requires constant attention
Five distinct phases of the hiring process that merit increased selling effort on your part
Increase your sales energy to get your candidate over the crest of the wave to next phase
- When you source
- When you interview
- Time between your offer and the candidate’s acceptance
- Silence is your worst enemy at this stage
- Time between the candidate’s acceptance and his or her first day
- New hire’s first 100 days on the job
- Invest in strong onboarding program
- Make sure your new A Player has every opportunity to succeed
Script to start each session with candidate
“We would like to spend the first part of this interview getting to know you. Then we would like to give you the opportunity to get to know us.”
Stay in touch with candidates on a regular basis and pinpoint their concerns with Five F’s
Show them how much they will fit with and contribute to the company
Woo their families
Commit to giving them freedom and autonomy to do their job
Address financial concerns
Involve them in the fun your employees are already having
Great leaders are persistent in their pursuit of A Players
How to Sell A Players
- Identify which of the Five F’s really matter to the candidate:
- Create and execute a plan to address the relevant F’s during the five waves of selling
- During sourcing
- During interviews
- Between offer and acceptance
- Between acceptance and first day
- During the first 100 days on the job
- Be persistent and don’t give up until you have you’re A Player on board
Your Greatest Opportunity – What makes a successful business?
52% Management Talent | 20% Execution | 17% Strategy | 11% External Factors
How to Install the A Method for Hiring in Your Company
- Make people a top priority
- Follow the A Method yourself
- Lead by example
- Build support among your executive team or peers
- Cast a clear vision for the organization and reinforce it through every communication with the broader team
- “We will succeed because we have an A Player in every role”
- Train your team on best practices
- Read this A Method summary!
- Plan and implement a hands-on workshop to demystify the process and put simple tools in your teammates’ hands
- Remove barriers that impede success
- Implement new policies that support the change
- Place this outcome on every manager’s scorecard: “Achieve a hiring success rate of 90%+. Build and retain a team composed of 90%+ A Players by certain date.
- Require scorecard for every job requisition – no scorecard, no new hiring
- Require a Who Interview and rated scorecard before offer can be made
- Recognize and reward those who use the method and achieve results
- Remove managers who are not on board
- Celebrate wins and plan for more change
Legal Traps to Avoid
Hiring is a serious business
An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure
You want a hiring method that is fair, legal, and extraordinarily effective
To stay well within the law, we suggest you respect these four areas of caution:
1. Relevance – do not reject candidates for reasons that are not relevant to the job
2. Standardization of hiring process – use the same process for all candidates
- Regardless of their demographic group
3. Use non-discriminatory language during interviews and in written form
- “He or she” or “they”
4. Avoid asking candidates illegal questions
A Player is not an all-around athlete.
A Player is someone who accomplishes the goals on the scorecard, which only the top 10% of the people in the relevant labor pool can accomplish.
You get to define the scorecard
You determine what a job holder must accomplish
You set the competencies and values consistent with your culture
A Player is someone who accomplishes the outcomes you define in a matter consistent with your culture and values.
A Players get the job done while embracing the culture because the scorecard ensure they fit the culture
Critical Competencies for A Players
Example Scorecard – Mission for VP Sales
To double our revenue over three years by signing large profitable contracts with commercial customers. Set up one hunting team to land new accounts and one farming team to grow existing accounts.
Outcomes Rating & Comments
- Grow revenue from $400k to $8M by the end of 2022 (50% annual growth?)
- Increase number of national industrial customers from four in year one to eight in year two to ten in year three
- Maintain customer churn < 25% MoM
- Increase EBITDA margin from 9% to 15% by end of year three
- Understand what this math equation means
- Topgrade the sales organization by end of year one
- Hire an A Player Director of Outside Sales by end of year one
- Hire an A Player Director of Inside Sales by end of year one
- Fire any sales rep who has not made quota by end of year one
- Deliver monthly forecast reports that are 80% accurate
- Design and roll out sales training to all client-facing employees by end of year two
Learn more at www.ghsmart.com