The Sure-Fire Hire

Six people a day is a lot to hire, at least if you’re not the U.S. Army.

In an interview published today in The Wall Street Journal, Tim O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of LivingSocial Inc., reflects on his swiftly growing daily-deals business, which already has 3,500 employees. Asked about maintaining employee quality with a six-a-day hiring rate, Shaughnessy calls it “one of the hardest things” and talks about the system he’s set up for dealing with rapid expansion.

[EXPAND More]“Right now, for example, the hiring manager obviously is going to interview people, as well as people on that team,” Shaughnessy explains. But somebody from one of the groups with which the team works will also interview the candidate—and have veto power. Another interviewer with veto power, meanwhile, judges whether the person is a good “cultural fit.”

Peter Drucker considered hiring and staffing to be a perilous undertaking. “No other decisions are so long lasting in their consequences or so difficult to unmake,” he wrote in The Frontiers of Management. “And yet, by and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions.” This was an unacceptable state of affairs that executives could go a long way toward remedying by following five rules:

1. “Think through the assignment.”
Jobs may stay the same in their broad outlines, Drucker noted, but the specific assignments associated with them can change rapidly. So make sure the assignments are matched to the person hired.

2. “Look at a number of potentially qualified people.”
Three to five was the number Drucker recommended.

3. “Think hard about how to look at these candidates.”
The way to look is by understanding the assignment and seeing if it tracks with the candidate’s strengths. Pay limited attention to weaknesses, unless they’re crippling. “You cannot build performance on weaknesses,” Drucker wrote. “You can build only on strengths.”

4. “Discuss each of the candidates with several people who have worked with them.”
“One executive’s judgment alone is worthless,” Drucker declared.

5. “Make sure the appointee understands the job.”
When someone bumps up into a new rank, the responsibilities change. Many employees, though, keep doing what it was that got them promoted in the first place. “The largest single source of failed promotions,” Drucker wrote, “is the failure to think through, and help others think through, what a new job requires.”

What principles do you follow when hiring?[/EXPAND]