I'm amazed every time I meet with a hiring manager and they spend ten minutes breaking down the type of candidate they'd like to hire. It starts with "I'm looking for a good attitude" and ends with a list of accumulative traits and accomplishments to rival Mark Zuckerberg or Ajay Bhatt. It is okay to appreciate talent. It is okay to desire that talent for your team. It is not okay to maintain unrealistic expectations throughout a hiring process to the point of counter-productivity.
Essentially, expectations should be a statistical understanding where variables such as: current business needs, long-term business needs, culture, urgency, the available candidate market and budget can all be leveraged to manage expectations.
If statistics isn't your thing, then let's continue the previous example:
The Thought Process
When you sit down and start to think about your next hire, there are several ideas to process at once. There is a current project that needs to be finished. There is a new project that needs to be started and finished by an already-determined date. There is a project you want to do and know will be approved, but not until progress has been made on one of the other aforementioned projects. There's a lot.
Slow it down. Begin with, "What do I need for the current project?" and compile a list of specific skills that may or may not be ideal for the future projects.
The next step is, "I'd like them to be able to finish this project with XYZ, but the next project is already in preapproval phase, and I know I'll need ABC for that project, so it would be great if the candidate had that, too.
Eventually, you reach the point of thinking "So if they can wrap this project up and have experience building the project we're about to start, they can get both projects done quicker so we can move onto my next big project. If they're that good then they've probably already worked with 123 and will be the quintessential engineer for the future. Then I'll look like the mastermind behind it."
That last part might not hold true for everyone, but I know some of you are definitely thinking that when I sit down with you.
If I hire someone who is only a specialist in the current project, that means they're a little outdated and does not bode well for the future project, and especially not for the future-future project.
If I hire someone that has worked with the current project technologies, and is currently working on the next project's technologies, then he'll have to learn more for the future-future project and that may slow down production. Since he'll be working on the other two projects back-to-back I'll need to hire another engineer for the team, which costs time and money.
So if I hire someone that has worked with the current project, already done the next project, and is already in the know about the future-future tech stack, that would solve it all. I'll hire that engineer. And I'll wait until I find that candidate.
In theory, yes…
If you do decide to go after the next game-changer, manage your expectations. In the current market, you will be one of at least seven companies interested in, advancing, and making an offer to this candidate. That is a conservative ratio and even then you'll have a 14% chance of successfully hiring the rockstar. Would you invest everything in a 14% success ratio? I think not.
Hire for attitude and aptitude. If someone is self-motivated, interested in the business, the project and the people, they will add value to the team while remaining loyal and ultimately push themselves and the organization to greater heights. While every company could certainly benefit from a Tech Ninja, I've never heard of a one-person billion-dollar company. Hedge your bets. A good team will always produce more than the best player will alone.
Simple Ways to Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
- Use a trusted resource to prequalify candidates for the position
- When interviewing, focus on strengths instead of weaknesses
- Be realistic about your organization, opportunity and long-term potential as an employer
- Hire what you need, not what you want
- Focus primarily on culture fit, attitude and aptitude, and secondarily on skills