In Hiring, Zeroes Are Your Heroes

In Hiring, Zeroes Are Your Heroes

This post is written by Scott Beardsley

The current labor market is extremely challenging for companies.

I’ve been in the recruiting industry for several decades, and the demand for new hires and the competition for talent has never been greater than now.

In this environment, open jobs often take longer to fill, salaries increase, and it’s rare to find candidates who check all the boxes.

It reminds me of the “fast, cheap, or good” adage. If you want to hire someone quickly who is affordable, it usually comes at the expense of quality. And if you want to hire someone quickly who is an all-star, it tends to be costly.

Nobody wants to compromise in finding the right person for a job. So what’s the right way to approach hiring, especially in this climate?

A New Way To Think About Hiring

For a moment, let’s set aside A-player, B-player, C-player, etc. terminology. This is a common way that people categorize the caliber of employees in an organization.

Instead, think about every employee as -1, 0, or +1.

  • -1: These employees drain you of your life force and bring down the company. They make work a drag, and they affect other employees because misery loves company.
  • 0: These employees are reliable and they do what’s expected of them. They can be counted on to do their job. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • +1: These are the elite employees who do their job and then some. They lift up the performance of everyone around them, and they consistently surpass expectations.

On a bell curve, zeroes make up the middle (and largest) portion, while -1 employees account for the bottom 10% and +1 employees are the top 10%.

The broken paradigm in hiring is when companies say that they only hire the Top 10%. First, it’s difficult to ascertain in a series of interviews if someone is an all-star. Usually, this isn’t clear until 90 days post-hire (once the interview honeymoon wears off), since on-the-job performance is the ultimate indicator. Also, these candidates typically cost more, so they may be out of budget. Lastly, +1 employees are more difficult to retain since they’re constantly being poached.

My advice: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. You can build a really good company with zeroes. 

This isn’t about settling, either. Find out if someone is qualified to do the job, and see if they’re willing to do it within the designated comp range. If the answer is “yes” to both questions, that’s a zero.

When companies pass on too many zeroes during the hiring process, a few things can happen:

  • It delays their job search, which costs money
  • They don’t materially increase their likelihood of finding a +1
  • They often pay more to hire a more experienced person who may not be a +1

Sometimes the stars align and you can identify a +1 quickly, s/he fits within the budget, and they make an immediate impact on the company’s performance. 

That’s the ideal outcome. 

But keep an open mind relative to hiring zeroes. They can be your heroes.

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