Hiring - No False Positives
I was asked by a commenter on my Best Available Athlete post if this theory implied that I was a subscriber to the hire fast, fire fast method and what I thought about Joe Kraus' No False Positives hiring philosophy.
Briefly, the "No False Positives" school of hiring says that bad hires are worse than no hire because bad employees infect the company with all sorts of issues. Better to march on with nobody filling an important slot than to bring in a sub-par performer.
The hire fast, fire fast approach basically can be boiled down to "it's really almost impossible to understand whether a person is going to be a killer A+ match before they start working with you day to day, so best to find somebody that seems close enough, and then remove them quickly if they don't work out."
I have a couple general observations I'll make aobut these kinds of hiring philosophies. One of these observations may contradict another, but such is life....hiring is hard and nobody said the wizard was consistent.
I buy the hire fast, fire fast line of thinking for Sales Reps or VP Sales roles but I don't buy it for Engineering, Marketing, Finance, etc. The problem with hire fast, fire fast in the engineering department is quite simple: you don't end up executing on the fire fast part of it and the bad hire infects the organization for an extended period before you figure out how to remove them. Engineering goals are more generally team goals, there can be lots of reasons code can ship late, and performance criteria are more subjective than sales performance criteria. The mediocre hire ends up becoming part of the team and it just ends up taking longer to fire that person on the team, by which point they've added more subpar work to the mix. So, I am a subscriber, outside of sales, to the thesis that you have to interview rigorously and that it's better to leave an urgently needed role empty than to bring in a "false positive" who will infect the organization. You can only try to accomplish this by having multiple people interview the candidate over multiple days with multiple interviewing techniques.
Second observation: You can hire fast, fire fast with sales people. It's very very hard to comprehend a priori who will be able to best sell your service/product in a particular region to a particular customer base. Since this is an area of the company where people generally are responsible for very straightforward, measureable and explicit individual goals (ie, sales targets), it's much easier to communicate and implement a hire fast, fire fast kind of policy with this group. You have to ensure you really stick to it however, and understand when company processes and products are causing the sales ramp challenge(s).
There's one big problem with a pedantic devotion to the "No False Positives" approach, and it's that you can miss out on really high quality people that don't have all the t's crossed and the i's dotted but that can have an assymetric positive impact on your company. In the "Best Available Athlete" post, I was trying to describe a way of bringing these people into the company. You find a person that's just a dynamite all around person who excels in all sorts of ways but maybe they don't answer all the java questions correctly if they're an engineer or they don't have all the requisite experience for a vp operations or they're interviewing for a marketing position but they spent the last 2 years as a bank teller in Toledo Ohio for some reason. I think when you find this kind of person, you try to slot them into a role in the company instead of looking for a more classic fit.