Hiring is the most important decision

published by the Nashville Business Journal

A leader’s biggest, best and most important decisions typically involve people. The impact of a “people decision” is unparalleled because it can have an enormous trickled-down influence on a company. Since these profound decisions involve complicated human beings, we don’t always get them right. We, too, are only human. In fact, I can remember a few bonehead moves I made right alongside those solid people choices that changed the course of Tractor Supply, along with my own career. 

The short of it is, people matter in business. Despite all the amazing benefits that automation and technology bring, having the right people on board will not only define your organization, but also your role as a leader as you help select those key employees. When you surround yourself with “stars,” your life and your career can take off in new and sometimes unexpected ways. When your team is really competent you’ll have the luxury of being able “to see over the hill and around the corner,” which is the ultimate goal of any senior trailblazer.  

One of the best books ever written on this topic is “Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. This classic occupies a cherished spot on my leadership shelf, and I continue to reference it when I have questions about the process—and power—of selecting great people. The best thing about the book is it very quickly gets to the heart of the issue: common mistakes leaders make during the selection process—from recruiting to interviewing. Like me, I suspect many of you will kick yourself over some of the everyday issues all leaders struggle with at some point when trying to make the smartest, most informed decisions about personnel. 

This manual helped me stop detrimental practices in their tracks and get focused on finding workers who would truly thrive in the Tractor Supply retail environment. Among Smart and Street’s in-depth recommendations are these timeless tips:  

Hire “A” players. To do that leaders must first define expectations in clear, measurable terms instead of the typical generic job description. This may sound simple, but it takes a lot more effort than you’d think and is indispensable in the process of selecting effective team players. 

Build your roster. One key chapter discusses the most efficient sourcing process for building your talent pool. Building a roster of quality candidates is essential to success. Intelligent background checks and initial screening can help you sort the wheat from the chaff quickly so you don’t waste valuable time on those who don’t measure up. If you’re not talking to an “A” player, just move on.

Ask good questions. When interviewing, asking the right kind of queries is critical. Every leader can learn to interview better. It’s just a matter of practicing how to ask the right questions, how to follow up, and how to read the actions and responses of your candidate. “Who” gives sound advice on the number of interviews, who should participate in the process and the timing of those interviews. 

“Sell” the position. After you have made the most informed decision possible, you may still need to sell a top candidate on joining your organization. The book walks leaders through the entire sales process, from positioning the position to getting complete buy-in from the family.

If you have any doubts about the selection process, I urge you to spend some time with “Who.” You can only get better by learning the trade secrets of selection and honing your skills to build the best team. 

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