June 16, 2017 by Romain Bouqueau

Who: The A Method for Hiring

by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.



Getting the best team is your number one problem. You want to recruit the best: the "A" players (i.e. the best ones, opposed to “B” players (good ones) and “C” players (average or below average workers)).

The book provides a method in 4 steps:

  1. A scorecard for recruiting.
  2. A way to source your recruitments.
  3. A selection process made of structured interviews.
  4. A way to sell yourself in an attractive way. Because in the end you want the best candidates to chose you.

General advice

Don't hire generalists, hire specialists.

Recruiters identified two ways to recruit:

  • Skills: you need that skill or you have a specific project.
  • Talent: you bet on a person.

Candidates often consider being recruited as an investment or a transaction.

Consider making a small game to get candidates engaged during the process.

About "A" players

The A players critical competencies:

  • Efficient.
  • Honest/integrity.
  • Organization/Planning.
  • Proactive.
  • Follow through commitments.
  • Intelligence.
  • Analytical skills.
  • Attention to details.
  • Persistence.

The A players core qualities:

  • Personal connection.
  • Commitment.
  • Coachable.
  • Ego under control.
  • Requisite intellect.

A player also have cultural competencies. You may hear them say things like "Service the customer a lot better than competitors" and do anything they can to achieve it.

Step 1: the scorecard

How to create a scorecard:

  • Mission: statement of 5 sentences to describe the role.
  • Outcomes: 3 to 8 metrics.
  • Competencies (5 to 8) "competencies include efficiency, honesty, high standards, and a customer service mentality".

Ensure alignment with scorecard and communicate on it

Keep using scorecards:

  • Set expectations with new hires.
  • Monitor employee progress over time.
  • Objectify your annual review system.
  • Allow you to rate your team annually.

Step 2: sourcing

The book provides very generalist advice in this section.

Step 3: structuring interviews

To get more details, use the "What ?", "How ?", and "Tell me more ?" questions.

You want to conduct 4 interviews. Each interview should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. See in the next sections.

Master tactics

Four points to make interviews more productive:

  • Interrupt gently to spare anyone's time: I would love to hear about...
  • Three P to evaluate performances: Previous, Plan, Peers.
  • Push/Pull: A players are pulled out of their positions while B/C players are pushed out by their employers.
  • Paint the full picture and stop at show-stopper.

Interview 1: screening

  1. What are your career goals?
  2. What are you really good at professionally? Insist to find 5 to 8 items.
  3. What are you not good at or not interested in doing?
  4. Who were your last five bosses, and how will they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them? Ask them why they would be rated such a score. Consider 7 to be neutral.

Interview 2: who

Screen the personality:

  1. What were you hired to do?
  2. What accomplishments are you most proud of? A Players tend to focus on outcomes when B and C players talk about events and people.
  3. What were some low points during that job?
  4. Who were the people you worked with? Be specific to activate the "threat of the reference check".
    • What was your boss name and how do you spell that? What was it like working with him/her? what will he/she tell me were your biggest strengths and areas for improvements?
    • How would you rate the team you inherited on an A, B, C scale? What changes did you make? How would you rate the team on an A, B, C scale?
  5. Why did you leave that job?

Interview 3: focus

The purpose of this interview is to talk about a specific subject.

  1. What are your biggest accomplishments in this area during your career?
  2. What are your insights into your biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area?

Interview 4: references

Don't skip the references. And don't limit to the candidate's list.

Questions to ask to the reference:

  1. In what context did you work with the person?
  2. What were the person's biggest strengths?
  3. What were the person's biggest areas for improvement back then? Take notes because these usually don't change.
  4. How would your rate his/her overall performance on a scale from 1 to 10?
  5. The person mentioned that she struggled with [subject] in that job. Can you tell me more?

Double check the cultural fit.

Step 4: sell yourself in an attractive way

We all know it is important to find the thing that matters most. What would make her/him dream about the job.

The authors define the 5 ‘F’s to attract the candidate:

  1. Fit,
  2. take care of their Family,
  3. Freedom (not micromanaged),
  4. Fortune,
  5. Fun.

The cost of recruiting

Cost of an agency:

  • Upfront.
  • Success fee: 18% to 25% of the gross salary (when you pay less there will be less work behind so you may received unqualified candidates).

Recruiting has a cost in time.

You can compare salaries on website like Glassdoor.

NAB 2017 report in tweets

previous post


HLS posts updated RFC8216 (draft revision 23)

next post

  • - Comments are closed -