Hint: Hiring the right people is too hard

Yesterday I read about Naval Ravikant’s approach to hiring the right people — it has nothing to do with hiring and selecting the right people. It is about one thing — making sure you fire the wrong people fast.

Two great reads — Malcolm Gladwell’s The Talent Myth and a book, The Halo Effect — made me aware of how little we actually know about “talent.” For the most part, we look at people’s past work experience and the companies they have worked for. If they have worked for highly respected companies and have shown signs of continuous promotion, they are labeled “talented.”

It is incredibly hard to assess for most people in the knowledge economy. Is it the context people are in and the systems they are part of or are they actually talented on their own? We may never know the answer to this question.

Back to Naval —I like how he has some simple systems that help address some of the shortcomings in this talent problem. Here are some of his thoughts on getting the right people:

  • Create a pipeline — Asking people the best people they know
  • The mission: You need a clear mission to excite people
  • Bringing them in: Having a talented in-house recruiter
  • Quick decisions: Move fast with hiring AND firing
  • Level Playing Field: Bring everyone in at the same level and have a true meriotocracy. Most companies use age as a heuristic for “experience” — he thinks this is a big mistake.

I love the simplicity of this. Most companies I have been part of spend months recruiting a single person. This is under the belief that the more time you spend the better at decision making you become. The best companies I have worked for — McKinsey & Company — did the thing Naval talks about really well: they fired the wrong people quickly, but did it in a compassionate way.

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