Here's the way I prepared to hire the best employee ever: I stayed awake all night. Her interview with me was at 8:30 am.
When I came in to work at 7 a.m. I was exhausted, my eyes were bloodshot and the coffee wasn’t even helping. I was mad at myself for having to fire the last three people I had hired into this position. I was making poor hiring decisions. I was frustrated by the fact that seemingly no one cared about doing good work or trying to aiming for high productivity anymore. I was deflated because I knew if I hired again as I had been doing for the last eight months, nothing would change. I would have another lead weight employee and I would wind up doing more work, not less.
She walked in for the interview and in that moment, my shattered and exhausted ego relented and gave way to the following three things:
1. I will hire on feel and fit, not paperwork.
2. I will disclose in full the terrible parts of this job.
3. I will disclose in full my own terrible shortcomings and what it is like to work for me because of them.
After my traditional line of questioning and selling the great points about the career ahead for anyone lucky enough to get this position, I launched into my full disclosure and she sat staring at me like one does a child who is walking a fine balance atop a 4-foot brick wall -- with anticipation, excitement and a heaping does of sheer shock and wonder all mixed together.
Here are a few couple of excerpts from my disclosure statements:
“I receive anywhere from 60 to 130 relevant emails per day. If an email is longer than three paragraphs I will not read it. I will ignore it. If you send me an email like this, you will be ignored. This is just the truth. My attention span is short. In fact, and even worse, I will forward all emails longer than three paragraphs to you and ask you to read and summarize them for me into relevant bullet points so that I can digest them. This is truly how I operate.”
“I dislike tardiness so much that if I see you are even three minutes late to work, it will wear on my opinion of you.”
I told her that I intend on hiring for this job just once and that if this job sounds like a fit, I would be happy to have her.
She accepted the job.
It is now 10 years later. This employee is still with me and I love how we work together, full of trust and truth. We get things done together that neither would do alone because each of us knows the limits and strengths of the other.
Let’s face it, after working for anyone or anywhere for more than six months, an employee knows all the terrible, annoying issues, both small and large. Does it not make sense to disclose this stuff right when the candidate is fresh out of the gates? That way it will be possible to find a person willing to work with the firm despite its shortcomings?
I liken it to job dating. People typically don’t marry after one date. They take some time to get to know what their potential mate is really like before committing their lives.
The same should be true about how people approach their careers. People need to know the good and bad to make a great decision.
Underperforming employees who are not ambitious will weed themselves out of the process when an employer discloses his or her inconvenient truths. Only the committed, determined and self-aware will accept and isn’t this the type of candidate all entrepreneurs want working for them?
It took me staying up all night and reaching near exhaustion to get fed up enough to seek a new solution to hiring. It's possible to sleep easier knowing what I know now. A staffer needs to balance the great parts of the job being offered with the truly uncomfortable parts about it. A boss should share what working with him or her can really be like in order to find the right fit for a long-term hire he or she will be grateful to have.
Related: An Ode to Transparency