Why You Should Hire People Smarter Than You

Be vigilant in cultivating a team of excellence.

learn more about David Hassell

By David Hassell • Aug 21, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hiring intelligently is one of the most direct ways to build a company's success. Look for the most capable candidates -- people whose brilliance exceeds your own.

A hiring manager might compare a candidate's qualifications with the job description but not sit back and think, What can I learn from him? Some managers just don't want to be outshined by the creativity, skills and experience of a new employee.

Business leaders should strive, though, toward creating a team of excellence. Nobody sets out to hire B and C players but sometimes this is the result when ego gets in the way. And if those hires end up later hiring B and C players, the company can end up being a total failure.

Related: 10 Things Great Talent Always Does

Hiring for competency.

Some managers are simply intimidated by the prospect of a staffer who's in some way more capable or knowledgeable than them. They perceive the talented candidate as a threat. This type of thinking can have a detrimental impact on a business.

The cure is to always encourage personal growth and introspection for everyone on the team. At my company, 15Five, a core value is "Always be learning and growing" and this facilitates curiosity, openness and humility.

Managers can become more acquainted with themselves by meditating, reading books on personal development or attending seminars that highlight personal characteristics that don't serve them well. Inspiring leaders are not discovered. They are created and re-created through education and personal-growth training.

Related: The 10 Unique Soft Skills Employers Desire in New Hires

Playing the victim.

Some managers see themselves as victims in their personal and professional lives. They maintain an outlook that things are being done to them and refuse to take responsibility for business outcomes. Poor performance? Low numbers? They are the result of annoying customers, employee mistakes or a marketplace that's too competitive.

When managers take responsibility for their actions, opportunities for improvement and growth present themselves. Instead of being insecure about their own job when hiring someone more capable or knowledgeable, these managers should embrace the chance to collaborate with an individual who has a brilliant, yet different perspective.

The Conscious Leadership Forum highlights this fear-based victim paradigm and offers a pathway out. By shifting their perspective, would-be victims can look at problems as challenges. Dead ends become opportunities to co-create with others on the team. Instead of creating pain for those around them, these leaders can bring out the best in others.

Organizing by design.

Design a culture and institute hiring practices to attract superstars -- with no settling for less. Create an organizational mandate to hire only A players and clearly define what that means. Craft an interview process in layers, beginning with discovering the way that a candidate thinks, inquiring about past results and then seeking the big picture of what he or she wants from a career.

Many modern interview strategies are designed to discover the most qualified person who is a fit for the company culture. Some interviewers will ask weird questions to see how a job seeker reacts under pressure or if she has the right sense of humor.

Then there's the group interview, where managers expedite the hiring process by engaging four or five peers at once. This may work for selecting some sales and marketing positions -- roles in need of affable players who can react on the spot. But other professionals (software developers, for example) may be highly effective introverts. Beware of creating a situation in which you might unwittingly pass over a rock-star candidate -- someone who just happens to shut down in front of a group of strangers.

I prefer the hybrid approach: Choose a peer council to meet prospective hires for coffee and have each team member feel them out individually. After these staffers give their blessings, start the rigorous interviews. As with nearly any business decision, get the facts and then go with your gut. But if something is amiss or doesn't feel right to the rest of the leadership team, this is a good enough reason to say no.

Hire by design beginning with your very first employee. Success-focused employees will always choose candidates who complement their skills and abilities. Hiring people who are smarter than you means that the work can be confidently delegated over time. Then focus on the important stuff -- growing your business and hiring more A players.

Related: 4 Things to Consider When Making Your First Hires

David Hassell

CEO and Founder of 15Five

David Hassell is the founder and CEO of 15Five, a leading employee engagement solution that helps create high performing teams by combining pulse surveys, weekly check-ins, peer recognition, and people analytics all in one platform. 

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