6 Great Hiring Quotes From the Book “Decisive”

Nov 26, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 8.37.20 PMI just finished reading the book Decisive by Dan and Chip Heath, authors of business best-sellers Made to Stick and Switch, and thought the content was vital to hiring managers. I was relieved that many of the decision-making principles detailed in the book mirror the Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer method my team developed through many years of experience — lots of successful hires and learning from hires who didn’t pan out.

Nearly every concept in “Decisive” could be integrated into your hiring process, but a few sections directly addressed hiring. Here are some of the top hiring quotes from “Decisive,” followed by some commentary:

  1. Asking tough, disconfirming questions can dramatically improve the quality of information we collect. One of the best diagnostic questions in assessing entrepreneurs is, “How many secretaries has this entrepreneur had in the past few years?”
  2. On reference checks: We allow the candidate to tell us who we should call, and we dutifully interview those people, who say glowing things about the candidate, and then absurdly, we feel more confident in our decision to hire the person. Imagine if we bought a timeshare because the salesman had three awesome references.
  3. When it comes to hiring a worker, the process is typically all about positivity and ego inflation. The worker presents a glowing portrait of her talents, and the employer presents a rosy portrait of the job. Because of this false sunniness, it can be difficult for both parties, employer and the candidate alike, to get an accurate picture of the choice they are making: “Can I tolerate this job? Can we tolerate this employee?”
  4. Realistic job previews have been proven to reduce turnover. By exposing people to a “small dose of organizational reality” before they start work, you vaccinate them against shock and disappointment.
  5. Realistic job previews inoculate people against a disappointment and increase their satisfaction, even in the midst of a difficult job. It’s easier to cope with setbacks when we are mentally prepared for them.
  6. Individual decisions will frequently be wrong, but the right process will be an ally in any situation.

Let’s start by expanding on that last point. Consistently great companies aren’t built upon one whiz-bang idea. Their growth is based on a proven recruiting and interviewing methodology that distinguishes great performers from average ones during the pre-employment process. As the late, great Peter Drucker wrote, “An executive has to learn not to depend on insight and knowledge of people but on a mundane, boring, and conscientious step-by-step process.”

Regarding reference checks, I couldn’t agree more with the Heaths on their point. As I wrote on ERE previously, additional references will increase your chances of obtaining a legitimate review of the candidate’s work performance instead of a pre-planned endorsement.

As far as realistic job interviews, I firmly believe every candidate should be exposed to the difficulties of the job. See how the candidate reacts. Are they scared off by the reality of the job? Or eager to embrace the biggest challenge of their career?

The all-time best answer I’ve received came just after I exposed a candidate to the difficulties of the job, and then asked, “Are you ready for the biggest challenge of your career?” The typical answer is a fairly unemotional “yes.” This candidate said, “I’m primed for it!” He’s gone on to have a long and prosperous career at our company, and he successfully endured many struggles along the way.