The Simple Test All Managers Must Pass Before Being Allowed To Make A Hire

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Culture, Hiring Managers, Interviewing

Generally speaking I lean towards the more liberal side when it comes to involving employees in critical decisions facing their organization.  After all, we hire adults (for the most part) and adults are capable of handling the truth and making tough decisions.  But I’ve come around to the point of view that while involvement and engagement is an important part of building an organizational culture, you’ve got to prove that you’re capable of this privilege before I just hand it over to you.  Which brings us to one of the most important organizational decisions of all – hiring.

I’m reminded of a quote by the ever quotable Bill Parcells when he was coaching the New England Patriots back in the 90’s.  When asked about a report that Parcells was overruled during the most recent draft, Parcells famously stated “They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”  Maybe, but just because you’re a good coach doesn’t mean that you are a good talent evaluator.  Most organizations face a similar challenge where they have people who are great at their jobs who stink (or at least have very little experience) spotting and hiring great talent.  It would be a mistake to take the hiring decision completely out of the manager’s hands but in my opinion before a manager is allowed to make a new hire they need to have demonstrated 3 things:

  1. Successfully managed someone who is more experienced, older, smarter, or a higher performer than yourself. What this shows me is that you aren’t afraid to surround yourself with talent even if the person is better than you in certain areas.  It also shows a level of maturity that you are secure with what you know and what you don’t know so you aren’t worried about the other guy “showing you up.”  Speaking from experience, this is the hardest point on the test to pass.  Most of us have a natural competitive streak and are wired to look out for ourselves first and we end up surrounding ourselves with people who won’t challenge or push us to become better.  The result?  Mediocre talent.  But if you pass the first point on the test, I feel a lot better about letting you hire for the company.
  2. Given up something – a person, time, resources – for a project that didn’t directly benefit your work. What this shows me is that you understand the big picture and have demonstrated that you are willing to make a contribution to the success of the organization.  Taking it further, I would expect that you’d hire someone didn’t just fill a short-term need on your team today but had the skill and/or potential to contribute to the broader organization.  In other words, you’re more likely to hire talent who benefit the entire organization.
  3. Made a tough people-related decision.  Let’s face it, you can have all the fancy selection processes in the world but mistakes still get made.  The question is what will you do when you make a hiring mistake?  One of the worst things that can happen to an organization is to have people running around that everyone knows aren’t pulling their weight yet nothing is done about it.  So, if you can demonstrate that you can step back, spot the issues and aren’t afraid to make the tough decision then I have a higher degree of confidence that you’ll quickly correct a hiring mistake should you make one.



Until a manager has proven they can do these three things, the final hiring decision should be signed off by someone who has.  Clearly this isn’t the way we would want things to run in the long-term so it’s our job as HR Pros to make sure we develop these skills.

Andy Porter
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.