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

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.

FOT Background Check

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.


  1. Ron Webb says:

    Andy, love this post, and it is spot on with my experience, as well. I do have a few tweaks I’d suggest, though.

    Around #1 above, I’ve had peers that manage staff that make more money than they do and just can’t get past it. Same general issue, but money is sometimes the hangup.

    Around #2 I would add, “…and didn’t have to let everyone in the organization know you had to do it.” I have also had peers that don’t mind “taking one for the team” at the perceived expense of their project or team, but man, they have to let everyone know they did it, how tough it will make life for them, etc. I just don’t think you are ready to really be a manager if you can’t get this done without having everyone ride your emotional roller coaster with you.

    My two cents, at least.

  2. I am looking forward to more such posts in future. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  3. Alex Hagan says:

    Good points Andy – though I wonder if we should take it further – should those become criteria for continuing to be a manager in the long-term?

  4. Mimi says:

    Hi FOT- First time on this site- thank you for the refreshing change….

    Andy- the comment from Rob- about manager making more than who they report to-
    perhaps this happens for a few reasons: and, you all as well as Rob, know this. I am venting in my own way, as i consult for a company that hired a guy and paid him more “to get him” not thinking about the repurcussions….1st- who might have acces to payroll on his team? it just begins there….

    Leadership generally gets paid more due to stratus and time in the saddle-BUT unless this talented human manager (under leader) has a PHD, a super special sought after talent, or works for the CDC and can hit major home runs for team (resulting in a bigger bonus for Leader- YAY) then YES, Leader of team should get paid more.

    There may be a major gap in what leader has been paid for the job when he/she started and the increase amounts over the years (atta human, job well done, and COLA adjustments didn’t keep up and HR didn’t do their job in shopping what talent pays)- then, and, that should be fixed.

    This is a strategic maneuver by the powers that be- and they made a decision to piss leader off. Leader is smart, asks for a renegotiation of his/her salary or asks for a nice package out the door.

    LOLYW- (lots of love yall’s way).

    Thanks again for a great website and NEW HR

  5. Brent says:

    I find point one really interesting, and I may be at the other end of the spektrum. If the person I’m interviewing doesn’t see my job as a stepping stone to the job they really want (i.e. GM HR, CFO, CEO etc), then something else about them really has to ‘pop’ for me to hire them above the rest of the applicants. Skillsets I can teach, ambition is what I hire for.

  6. Mario L Castellanos says:

    Excellent post. Not only do I agree with every word, I’ve actually written a few myself in several articles specifically on this subject in Huff Post. Well done!

  7. Roger says:

    Sometimes the talent is simply worth more than the manager.
    Ron is right: a manager in that situation needs to get over it.
    If you are underpaid, justify your raise in the company’s interest; don’t demand adherence to a formula.

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