The Guide to Hiring People Smarter Than You

Slow Down to Hire People Smarter Than You
Slow Down to Hire People Smarter Than You

How (and Why) You Need to Hire People Smarter Than You 

As any well-seasoned recruiter knows, the most fitting applicant for a position often needs to be far better at many competencies than the actual manager doing the hiring … or the person that they’ll be reporting to, for that matter.

And while this fact can be intimidating to the one doing the hiring, it’s absolutely necessary to foster a healthy organization. Simply, highly competent employees improve the performance of their teams by imparting their differences.

Further, while it’s instinctual to hire people whose personalities are most like our own, a company of clones (or yes people) will seldom succeed. You need to hire people smarter than you so they continually challenge you to improve processes and procedures in your company.

My best advice for hiring people smarter than you is this:

Stop rushing the hiring process.

If you’re rushing to get someone hired, stop and check to see if it’s because you feel excited about them too early on. Are they someone you really like (someone like you, naturally) versus someone who is actually the best right fit for the job.

Yes, a likable personality is always important, but emotional hiring should not be at the expense of overlooking someone who may be better suited – in terms of attitude, ambition, demonstrated behaviours and competency – to the actual job.

So how do we ensure we’re hiring people who are smarter than we are? The best way to do this, and do this we must, involves following a set evaluation process.

#1 Start With Clearly Defined Performance Benchmarks.

What are the specific deliverables you expect to see, and over what period of time, from the person you hire?

These may include:

  • An increase in new accounts
  • Better customer retention strategies
  • Faster reporting processes
  • Improved company morale
  • Increased employee productivity

#2 Determine the Candidate’s Behaviours & Competencies

Once you have clarified your desired outcomes, you can determine what the daily job requirements actually look like. These daily job requirements are referred to as behaviours and competencies.

It is the continued repetition of these tasks that will move your employee towards meeting company goals. And that’s exactly why they need to be performed by a candidate who excels not at being likable, but at the job competencies themselves.

Now, keep in mind that technical skills and personal attributes are both equally important. Personal skills however, are transferrable. Technical skills, on the other hand, are usually more specific. To hire people smarter than you, seek out employees whose technical skills exceed your own.

There are a many great assessment tools available to measure competencies and predict behaviours. We highly recommend them in all our searches. Again, just make sure you start by knowing which competencies are required to do the job you are hiring for.

#3 Evaluate Each Candidate with the Same Yardstick

After assessing a candidate’s competencies and behaviours you’ll want to design an evaluation spreadsheet or grid. You’ll use it to rank and screen each candidate on the basis of their demonstrated competencies and ability to deliver on specific goals.

You may also include leeway for how the employee would plan to achieve your company goals, given a similar set of circumstances in a past job.

Keep in mind that if you’re hiring someone smarter than you are, their solutions should not be ones you’ve previously considered yourself. Their ideas should be unique in some way to meeting your job goals.

And, again, since we trend toward hiring people who are like us, you may tempted to pre-formulate responses of how a situation should be handled. Instead, to effectively hire someone smarter than you, try to ask questions about how they reach their conclusions and how their thought process works to reach a solution.

Another great way to avoid hiring ‘same same’ is to run one or two assessments.  Assessing values is a good place to start to ensure not everyone is competing for the same airspace in your company.

#4 Tell Them & Tell Them Again

The number one cause of failed relationships, personal and business, is because of unmet expectations. Failing to meet expectations is a direct result of a failure to communicate.

Try to actively listen during your interview, as well, to alleviate hiring based on perceived intelligence of the applicant. Do your best to really hear what your candidates are saying instead of listening for the buzz words you want to hear.

Be very clear about your company’s values, guiding principles and performance expectations, as well. Candidates need to know what criteria they are being evaluated on, and what your on-the-job expectations are.

#5 Reach for the Top in Your Career Ads

To help weed out less-than-qualified applicants, write your career ad as if you’re talking to the person who you really want. Do you want them to like a chaotic multi-tasking work environment? To be patient, insightful, tolerant?

Then tell it up front.

Describe your most desired behaviours by telling a story. Mix into that the required competencies and again, put it up front in your career ad. Reach for the top it is highly desirable to have top-qualified candidates in the mix to add fresh perspectives to the position.

To practice what we discussed in this blog, try choosing a few applicants that are completely out of your comfort zone. You’ll want to specifically seek out competencies that are different from yours, and then take the candidate through the above hiring process.

Ultimately, the ability to hire people smarter than you, comes down to finding candidates whose core values, competencies and behaviours are stronger than yours. Why? They make our businesses more successful by bringing additional skills and ever valuable ‘differences’ to the table.

Hire carefully, following our proven method of skills assessment, benchmarking, and communicating to ensure your company will continue on an upward trend for years to come.

About the Author

Barbara Ashton is the owner and founder of Ashton & Associates Recruiting. Barbara is an expert recruiter helping businesses to hire exceptional employees for over 25 years. Business owners and managers hire Ashton & Associates to recruit skilled employees who honor values and accountability, excel at winning new customers, and increase bottom line.

Like Ashton & Associates Recruiting on Facebook or follow us on Linkedin!