7 Hiring Strategies: Weighing The Devil You Know Vs. the Devil You Don’t

700 487 David DeWolf

I recently hired an executive who I had a history with. In fact, several years ago, I worked for him.

Hiring someone you know can be both a wise move and a big mistake. Over the years, I’ve learned how to make sure I only make the hire if I’m confident that it will be a big win. Here are seven hiring strategies I use to make sure I make the right decision.

Before you consider anyone, define the role.

It’s really easy to jump immediately to identifying people for the role. You might have a name that comes straight to mind, or you might be tempted to go search LinkedIn and scour your network for that perfect fit.

Don’t do it! Before you start naming names, define the role. Define the roles and responsibilities. Determine the requirements. Avoid the temptation to craft requirements around a person.

Your strategy should drive your structure and the structure drive the job description.

Run the process, even if you know the ‘perfect person.’

Weigh all of your candidates, objectively, through the filter of your job description. With your “known entity” it will be a temptation to make excuses.

“I know that we’re looking for a candidate with at least two years as a store manager, but I’ve worked with Susie Q before and know that she can do the job. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the role she held at Starbucks was basically a store management job. She just didn’t have the title.”

Don’t fall to the temptation. If the resume and experience wouldn’t get by if they were from an unknown entity, then it shouldn’t get by regardless.

Look at a wide variety of candidates, not just the “ideal fit.”

I once interviewed 27 candidates for an executive role. Why? Because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted.

Through the process, I was able to learn what all of my options were and narrow down exactly what our team needed. It was a painful process but well worth it in results. By the end, I was positive of my decision.

If you only look for what you think you want, you may never find what you really need.

Have others conduct the first interview, and listen to their advice.

Depend on your team to flesh out whether this candidate is a fit or not. In my recent hire, I had two executives interview the “known entity” before I conducted a personal interview. I was cautious and made sure the team knew that I didn’t expect him to be a finalist.

Much to my surprise, both individuals listed the individual as their top choice after the interview. It was only then that I decided to seriously consider the candidate and interview him myself.

Trust your team to give you outside perspective. If the candidate really is as good as you think, she will bubble to the top.

Address any concerns, and be brutally honest.

Despite my former boss being the team’s top candidate, I still knew firsthand what (my perception of) his strengths and weaknesses were when we worked together. This can be both a positive and a negative, so I addressed my concerns head-on to ensure that there were no preconceived notions.

I quickly became convinced that this leader had gained valuable experiences over the past several years and had developed in ways that made him an even more ideal fit for the job. If I had not seen that development, I would have walked the other way.

Use the knowledge that you have of your candidate to good use and address any concerns head-on.

Ensure this is a role they want, and not just an easy move.

Even though you’ve gone through the process to ensure that this is a good fit for the company, that doesn’t mean that your “known entity” has gone through the same process to make sure it’s the right thing for them. More so than with a normal hire, you run the risk of hiring somebody that was lured by the prospect of an easy job interview or working with someone they know.

Make sure your candidate has fully bought in. Look for signs of passion and commitment.

Go with the best candidate, not the “safe bet.”

If you’re truly hiring “the devil you know,” then you’re hiring the wrong person. Only hire the known entity if you’re 100% convinced after running the full process that this is the ideal candidate and they see you as the ideal destination.

The devil you know is never, ever, better than the ideal candidate. Be patient: hiring decisions are long-term, strategic decisions. Never rush the decision and never take the easy way out.

If you are fully convinced, rest assured that this is a less risky hire than any other one you could make. There’s a smaller chance that you were fooled by the interview process. You know them and you’ve been deliberate during the hiring process.

If you haven’t done your homework, beware! You may have just shot yourself in the foot. This could be painful.

Have you ever hired someone you knew? A former coworker, boss, or employee? I’d love to hear about it, post your comments on why it worked out the way it did and what you’d do differently next time around.