Monday, January 19, 2009

Hiring Is Harder Than Firing

We're currently in the process of hiring a new associate. Since I started this firm, nearly 6 years ago now, I've hired several people and fired some. Based on my experience so far, I have to say that firing people is much easier than hiring them. That may sound harsh, but it's true.

Say you get applications from about twenty people for one job. You're going to have to say no to 19 people. When you fire someone, you're just saying no to that one person. When you hire, you're saying no to a lot more.

Firing is easier because you have gotten to know the person, seen the quality of their work, and you know they're not right for the job. You know you're making the right decision. There's only one person I've fired where I feel any regret. We all liked him and still do. It was still the right decision, but it was tough.

Hiring is so much harder because you know so little about the candidates. You get a one-page summary (their resume), a transcript that shows how they did in the past in school (and that may have been years ago), and maybe a few other documents. In my experience at least 5 of the 20 applicants will clearly be wrong for the job, so those aren't as hard. And a few people will have misspellings and other typos in their papers. That is a huge negative.

From these pieces of paper you narrow it down to interview maybe 6 of the people. You've already said no to 14 people and you never met them. But there's a middle group. To be fair I try to interview a few extra people on the phone, and bring in the ones who seem okay.

So you do the interviews. A few people will show themselves to be wrong. But you'll end up with at least three people who seem pretty good. You call a few references who almost always say nice things about them.

Now you have to make a decision. How do you choose between three or four really good people? You take your best shot. It's a guess more than anything else.

To make things worse, sometimes the first person you offer the job to says no. Maybe the second. I got my first lawyer job because the first choice failed a credit check.

After all that, the person comes to work for you. Hopefully it works out. I'd say about half the time something goes wrong within the first six months (and sometimes the first couple weeks). Either they leave or you fire them. And you have to start the whole thing over again.

For another (brief) view on hiring and firing see what Darth Vader of Sith Sigma has to say about it.

Trying a different Amazon Ad format below. It's for a book about hiring.
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