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Never Hire Somebody Who Doesn't Raise the Average

November 10, 2015

hiring-averageJim Koch, founder and chairman of Boston Beer Company, was profiled in the Founder’s Forum section in a recent issue of Inc. magazine. In the forum, Jim Koch was asked, “What’s your hiring philosophy?” His response was 100% spot on, in my opinion. That is, “never hire somebody who doesn’t raise the average.” [Click here to tweet this quote]

In other words, don’t settle! Don’t fall victim to the perception that someone is better than no one. In fact, often, the opposite is true. A bad hire, whether he or she be a bad cultural fit or a poor performer or worse, both, will impact your company more negatively than leaving the position open and continuing the search to select the better person for the job.

Sometimes, this is hard to accept. Take the case of a sales position. A company may have an urgent need to hire a sales representative to fill a territory vacancy. The thought process often runs along the lines of, “How many sales opportunities are we missing out on?” However, if you desperately fill the position with a bad hire, the questions you should also be asking is, “How many sales did this person fail to close that a more qualified person would have, how much time did we lose and money did we spend coaching the wrong person, and, worst of all, how many prospects did we permanently turn away because of a bad sales experience?”

These are questions I encourage our clients to consider. Sometimes, I suspect they think I am just saying that because I want them to use more of our products testing more candidates. But, truly, I believe this is the best approach to hiring great people. We follow this philosophy at Select International. As of right now, we’re searching to fill several open positions. We’ve assessed numerous candidates but hired no one. We have not settled.

I acknowledge, sometimes, this creates additional burden on the team who has to pick up the slack. But, is it more burdensome than choosing poorly, and having to correct that person’s mistakes or to coach that person’s unsatisfactory performance or to have to admit defeat and start all over again? And, other times, someone unexpected steps up to fill that void – maybe it was only supposed to be temporarily – and they impress you with their performance.

Don’t fear the empty chair. I agree with Jim Koch. Hiring simply to fill a need, rather than to improve your company, is “always a mistake that costs you a lot of time and money to undo.” And, since I also like his beer, who am I to argue? Well said.

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Doug Wolf Doug Wolf was the Chief Executive Officer at Select International, which was acquired by PSI. He works extensively with organizations that have large‐scale, national and global staffing needs. His expertise includes competency‐based job analysis, selection system design, validation, applicant sourcing, automated testing, virtual job auditions, structured interviewing, applicant tracking, reducing risk in the selection process, OFCCP and EEOC compliance reporting, and turnover analyses.