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Don't Hire the Best Person for the Job

According to one expert's counter-intuitive advice, here's who you should hire instead.
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Interviewing for many small business owners is more of an art than a science, relying on gut instinct and a collection of carefully chosen questions that have proven helpful in the past. But even if you're not sure exactly how to conduct an interview or write a job description, the end result you're aiming for at least is clear. You want to hire the best person for the job, right?

Wrong, says experienced IT executive and author Harwell Thrasher, recently on his blog. What does he think you should be looking for instead? The best person for the company.

Your first reaction may be that the distinction boils down to semantics. How often, after all, is the candidate that's best for the job really not also the best for the company?

Thrasher insists that there is a distinction and it matters not only when it comes to how you interview but how you conduct your entire hiring process. He writes:

A job is a task-oriented view of the business. Jobs are constantly changing because business needs are constantly changing. The best person for a job is the person who can do right now exactly what needs to be done right now. But due to the rate of change in business, it’s unlikely that what needs to be done right now is what will be needed tomorrow.  Requirements will change, customers will change, business processes will change, the world will evolve.

So what I really need is not someone who can do today's job today--I need someone who can do tomorrow's job tomorrow, and then continue to evolve to be able to do day-after-tomorrow's job day-after-tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

What I’m talking about is a person who can grow with the growing needs of the business, and this adds an additional dimension to the hiring requirement. If I hire the best person for the job then I’m going to hire a one-trick pony.

So instead of looking for an expert with a narrow focus and the character that allows them to do the same work day after day (perhaps then, not the most creative or restless), everything from the job description you write to the resumes you pull out of the pile should push you towards candidates that might have less specialist knowledge but more adaptability.

But what, you argue, if you have a really, really specific job that's just not likely to evolve much? "If you really have a requirement that specific then you're better off bringing in a contractor for the job instead of hiring. You can subcontract the best person for the job, but you should never hire such a person," answers Thrasher.

Do you agree with him?

 

Last updated: Oct 17, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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