What is your most innovative hiring best practice? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
You can learn a lot from years of hunting and hiring.
My grandfather owned a hunting and fishing lodge in northern Ontario. And as you might imagine, I spent plenty of time "up north" as a kid.
He was an excellent businessman, but he was an even better hunter. His patient, precise approach to duck hunting meant that he almost always got the birds he wanted. Spending time with him in the blind taught me some invaluable lessons that I've carried ever since.
I've used those lessons throughout my career when I needed to go "hunting" for great employees. You name it--CEOs, CFOs, COOs--I've hired them. And I rely on the same principles that I learned duck hunting.
Know What You're Hunting For
When you set out to hire, you need to know exactly what type of candidate you want. List all the traits that candidate would have. Do they need a certain number of years of experience? Should they be willing to travel? Do they have an MBA or another graduate degree?
Create your list, and always keep it in mind. You have to understand who you're looking for before you start, otherwise you may wind up with someone who doesn't fulfill your requirements.
When Grandpa set out to hunt, he knew he wanted. He would be happy bringing mallards, blue-winged teals, and wood ducks back to the lodge.
Don't shoot at every duck you see.
Know What To Ignore
Grandpa didn't just know what ducks he wanted. He also knew what ducks he didn't want. For example, he would never shoot at fish ducks because they're renowned for their terrible taste.
You should know what you don't want in a candidate, too.
I know a CEO who gave the keynote speech at a COO training seminar, simply because he wanted to scout for a COO. He ended up writing off nearly everyone at the convention because they showed up late to the training seminar. He didn't want someone who would brush off training, and he stuck to that--even when it meant getting rid of a lot of otherwise qualified candidates.
Knowing what you don't want in a candidate is just as important when scouting for the right hire.
Don't Be Afraid To Leave With Nothing
There were days in the duck blind when we wouldn't take a single shot. As a 14-year-old who loved to shoot, that was torture for me. But it taught me the value of patience. My grandfather said he'd rather leave without a single duck than leave with a bad one.
When hiring, don't choose a candidate you don't like because you're desperate for anyone.
I've had to put this lesson into practice on multiple occasions. Once, I was involved with a company that was looking for a fearless COO who could transition a company through some difficult times. A director and I whittled down 150 resumes to 16 final candidates. Then, we flew to Boston to interview them.
After multiple interviews with each candidate, neither of us could pinpoint one candidate that blew us away. This was a tremendously important hire, and there was a lot of pressure on us to get it done, but we had to trust our instincts.
We flew home empty-handed.
Remember, it's always better to leave with nothing than to leave with the wrong candidate.
Preparation Is Key
We could afford to go home empty-handed on occasion because there was no rush. There would always be another day. We didn't have to get a duck.
But a lot of companies put themselves in the opposite situation. They only hire when a gap appears. At that point, patience is no longer possible. They need someone now.
To avoid this, map out your hiring needs for at least one year out. Why? Because scrambling to hire someone is a sure-fire way to get the wrong candidate. Filling holes as they open leads to compromises, quick decisions, and less-than-ideal hires.
You put yourself in a situation where Grandpa's advice no longer works. You need to come home with a duck if there's nothing else to eat.
Have a plan in place for low growth, average growth, and hyper growth, so that you're prepared for any situation.
I'll always look back on those hunting trips with fondness for my grandfather, because the lessons I learned have helped me recruit some fantastic employees over the years. Hopefully, they'll do the same for you.
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