The Best Hiring Advice I’ve Received

Leading a team is one of the biggest privileges a leader has. You are able to cultivate a culture through the people you place in significant roles, and you are able to serve others alongside the team you serve alongside. Leading a team is also a massive responsibility. You steward the time and energy of many others, and are accountable for how you do so. Selecting people for the team is one of the most important aspects of leading a team. Here are six statements that have impacted how I view hiring or inviting people to join a team:

1. Hire Five to Do the Work of 10 and Pay Them Like Eight.

Jim Collins offered this quote, from another leader, in Good to Great. There are often two polarizing approaches to hiring and staffing. Approach one is to hire as many as possible and pay them a little. Approach two is to hire a few and pay them very well while expecting a lot from them. Which team would you rather be on? Exactly.

2. The Best Test if Someone Can Lead a Staff Is if the Person Can Lead Volunteers.

I heard John Maxwell say this on an audiocassette years ago and it has stuck with me. Those who lead volunteers effectively lead with conviction and vision, are able to equip others, and care for those they lead. In other words, they don’t rely on offering a paycheck because there is none to offer. Leaders who use a paycheck as their sole motivation are always poor leaders.

3. Hire Slow; Fire Fast.

Many leaders have offered this counsel that it is now a cliché, but a true one. It is much better to hire slow than to fire slow. Hiring slow helps ensure there is a great fit—both for the person and the organization. Firing slow keeps people in roles where they won’t succeed while the people the organization is designed to serve suffer.

4. Be Cautious if the Person Is Obsessed About the Title.

Augustine, the early church father, said it differently and more powerfully: No one can be a good bishop if he loves his title and not his task. Look for people who are passionate about what they get to do more than they are passionate about what they will be called.

5. The Negative Traits of Leaders Are Amplified Through the Organization, and the Positive Traits Are Muffled.

My executive coach for seven years, Steve Graves, taught me this. The “negative” traits of leaders spread more quickly and more loudly than the positive ones. Why does this impact hiring? Because the character of the leader always impacts the credibility of the team. If the person is excellent at his or her craft or discipline but there are some “yellow flags” with the person’s integrity, do not make the hire. DO NOT HIRE WHEN THERE ARE CHARACTER CONCERNS.

6. Chemistry Is More Important Than Competence.

One of my first mentors, Ben Wasson, helped me see this. We all believe (or we should all believe) that character is most important. But what is next in terms of importance, chemistry or competence? The answer is chemistry because a new team member who is deeply committed to the values of the team (chemistry) will benefit from the collective competence of the team and can be trained in competence. But a new team member who is competent but not committed to the mission and values will adversely impact the culture of the team. Of course—both chemistry and competence, alongside character, is what you want. But by placing such an emphasis on chemistry, leaders can work harder to ensure “this is a great match.”

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Eric Geiger
Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the senior pastor of Mariners Church in Southern California and the author of several church leadership books.