Hiring the Top 1%

Joel has a great essay on how you're probably not hiring the top 1% — even though you think you are.But here's what Joel didn't say: not everyone wants to hire the top 1%. I've worked with managers who only wanted to hire people who weren't as capable as they were. (They didn't understand why it was in their self-interest to hire stars.) I've also worked with managers who wanted to hire the cheapest people, thinking that eventually they'd get the product, even if it took a little longer. (They didn't understand opportunity cost.)

I have on my to-blog list to write about the problems of hiring warm bodies instead of no bodies. Maybe next week…

3 Replies to “Hiring the Top 1%”

  1. Joel’s essay makes the one good point, but I don’t think that most hiring managers are quite that naive. I’m certain that Martin Fowler is not. And I agree with Martin that in this field in this time, many (but admittedly not all) good practitioners change jobs.
    From personal experience we had a top notch team of 7 developers at Tpresence, Inc in Pittsburgh in 2001. Maybe we weren’t all top 1%, but comfortably top 5%. When Tpresence “dot bombed” we all scrambled for jobs; at least 4 of us have changed jobs twice since then. I originally took the job in PA for geographic reasons in 2000 (and the stock options and fun work, of course).
    Three of us subsequently found ourselves at Symbol, Inc. where we struggled to hire top talent, and in a couple cases succeeded through use of techniques similar to many recommended here (phone pre-screening, open question interviews, real job problem sessions). But in some cases we hired merely well qualified professionals that fit well on our team — a different definition of the top 1%. That group is again disbanded, the positions shifted to California or India.
    I’d done that before, at Boeing in the 1980’s where I was accused by some of wanting to hire “knuckle scrapers” after some high turnover of highly talented programmers. Part of the problem was that the job was not sitting in a cube programming or even architecting; we ran helicopter simulations and needed people willing to work on a team and support the aerospace engineers and the test pilots, as well as write real-time code. Again we worked hard at hiring the people who best fit the job; the top 1% in our own way.
    For frustraion in a 1% personnel policy, try a corporation that has a policy to pay industry average salaries but also a policy to hire the top performers!

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