Hire slow, fire fast

Hire slow, fire fast

Yesterday I presented a training session on recruiting high-performance employees based on work done by a friend of mine, Garrett Miller. This morning I’d like to share some thoughts around how you as a business owner could benefit from changing your mindset around recruitment and its role in your business.

Let’s dive in!

It’s important to understand that if you keep doing the same thing every year, you can’t expect better results. Think about how many times you have employed people just to lay them off later because of performance issues or violating your company rules. Most private companies hire people after less than half an hour discussion and mostly rely on gut feeling. But it’s not that simple.

10 years ago I did some calculations on how much our group of companies was losing due to bad recruitment practices and failed recruits. It was astounding and I could not help but think that there must be a better way than this hit and miss approach we were using. And there was.  At the time Garrett wrote a book called Hiring on a WHIM and I found it on Amazon just after it was first released.

In the book, Garrett explains that you should be hiring character before skill. “It’s not about who you are hiring, but what you are hiring”. Over the years I developed training material around the concept and we have now trained more than 50 HR professionals on how to hire on a WHIM.

The problem is that character is not easily identifiable and it needs a trained person to know how to look for certain factors that Garret calls the four  “non-negotiables”. These are W –  work ethic, H – humility, I- integrity and M – maturity.

Let’s look at Garrett’s definition of each:

Work ethic: A person’s willingness, ability, and commitment to being involved.

Humility (interesting one): The ability and willingness to be taught.

Integrity: It is the innate ability to do what is right, even when forces are telling and pulling one to do otherwise.

Maturity: a character trait that makes someone wise beyond his or her years; someone who has a seriousness, thoughtfulness, who is deliberate in thought and action and who is self-assured under pressure.

But before you run off and go test your new-found wisdom there are some principles you need to know about.

Here they are:

  • Hire slow, fire fast  – read this again. You need to get this. It’s the bedrock of the concept. Unless you slow down with recruitment, it will keep costing you money.
  • Always be interviewing – we know that private businesses excel because of the quality of the people they employ. The better your employees, the stronger your company.
  • Develop a pool of viable candidates – by constantly interviewing you’ll be building a database of prospective employees that you could hire with no fuss.
  • Understand what it is you’re looking for before you start recruiting – build a spec sheet and job description before you start.
  • Trust your gut, but leave you baggage outside. – don’t judge people on appearance or first impressions. You could be wrong.
  • If you have any doubts after the process, don’t hire.
  • Don’t be desperate to hire someone, – you’re better off waiting for the right person.

The interview process we teach our clients involve 2 to 3 highly structured interviews designed to get to the heart of the person. We know if we can get to the heart, we’ll be able to see a true reflection of the person. And that’s the skill that needs to be taught. All the questions are designed to uncover the character traits of WHIM and to build a story of the person’s life.

After 10 years of teaching on the subject, I have come to believe it is the only way to recruit. We have seen so many great results from the process. Most of our clients all struggle with the intensity of the process in the beginning, but once they get the hang of it (and see the results) it becomes the company culture. The phrase “Was he whimmed?” is something you often hear from our clients when disciplinary action is taken against an employee. A client I have with over 200 staff told me they would not have been able to grow from 40 to 200 in three years without this process in place. It was absolutely critical.

The benefits to a more thoughtful process are:

  1. Confidence in your hiring process
  2. Cost reduction in recruitment mistakes (re-training new employee and agency costs)
  3. A much stronger workforce, which translates into a much stronger business
  4. Less stressful environment because good employees take responsibility for their jobs
  5. Less micromanagement which limits your resources.
  6. A great company culture of people who are willing to lay their lives down for the attainment of the goal.

Recruitment is possibly the most important task an owner of a business has. There has never been much focus on this and its time this changes. Focusing on recruitment will build your business quicker than anything else you could spend money on.

Decide today to change your mind around recruitment and make it a focus.

Have a WHIM day!


Ouch! Consult is a family business consultancy that helps entrepreneurial families move from lifestyle businesses to wealth building organizations that are able to leave legacies for generations to come. It’s headed up by Kevin Howell who himself has been involved in a family business for over 25 years.

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