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Brian Tracy on How to Hire the Right People

By: Brian Tracy
Last updated 9/29/2014

Selecting the right people is the starting point of excellence in management. Probably 95% of your success as a manager resides in your ability to select the right people in the first place. If you hire the wrong people, then no matter what you do, what techniques you use, or what efforts you put in, it is not going to make very much difference. Almost all of your problems as a manager come from either selecting the wrong people or inheriting the wrong people in your position.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins suggests that, essentially, the first job of management is to “get the right people on the bus, get the right people into the right seats on the bus, and then get the wrong people off the bus.”

Think Through the Job
Begin by thinking through the job carefully, preferably on paper. Write out a list of all of the characteristics and qualities that you would want in the ideal person for a particular job. First, focus on the specific, measurable results and outcomes that you expect the new employee to achieve.

The second factor you look for is the set of basic skills that the person will have to have to get the results that the job requires. Interview carefully to make sure that the candidate has demonstrated in the past the skills you’ve identified for the job. As Peter Drucker said, “Only past performance is an accurate predictor of future performance.”

Finally, hire as much for attitude, personality, and character as you do for job skills. Make sure that the new person will fit in comfortably with your company culture and work well with yourself and others. If you select people with the right attitude and personality, you can train and manage them to do the job well.

The Law of Three
With the Law of Three, you can increase your ability to make good hires. In fact, your success rate can be as high as 90%, based on my experience with thousands of executives and business owners. Here is how it works, in six steps:

1. Interview at least three candidates for a job. This practice forces you to slow down and compare and contrast the qualities and characteristics of different people.

2. Interview the candidate that you like three different times. Remember, a job candidate will look the very best on the first interview. After that, there is a gradual deterioration as the screens fall away and the true person is revealed.

3. Interview the person you like in three different places. For some reason, many people have what I call a “chameleon complex.” They appear a certain way in your office in the first interview and then seem to act and react differently when you move them into different environments.

4. Have any candidate that impresses you interviewed by at least three other people on your team. In too many cases, a candidate that I considered to be ideal was roundly rejected by my team and, as it turned out, for good reason.

5. Check at least three references from the candidate. Because of the fear of lawsuits, most employers will only give you the dates of employment of the candidate. But there are still questions that you can ask to glean useful information. When you call, say something like, “We are interviewing this person for this particular job, doing these particular activities, and having these particular responsibilities.” You can then ask specific questions such as:
—Could you tell me some of the strengths or weaknesses that this candidate would have in performing a job like this?
—Is there anything you could tell me that would help me to make a better hiring decision?
—Would you hire this person back again if he applied to you for a job?

If the reference is reluctant to comment on the candidate or won’t answer the first two questions, always ask the third question, which is the key question. If the answer is not an unequivocal “yes,” you should be very cautious about hiring the candidate in the first place.

6. The final piece of advice is to check references three deep; that is, ask the given reference for the names of other people the candidate has worked with, so you can talk to those people, too. When you interview three additional people whose names do not appear on the candidate’s resume, you may be surprised at what you learn.

Many executives have told me that this Law of Three has significantly improved the quality of the people they have hired and the effectiveness of the entire team.

The SWAN Formula
The SWAN formula was recommended some years ago by an executive recruiter named John Swan. It is a good acronym that you can use to improve your selection process. It has four letters: S, W, A, N.

S stands for smart. Hire smart people. How do you tell the intelligence of a candidate? The answer is simple: questions! Intelligent people tend to be more curious than average people.

W stands for “work hard.” Look for people who are willing to work hard and who have backgrounds that indicate that they have worked long, hard hours—including evenings and weekends—at previous jobs.

A stands for ambition. The proper candidate is someone who wants to move ahead in life. Ambitious people are willing and eager to take additional training; they are already reading and studying and seeking opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally.

N stands for people who are “nice.” The likability of the candidate is a critical factor and is especially important for people who have to deal with the public or with customers. As Leona Helmsley once said in her advertisement for her hotel chain, “We don’t hire people and train them to be nice; we just hire nice people.”

In the final analysis, your ability to pick the right people for your team is the key to motivation. You cannot hire the wrong people and then expect to motivate them to be excellent performers for your team. It is much better that you proceed carefully and painstakingly and hire the right people in the first place.

Action Exercises
1. Identify the qualities of the best people on your team today. What can you do to be sure to hire more of them in the future?

2. The next time you hire someone, practice the Law of Three exactly as it is described in this chapter. After you have done it once from beginning to end, you will use this technique repeatedly in the future.

© 2013 Brian Tracy. All rights reserved. Adapted from The Brian Tracy Success Library: Motivation, by Brian Tracy. Published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association. Used with permission of the publisher.

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About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy is the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. One of the top business speakers and authorities in the world today, he has written 55 books and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on management, motivation, and personal success.