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The key points of 'Who By Geoff Smart

The book 'Who' by Geoff Smart provides an insightful exploration into the art and science of hiring the right people. It presents a methodical approach to identifying, interviewing, and retaining top talent, which is crucial for the success of any organization. The 'Who' Method, also known as the A Method for Hiring, is a comprehensive system that aims to streamline the recruitment process and ensure that companies make the best hiring decisions. This article distills the key points of Smart's methodology into essential takeaways that can be applied to enhance hiring practices and build a stronger workforce.

Key Takeaways

  • The 'Who' Method emphasizes the importance of a systematic approach to hiring, which includes developing a detailed job scorecard, sourcing top talent, conducting thorough interviews, and selling the job to candidates.

  • Creating a job scorecard is critical for defining the outcomes and competencies needed for a role, ensuring that the hiring process aligns with strategic business objectives.

  • Sourcing candidates should be an ongoing practice, focusing on attracting A-players through networking, referrals, and proactive search strategies rather than relying solely on job postings.

  • The Comprehensive Interview is a cornerstone of the 'Who' Method, involving a chronological exploration of a candidate's career to assess fit and potential, complemented by tailored interview questions that reveal competencies and motivations.

  • Closing the deal goes beyond negotiating an offer; it includes onboarding new hires effectively and implementing long-term strategies for talent retention, such as fostering a positive company culture, providing career development opportunities, and recognizing performance.

Understanding the 'Who' Method

The Importance of Hiring

The success of any organization hinges on the quality of its team. Hiring the right people is not just about filling a vacancy; it's about ensuring a long-term fit that will drive the company forward. A strategic approach to hiring can lead to increased productivity, a stronger company culture, and ultimately, a significant competitive advantage.

When considering candidates, it's essential to focus on benefits they can bring to the role, rather than just their technical skills or experience. This means asking leading questions that reveal their potential to contribute to the team's success and align with the company's values.

Remember, the goal is to find individuals who will not only excel in their positions but also thrive within the company's ecosystem, contributing to a vibrant and dynamic work environment.

Overview of the 'Who' Method

The 'Who' Method, developed by Geoff Smart, is a revolutionary approach to hiring that emphasizes the importance of talent acquisition as a key driver of organizational success. Identifying the right 'who' for your team is more critical than the 'what' or the 'how'.

The method is structured around a few core principles:

  • Clarity on the role and its outcomes

  • Rigorous interview process

  • Comprehensive reference checks

  • Convincing the best candidates to join

By following these guidelines, companies can avoid the costly mistake of hiring the wrong person and instead secure a team member who will contribute significantly to their success. The parallels with 'David and Goliath' by Malcolm Gladwell are evident, as both challenge conventional wisdom—whether in hiring or in facing giants.

The A Method for Hiring

The A Method for Hiring is a streamlined process that emphasizes the importance of finding A players for your team. It's about focusing on candidates who can deliver superior results and fit the company culture.

  • Define clear outcomes and competencies for the role.

  • Source candidates from networks and direct outreach.

  • Conduct thorough interviews to assess fit and potential.

  • Sell the vision of the company to engage top talent.

By adhering to this method, companies can significantly increase their chances of hiring individuals who are not only skilled but also aligned with the organization's goals and values.

The Four Critical Hiring Practices

Scorecard Development

Developing a scorecard is a fundamental step in the 'Who' method, providing a clear framework for what success looks like in a given role. It translates the job description into a set of objectives and competencies that are necessary for job performance.

  • Define the mission for the position

  • Set out specific outcomes to be achieved

  • List the competencies that fit with the culture and the role

By aligning the scorecard with the company's strategic goals, employers can ensure they are searching for candidates who will contribute to long-term success. The scorecard becomes a tool for both selection and subsequent performance management.

The Art of Sourcing Top Talent

Sourcing top talent is a critical component of the 'Who' Method, requiring a strategic approach to identify and attract the best candidates. Networking remains a key strategy, leveraging professional connections to tap into a wider pool of potential hires. It's essential to utilize multiple channels to broaden your search, including social media, industry events, and referral programs.

  • Identify key industries and roles to target

  • Develop a compelling employer brand message

  • Engage with potential candidates proactively

Effective sourcing is not just about finding candidates with the right skills, but also those who align with the company's culture and values. This alignment is crucial for long-term success and retention.

Conducting the Comprehensive Interview

The comprehensive interview is a pivotal step in the Who method, where the interviewer peels back the layers of a candidate's experiences and competencies. It's essential to delve deep into the candidate's work history and achievements to assess their fit for the role.

  • Begin with a review of the candidate's resume to understand their career trajectory.

  • Ask behavioral questions to uncover patterns of success or failure.

  • Explore their problem-solving abilities and how they handle challenges.

  • Discuss past team dynamics and leadership experiences.

Remember, a well-conducted interview can reveal critical insights into a candidate's abilities and cultural fit, which are indispensable for making an informed hiring decision.

Selling the Vision to Candidates

Once the interview process surfaces a top candidate, the focus shifts to selling the vision of the company. This is a critical step to ensure that the candidate's values and future aspirations align with the organization's mission and goals. It's about painting a picture of the company's future and the candidate's role in it.

Engagement is key during this phase. Candidates should leave the conversation excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. To effectively sell the vision, consider the following points:

  • Communicate the company's mission, values, and strategic goals.

  • Highlight the impact the candidate can have on the company's success.

  • Discuss potential career growth and development opportunities.

  • Share testimonials or stories of current employees who have thrived.

Remember, the goal is to create a compelling narrative that resonates with the candidate's own career goals and personal values. This is what will ultimately tip the scales in favor of your company when the candidate is weighing multiple offers.

Mastering the Interview Process

Crafting Effective Interview Questions

Crafting effective interview questions is a pivotal step in the Who method, ensuring a deep understanding of the candidate's capabilities and fit. Interview questions should be designed to reveal not only technical skills but also behavioral traits and cultural fit. This dual focus helps in identifying candidates who are not just competent but also aligned with the company's values and vision.

To achieve this, interviewers should consider a variety of question types:

  • Situational questions to assess how candidates might handle future job scenarios

  • Behavioral questions to understand past performance and predict future behavior

  • Case-based questions to evaluate problem-solving skills

  • Competency questions to measure specific skills or knowledge

When preparing questions, it's essential to align them with the job's scorecard, which outlines the desired outcomes and competencies for the role. This alignment ensures that each question serves a purpose and contributes to a comprehensive assessment of the candidate.

The Four Types of Interview Questions

Understanding the different types of interview questions is crucial for an effective interview process. The four types of questions each serve a unique purpose in evaluating a candidate's fit for the role. These include:

  • Screening questions to ensure basic qualifications are met.

  • Behavioral questions to assess past performance and predict future behavior.

  • Hypothetical questions to gauge problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

  • Case-based or technical questions to test specific competencies relevant to the job.

By carefully crafting questions in each category, interviewers can obtain a comprehensive view of the applicant's abilities and potential. Remember, the goal is to predict how a candidate will perform in the role, and the right mix of questions can be a powerful tool in that prediction.

Evaluating Candidate Responses

After conducting a comprehensive interview, the critical task of evaluating candidate responses begins. This step is pivotal in determining the potential fit of a candidate within the organization. It's essential to assess not just the content of the answers, but also the context in which they are given, and how they align with the company's values and the specific requirements of the role.

To systematically evaluate responses, consider using a scoring system based on key competencies and behaviors:

  • Communication Skills: How clearly and effectively does the candidate express their ideas?

  • Technical Expertise: Does the candidate possess the necessary technical skills for the role?

  • Cultural Fit: Are the candidate's values and work style in line with the company's culture?

  • Leadership Potential: For roles with leadership responsibilities, how does the candidate demonstrate their leadership capabilities?

This structured approach ensures a fair and objective assessment, leading to better hiring decisions.

Making the Decision and Closing the Deal

The Selection Process

Once the interviews are concluded, the selection process begins with a critical evaluation of each candidate's fit for the role. Decisive action is necessary to ensure that the best candidate is chosen without delay. A structured approach to decision-making can significantly reduce the risk of a mis-hire.

Consensus among the hiring team is crucial. It's important that all members are aligned on the decision to avoid any future discord. Here's a simple list to ensure a thorough selection process:

  • Review all interview notes and assessments.

  • Compare candidates against the scorecard criteria.

  • Check references meticulously.

  • Discuss potential concerns and red flags as a team.

Finally, once a candidate is selected, it's imperative to move swiftly to the offer stage to secure top talent before they are off the market.

Negotiating the Offer

Negotiating the offer is a delicate phase where the interests of both the candidate and the organization must align to seal the deal. Understanding the candidate's expectations and clearly communicating the value proposition of the role and the company is crucial. It's important to be transparent about the compensation package, growth opportunities, and company culture.

  • Begin by reiterating the role's importance to the company and how the candidate's skills are a perfect match.

  • Discuss the compensation package in detail, including salary, bonuses, and benefits.

  • Address any concerns the candidate may have and be prepared to negotiate on aspects like flexible working hours or additional responsibilities.

Arturo Elías Ayub's 'El negociador' offers insights that can be applied to the negotiation process, emphasizing the importance of building relationships and effective communication.

Onboarding and Ensuring Success

Once a candidate has accepted an offer, the onboarding process becomes the critical pathway to ensuring their success within the company. A well-structured onboarding program can significantly reduce ramp-up time and increase employee engagement.

Onboarding should be seen as an ongoing process, not a one-time event. It's essential to provide new hires with the resources and support they need to fully integrate into their new roles and the company culture. A thoughtful onboarding process can include:

  • A clear outline of job responsibilities and expectations

  • Introduction to team members and key stakeholders

  • Training sessions on company systems and processes

  • Regular check-ins and feedback opportunities

The final step in the hiring process is to measure the effectiveness of the onboarding program. This can be done through employee feedback surveys, performance metrics, and retention rates. Continuously improving the onboarding experience is vital for long-term success and helps in scaling online businesses.

Long-Term Strategies for Talent Retention

Cultivating Company Culture

In the realm of talent retention, cultivating a strong company culture is paramount. A culture that embodies the values and vision of the organization not only attracts top talent but also fosters loyalty and engagement among employees. It is the bedrock upon which companies can build lasting success, echoing the sentiments of John Brooks in 'Business Adventures', where the significance of corporate culture is highlighted as a cornerstone for business triumph.

To instill a culture that promotes innovation, teamwork, and adaptability, consider the following steps:

  • Define clear and compelling core values.

  • Communicate these values consistently across all levels of the organization.

  • Encourage open dialogue and feedback from employees.

  • Recognize and reward behaviors that align with the company's values.

Career Pathing and Development

In the dynamic landscape of a tech start-up bubble, the ability to adapt and innovate is crucial. Career pathing and development play a pivotal role in fostering an environment where employees are encouraged to take risks and grow. By investing in employee development, organizations can ensure high performance and retention.

To effectively implement career pathing and development, consider the following steps:

  • Identify key competencies and skills required for each role.

  • Establish clear milestones and progression criteria.

  • Provide regular feedback and performance evaluations.

  • Offer training and professional development opportunities.

These steps help employees visualize their future within the company, maintaining motivation and engagement.

Measuring and Rewarding Performance

To maintain a high-performing team, it's essential to measure and reward performance effectively. Regular evaluations are crucial for understanding individual contributions and aligning them with the company's goals. A well-structured reward system not only recognizes excellence but also motivates continuous improvement.

Performance metrics should be clear, achievable, and directly tied to business outcomes. This ensures that employees understand how their efforts contribute to the larger picture. Consider the following points when measuring performance:

  • Setting clear and measurable goals

  • Providing timely and constructive feedback

  • Recognizing and celebrating achievements

  • Adjusting targets to reflect both business growth and individual development

Finally, it's important to remember that performance measurement is not just about numbers. It's about understanding the human element of work and fostering an environment where employees feel valued and motivated to excel.


In conclusion, 'Who' by Geoff Smart offers a comprehensive guide to mastering the art of hiring. The book's key points emphasize the importance of a rigorous hiring process, the need to clearly define the outcomes and competencies required for a role, and the value of structured interviews and reference checks. Smart's methodology provides a practical framework for identifying, attracting, and retaining top talent, which is essential for any organization's success. By implementing the strategies outlined in 'Who,' leaders and hiring managers can make more informed decisions, reduce the costs associated with poor hires, and build a stronger, more effective team.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the 'Who' method in hiring?

The 'Who' method, developed by Geoff Smart, is a systematic approach to hiring that emphasizes the importance of identifying, attracting, and retaining top talent. It involves a series of practices designed to improve the hiring process and ensure that companies bring on board the best candidates for their needs.

Why is the 'Who' method important for companies?

Hiring the right people is critical for the success of any organization. The 'Who' method provides a structured framework for companies to follow, which helps them avoid common hiring mistakes, reduce turnover, and ensure that new hires are well-aligned with the company's goals and culture.

What are the four critical hiring practices in the 'Who' method?

The four critical hiring practices are: 1) Scorecard Development, where the job's mission and outcomes are clearly defined; 2) The Art of Sourcing Top Talent, which involves finding the best candidates; 3) Conducting the Comprehensive Interview, to thoroughly assess candidates; and 4) Selling the Vision to Candidates, to ensure they are excited about the opportunity.

How does the 'Who' method enhance the interview process?

The 'Who' method enhances the interview process by providing a structure for crafting effective interview questions, categorizing them into four types, and offering a system for evaluating candidate responses. This leads to a more objective and thorough assessment of each candidate's fit for the role.

What steps should be taken after deciding on a candidate in the 'Who' method?

After deciding on a candidate, the next steps in the 'Who' method include negotiating the offer, onboarding the new hire effectively, and ensuring their success through proper integration into the company. This helps in fostering long-term retention and performance.

How does the 'Who' method address long-term talent retention?

The 'Who' method addresses long-term talent retention by focusing on cultivating a strong company culture, providing clear career pathing and development opportunities, and implementing systems to measure and reward performance. These strategies help in keeping employees engaged and motivated over time.

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