Who by Geoff Smart

The A Method for Hiring

Parker Klein ✌️
Published in
12 min readJun 27, 2022


‘Who’ refers to the people you put in place to make the what decisions

Who mistakes happen when managers:

1. Are unclear about what is needed in a job

2. Have a weak flow of candidates

3. Do not trust their ability to pick out the right candidate from a group of similar-looking candidates

4. Lost candidates they really want to join their team

The average hiring mistake costs 15 times an employee’s base salary in hard costs and productivity loss

Finding the right people is the single biggest problem in business today

A resume is a record of a person’s career with all of the accomplishments embellished and all the failures removed

Top 10 voodoo hiring methods:

1. The Art Critic: people who think they are naturally equipped to “read” people on the fly are setting themselves up to be fooled big-time

2. The Sponge: if everyone interviews the candidate without coordinating their efforts, everybody may ask the same, superficial questions

3. The Prosecutor: don’t just ask trick questions and logic problems

4. The Suitor: don’t just sell the applicant on the opportunity. Listen to the candidate

5. The Trickster: don’t use gimmicks to test for certain behaviors like cleaning up or being cool at a party

6. The Animal Lover: don’t ask bizarre questions looking for a unique answer

7. The Chatterbox: random conversation doesn’t help you find a future trusted colleague

8. The Psychological and Personality Tester: savvy candidates can easily provide fake answers

9. The Aptitude Tester: use aptitude tests as a screening tool, but not in isolation

10. The Fortune-Teller: it’s the walk that counts, not the talk

It is hard to see people for who they really are

An A Player is a talented person who can do the job you need done, while fitting in with the culture of your company

A candidate who has at least a 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve

You are who you hire

The A Method:

1. Scorecard: a document that describes exactly what you want a person to accomplish in a role

A set of outcomes and competencies that define a job done well

2. Source: systematic sourcing before you have slows to fill ensures you have high-quality candidates waiting when you need them

3. Select: a series of structured interviews to gather relevant facts about the person

4. Sell: persuade them to join

The fastest way to improve a company’s performance is to improve the talent of the workforce, whether it is the ultimate leader or someone leading a divisional organization

Scorecards are your blueprint for success. They describe the mission for the position, outcomes that must be accomplished, and competencies that fit with both the culture of the company and the role

The first failure point of hiring is not being crystal clear about what you really want the person you hire to accomplish


Mission: the essence of the job

For a mission to be meaningful, it has to be written in plain language

Don’t hire the generalist. Hire the specialist

“Success comes from having the right person in the right job at the right time with the right skill set for the business problem that exists.” — Nick Chabraja

Seek leaders whose skill are optimized for each phase of the company’s growth

Outcomes: defining what must get done

Most jobs have 3 to 8 outcomes, ranked by order of importance

Set the outcomes high enough but still within reason

Scorecards succeed because they focus on outcomes, or what a person must get done rather than a list of things a person will be doing

Competencies: ensuring behavioral fit

Competencies define how you expect a new hire to operate in the fulfillment of the job and the achievement of the outcomes

Critical competencies for A Players:

Efficiency: able to produce significant output with minimal wasted effort

Honesty/integrity: does not cut corners ethically. Earns trust and maintains confidences. Does what is right, not just what is politically expedient. Speaks plainly and truthfully

Organization and planning: plans, organizes, schedules, and budgets in an efficient, productive manner. Focuses on key priorities

Aggressiveness: Moves quickly and takes a forceful stand without being overly abrasive

Follow-through on commitments: Lives up to verbal and written agreements, regardless of personal cost

Intelligence: Learns quickly. Demonstrates ability to quickly and proficiently understand and absorb new information

Analytical skills: Able to structure and process qualitative or quantitative data and draw insightful conclusions from it. Exhibits a probing mind and achieves penetrating insights

Attention to detail: Does not let important details slip through the cracks or derail a project

Persistence: Demonstrates tenacity and willingness to go the distance to get something done

Proactivity: Acts without being told what to do. Brings new ideas to the company

Competencies to consider:

Ability to hire A Players (for managers): Sources, selects, and sells A Players to join a company

Ability to develop people (for managers): Coaches people in their current roles to improve performance, and prepares them for future roles

Flexibility/adaptability: Adjusts quickly to changing priorities and conditions. Copes effectively with complexity and change

Calm under pressure: Maintains stable performance when under heavy pressure or stress

Strategic thinking/visioning: Able to see and communicate the big picture in an inspiring way. Determines opportunities and threats through comprehensive analysis of current and future trends

Creativity/innovation: Generates new and innovative approaches to problems

Enthusiasm: Exhibits passion and excitement over work. Has a can-do attitude

Work ethic: Possesses a strong willingness to work hard and sometimes long hours to get the job done. Has a track record of working hard

High standards: Expects personal performance and team performance to be nothing short of the best

Listening skills: Lets others speak and seeks to understand their viewpoints

Openness to criticism and ideas: Often solicits feedback and reacts calmly to criticism or negative feedback

Communication: Speaks and writes clearly and articulately without being overly verbose or talkative. Maintains this standard in all forms of written communication, including e-mail

Teamwork: Reaches out to peers and cooperates with supervisors to establish an overall collaborative working relationship

Persuasion: Able to convince others to pursue a course of action


  1. Chemistry is always important for both the individual and the company,” Johnson said. “If I don’t have good chemistry with you, and you don’t have good chemistry with me, then skip it

2. Commitment: Theirs to you and yours to them. That is a difficult thing to assess, but it really matters. I want people who are committed

3. Coachable: You can pass on learning and shortcut their development if they are

4. Do they have their ego under control? Are they prepared to address the problem? If they are thinking about the next job, they will fail. They must be focus on the job they have

5. Do they have requisite intellect?

How to create a scorecard

1. MISSION. Develop a short statement of one to five sentences that describes why a role exists.

For example, “The mission for the customer service representative is to help customers resolve their questions and complaints with the highest level of courtesy possible.”

2. OUTCOMES. Develop three to eight specific, objective outcomes that a person must accomplish to achieve an A performance

For example, “Improve customer satisfaction on a ten-point scale from 7.1 to 9.0 by December 31.”

3. COMPETENCIES. Identify as many role-based competencies as you think appropriate to describe the behaviors someone must demonstrate to achieve the outcomes. Next, identify five to eight competencies that describe your culture and place those on every scorecard.

For example, “Competencies include efficiency, honesty, high standards, and a customer service mentality.”

4. ENSURE ALIGNMENT AND COMMUNICATE. Pressure-test your scorecard by comparing it with the business plan and scorecards of the people who will interface with the role. Ensure that there is consistency and alignment. Then share the scorecard with relevant parties, including peers and recruiters.

Getting great candidates does not happen without significant effort

Talent pools doesn’t usually contain the best talent

Ads are a good way to generate a tidal wave of resumes, but a lousy way to generate the right flow of candidates

Ask people you know to introduce you to talented people they know

‘Who are the most talented people you know that I should hire?’

‘If you spot somebody like us, at a customer, at a supplier, or at a competitor, we want to hire them.’ — Selim Bassoul

A Players recognize A Players. It takes one to know one

‘Now that you know a little about me, who are the most talented people you know who might be a good fit for my company?’

How to source:

1. Referrals from your professional and personal networks

Create a list of the ten most talented people you know and talk to one per week for the next ten weeks. At the end, ask, ‘Who are the most talented people you know?’

2. Referrals from your employees

Add sourcing as an outcome on every scorecard

‘Source five A Players per year who pass our phone screen’

Offer a referral bonus

3. Deputizing friends of the firm

4. Hiring recruiters

Hire A Player recruiters

Invest time to ensure the recruiters understand your business and culture

5. Hiring researchers

Hire on contract

6. Sourcing systems

Capture the names and contact information and schedule weekly time on your calendar to follow up

Stay engaged: if you don’t own the process, no one will. Talent is what you need. Focus and commitment will get you there

4 interviews:

1. The screening interview

Conduct by phone in 30 minutes

1. What are your career goals?

Give them the first word before you talk about the company

Ideally, a candidate will share career goals that match your company’s needs

Talented people know what they want to do and are not afraid to tell you about it

2. What are you really good at professionally?

Ask for 8–12 examples

Ask for specific examples of each strength

3. What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?

You’re looking for at least 5–8 areas where a person falls short, lacks interest, or doesn’t want to operate

4. Who were your last five bosses, and how will they each rate your performance on a 1–10 scale when we talk to them?

You’re looking for a lot of 8’s, 9’s, and 10'

Once you get an answer, ask a follow-up question that begins with “What,” “How,” or “Tell me more”

What do you mean? What did that look like? What happened? What is a good example of that? What was your role? What did you do? What did your boss say? What were the results? What else? How did you do that? How did that go? How did you feel? How much money did you save? How did you deal with that?

Ending a candidates interview process early is exactly when good screening is all about. Too many managers make the costly mistake of lingering with candidates who are a bad match

Better to miss out on a potential A Player than to waste precious hours on a borderline case that turns out to be a B or C Player

Gut feel and instinct is particularly important in determining who not to hire

2. The Who Interview

1. What were you hired to do?

2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

3. What were some low points during that job?

Everybody has work lows

What went really wrong? What was your biggest mistake? What would you have done differently? What part of the job did you not like? In what ways were your peers stronger than you?

4. Who were the people you worked with? Specifically:

1. What was your boss’s name, and how do you spell that? What was it like working with him/her? What will he/she tell me were your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?

2. How would you rate the team you inherited on an A, B, C scale? What changes did you make? Did you hire anybody? Fire anybody? How would you rate the team when you left it on an A, B, C scale?

5. Why did you leave that job?

A Players decide to leave a job after being successful

B and C Players are pushed out of a job by a boss who did not value their contribution

Ask these simple questions for each job in the past 15 years, beginning with the earliest and working your way forward to the present day

It is very important to walk through their career history chronologically

The Who Interview takes three hours on average to conduct

Master Tactic #1: Interrupting

You have to interrupt the candidate

It is rude to not interrupt them because they will hurt their changes of having time to cover important events in their career

The good way to interrupt someone is to smile, match their enthusiasm, and use reflective listening to get them to stop talking without demoralizing them. “Wow! It sounds like that pig farm next to the corporate office smelled horrible!”

Master Tactic #2: The Three P’s

Questions you can use to clarify how valuable an accomplishment was in any context

1. How did your performance compare to the previous year’s performance?

2. How did your performance compare to the plan?

3. How did your performance compare to that of peers?

Master Tactic #3: Push Versus Pull

People who perform well are generally pulled to greater opportunities. People who perform poorly are often pushed out of their jobs

Master Tactic #4: Painting a picture

Put yourself in their shoes. Get curious to truly understand

Master Tactic #5: Stopping at the stop signs

The biggest indicator of someone lying is when you hear or see inconsistencies

Someone says “We did great in that role,” while shifting in his chair, looking down, or covering his mouth, that is a stop sign

Slam on the breaks, get curious, and see just how “great” they actually did

3. The focused interview

Focused interview guide

1. The purpose of this interview is to talk about ______ (fill in the blank with a specific outcome or competency)

2. What are your biggest accomplishments in this area during your career?

3. What are your insights into your biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area?

It is focused on the outcomes and competencies of the scorecard, not some vague job description or manager’s intuition

Continue asking “What? How? Tell me more” until you understand what the person did and how he or she did it

Each interview should take 45 minutes to an hour

4. The reference interview

Don’t skip the references

Pick the references you would most like to speak to. Don’t just use the reference list the candidate gave you

Ask the candidate to set up the calls

Do about four and ask you colleagues to do three, for a total of seven reference interviews

Interview three past bosses, two peers or customers, and two subordinates

Reference interview guide

1. In what context did you work with the person?

2. What were the person’s biggest strengths?

3. What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?

4. How would you rate his/her overall performance in that job on a 1–10 scale? What about his or her performance causes you to give that rating?

5. The person mentioned that he/she struggled with ____ in that job. Can you tell me more about that?

People don’t change that much. Past performance really is an indicator of future performance

A reference who hesitates is typically trying hard not to say something that will condemn your candidate

Suspend your judgment during the interview and get curious

Red flags: does not mention past failures, exaggerates answers, takes credit for the work of others, speaks poorly off past bosses, cannot explain job moves, more interested in compensation and benefits than in the job itself, tries too hard to look like an expert, self-absorbed

The key to successfully selling your candidate to join your company is putting yourself in his or her shoes. Care about what they care about

Candidates care about the five F’s: fit, family, freedom, fortune, and fun

Fit: tie the company’s vision, needs, and culture with the candidate’s goals, strengths, and values

How to install the A method for hiring in your company

1. Make people a top priority

Spend 60% of your time thinking about people

2. Follow the A Method yourself

3. Build support among your executive team or peers

4. Cast a clear vision for the organization and reinforce it through every communication with the broader team

“We are going to win with A Players”

“We will succeed because we have an A Player in every role”

“Our people will serve our customers far better than the competition because our people are all A Players”

5. Train your team on best practices

6. Remove barriers that impede success

7. Implement new policies that support the change

Place the following outcome on every manager’s scorecard: “Achieve a hiring success rate of 90 percent or greater. Build and retain a team composed of 90 percent or more A Players by a certain date.”

Require a scorecard for every job requisition

Require a Who Interview and a rated scorecard before an offer can be made

8. Recognize and reward those who use the method and achieve results

9. Remove managers who are not on board

10. Celebrate wins and plan for more change

An A Player is someone who accomplishes the goals on the scorecard, which only the top 10 percent of the people in the relevant labor pool could accomplish

Investors have the tendency to invest in CEOs who demonstrate openness to feedback, possess great listening skills, and treat people with respect

CEOs move quickly, act aggressively, work hard, demonstrate persistence, and set high standards and hold people accountable to them. This type of CEO is successful 100 percent of the time

To figure out the scorecard for what matters in a job, just think about what success looks like for the role and how you could measure it through metrics or observation

#SharedFromTwos ✌️



Parker Klein ✌️

Codin' 👨‍💻 + oatin' 🥣. Formerly @Google @Qualcomm @PizzaNova. Building the best place to write *things* down: Twos (www.TwosApp.com?code=baller)