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Don't Just Fill the Seat
Hello! I’m Aaron Kardell. In this Sunday newsletter, I pick one random topic weekly to go deep on and have some disparate quick hits at the end.
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some fantastic teams throughout my career. I’m pretty biased, but I’ve been on a several-year streak of making great hires.
You’ll hear a lot of different advice out there in startup land on hiring and firing. Much of it falls into two camps: “Hire Slow and Fire Fast” or “Hire Fast and Fire Fast.”
Unless you’re one of the rare startups that’s blitz-scaling, you probably don’t need to hire that fast. I wish I had known early on how critical it is to be selective and patient in hiring. A mistake I made earlier in my career was letting urgency rule the day on hiring decisions. I would let the apparent pain of not having someone in a given role take precedence over all else.
And yet, “Hire Slow, Fire Fast is Bad Advice.” Basically, it’s not the speed of decision-making in hiring that’s really the issue. The more problematic thing is not taking the time to clearly outline the most important hiring criteria for yourself and your hiring team.
A lack of clarity on what you most need and/or why leads to decision-making where you “just fill the seat.” It doesn’t matter how fast that decision was. It matters that the decision wasn’t based on clearly identified criteria in advance.
To avoid “just filling the seat,” I recommend following Ben Horowitz advice from one of my favorite books, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. In it, he says: “I’d learned the hard way that when hiring executives, one should follow Colin Powell’s instructions and hire for strength rather than lack of weakness.”
To get the whole context behind that, I recommend you read Ben’s book, or the cliff notes on that part of the book here. Ben is saying that hiring decisions often come down to a group of people saying we all like this candidate, we find them agreeable, and we don’t find any significant faults. These “lack of weakness” decisions often fail to deliver what you need in a candidate. Ben advises knowing your top hiring criteria for a position and having those criteria be your primary filter. You need to hire for those strengths, not a lack of weakness.
This Week’s Quick Hits
It was a fun weekend celebrating my nine-year-old daughter in several ways. She had a dance recital yesterday. She and her dance team did great. She also chose to be baptized today, and it was great to celebrate her and her decision.
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