entrepreneurship recruiting startup advice

Hiring people smarter than you

Startup CEOs are often advised to do this, but few people explain how the heck to do that, and its far easier said than done.

Ben’s got a great approach: actually do each of the jobs yourself, for real, before hiring people into them.

This resonates with my own experience, where “deliberate self obsolescence” has proved the most effective strategy for hiring senior management. Do everything yourself, and keep trying to make yourself redundant, by finding the most time-consuming thing you’re currently doing, and hiring someone else to do it.

This approach also neatly solves the eternal problem of “which role do we hire next?” – in a *prioritasable* fashion (which is important if you believe in scrum/agile/lean measurement, and can’t accept the answer “all of them!”).

PS a lovely quote in the linked post:

“The more experience you have, the more you realize that there is something seriously wrong with every employee in your company (including you).”


Personally, I finally escaped from this trap only when I started hiring on “enthusiasm” rather than on “skill”. So far, it’s not lead me astray…

1 reply on “Hiring people smarter than you”

Another consideration is what kind of smart people you want to hire.

Generally speaking, really smart team players are much harder to identify and satisfy than really smart soloists. Really smart soloists excel at being given a task/responsibility and allowed to run with it, but may cause problems if required to compromise or coordinate with others. Solo success can often speak for itself, although as always you have to beware of stolen credit.

The smart team player can be hard to identify because their achievements are, by definition, shared with and-or masked by the contributions of the rest of their team. And it can be difficult to keep them satisfied as the key to attracting and keeping a really smart team player is that they want to work with (and for!) people as smart or smarter than themselves. The soloists would rather outshine everyone else, while the smartest team players are out to be challenged and learn as much as possible from everyone else.

Also note that they don’t mix well at all, the team smarties and the solo smarties. They will come to intensely resent and often actively work to obstruct their opposites. Nor do they manage each other very well.

Both though do share at least one trait, and that is absolutely despising being arbitrarily overruled by someone less smart than them.

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