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Alan Etterman shares his sensible hiring practices

Bill Lepiesza | June 8, 2008
Etterman's views on hiring are as straightforward as his description of himself as an IT guy.

I focus on business skills. A few layers down in the organization, they better hire some smart technology people, but I focus on the direct report level to the CIO. I always look at 60 to 70 percent business aptitude and 30 to 40 percent technology aptitude.

I also think hiring managers tend to hire themselves over and over again so you have to be aware of that. You also have to realize what culture you have as a company as well as what culture you have within your organization.

I have two other rules I follow when I'm hiring: Hire people who do what you don't like to do, and hire people who have passion for what they do. When I look at the good hires or the great hires, they are people that I hired who were smarter than me to start with or people who have surpassed my ability in a specific area.

I would assume that rule is especially important in your current role, where you have so many different functional areas reporting in to you.

I can't be the expert in everything, but I can sure hire experts in everything.

That also means you have to have a lot of trust in your direct reports and hopefully you can tell pretty quick if you've hired the right person for the job.

You can usually tell pretty quickly if they're not the right person. I usually know within 90 days if I've made a hiring mistake.

I believe that a great hiring manager is successful no more than 70 percent of the time, that three out of 10 hires will just not be good or just not work out.

I think if you strive for "the perfect hire every time" you paralyze yourself into never being able to pull the trigger. Which is why you end up with personnel reqs that have been around for more than 300 days.

When you know that someone is not working out, you've got to cut your losses. You can do that when you believe that 30 percent of your hires will not be the greatest hire. If you believe it somehow diminishes your ability as a manager because you made a bad hire, then you're never going to fire that person. You're just going to hang onto that bad situation, when you really need to just cut your losses, get it over with and start over.

That's an excellent point. And being able to do that is certainly a key trait for a successful manager.

If I wait 90 days or 100 days or a year, I've just wasted all that time. And I knew all the time we weren't going to get to where we needed to go.


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