How to Hire the Best Employees


Tuesday, July 22, 2003


Every successful business at some point needs to hire high-performance employees.

However, the performance of employees in most companies is average to below average.

Just think about this for a moment.  How would you grade the employees of the companies with whom you do business?  I suspect the majority are low-performance types.

One fact is as clear as a bell.  You can’t build a great company without great employees.

The obstacles to effective employee recruitment cannot be overcome using conventional approaches.

Standard employee recruitment procedures are not very effective.

I’ve tried every known recruitment technique.  These include employment agencies, ads and referrals.

While on occasion you can find an outstanding employee by almost any method, by far the most consistently effective are targeted display and classified ads.


For starters, most companies treat employee recruitment as a personnel or administrative function.

I see employee recruitment as a marketing function.

Ads allow you to target the right prospects and market your position, your company and the job opportunity.  In contrast to this approach, employment agencies seem to be more interested in placing a “body.”  Instead, placing the right person in the right job is what any smart entrepreneur wants to do.

Plus, my style of help-wanted ads are so unique and different, they tend to attract very special candidates.

Here is an example of a recent very effective ad I wrote for a client.

Direct Marketing Superstar Are you experienced in mail order marketing? Growing company is looking for a special person
with experience for a dream job. You would be involved in planning and executing front and back-end sales programs, as well as handling certain purchasing responsibilities. Please send us a convincing letter, CV and salary history in confidence to ___________.

This ad has brought a huge response of highly-qualified people.

A key part of the ad are these Magic Words:  “Please send a convincing letter.”  I’ve found that the ability to sell oneself is critical, especially in a marketing organization. Plus, if you can’t sell yourself, you’ll never be able to sell a product or service.

You can “model” your ads in the same style as mine.

The next big challenge is to screen the numerous candidates you are sure to get.

If the job candidate does not bother to include a personal letter which answers the ad’s requests, I give the application no  further consideration.   Clearly, the person does not follow instructions and may be too lazy, or not motivated enough to respond appropriately.

You should be seeking people who can express themselves simply and clearly.  Such people are relatively rare.

I grade all candidates on a scale of 1 to 10 on paper, with 10 being the highest.  Look for 9’s and 10’s.

Unfortunately, the experts tell us 83% of job candidates are untruthful on resumes and job applications.  They lie about their salary.  Accomplishments.  Education.

As to educational credentials, request a copy of their grades on the letterhead of the highest educational institution they

Before you invest time in a personal interview, you should verify a few facts.  Here are a couple of things I urge you to do.

Call two or three previous employers of the 9’s and 10’s.

1.Verify the dates of services to the former employer
2.Verify the previous salary
3.Ask in confidence:
What are the candidate’s strengths?
What are the candidate’s weaknesses?

The above process will either encourage you to arrange a personal interview.  Or it won’t.

During the job interview, primarily look for the right attitude. While skills are, of course, important, job performance is 80% attitude and 20% aptitude.

Job candidates tend to get pretty good at typical job interview questions.

Here are some questions I’ve developed that are far more penetrating and help reveal the real person.  They also cannot be responded to with a rehearsed answer or one the candidate thinks you might want to hear. Preface these questions by stating, “We’re not an ordinary company.  I’m going to ask you a few questions which are not typical or ordinary. These questions will help me get to know you
a little better. There are no right or wrong answers. I’d like you to answer them or not, as you see fit. Is that OK with you?”

If the prospect says “Fine,” then proceed with the questions.  (I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and never had a prospective employee balk at the questions.)

1. When you are not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
2.   Do you have any hobbies?
3.   What do you like to read? Newspapers?  Magazines?Books? Nothing?
4.   What five books that you’ve read in your life have influenced you the most?
5.   Which single book has had the greatest impact on you? Would you please share why?
6.   In what job-related accomplishment do you take the most pride?
7.   Please describe the ideal job for yourself.
8.   If you were supervising an employee who was not performing to their abilities in your judgment, what would you do about the situation?

The above questions will help draw out your candidates.  This may help you make the all-important hiring decision.

TIP: Hire slow. Fire fast.

For years, I did the opposite. I hired fast and fired slow.If I liked them, that was enough.  I’d give them a job.

With my example and training, I always felt I could motivate them and salvage a non-performing employee.  Don’t do it.  This is a huge mistake.

While it’s indeed possible to change, it does require a commitment and action to do so.  Most people are not self-motivated or self-responsible enough to change old patterns.

It’s much more realistic as well as humane to place all new employees on a 60- or 90-day probation period. If at the end of the period it’s not working out, you’ll know it.  Deep down so will they.  Usually the job just doesn’t fit them.  This is part of life.  At this point it’s better to sit down, gently terminate the employee and go your separate ways. The longer time passes, it’s much, much tougher for both you
and them to part company.  Of course, as always, treat employees as you do everyone–with dignity and respect.

Accept reality early.  Your business will be more successful. You’ll be happier. You’ll experience fewer sleepless nights.  And even your employee can perhaps learn from the experience and go on to other things.

Hiring employees effectively is one of the most important ways to create a fantastically successful business.

Look for and hire the very best.

Yours truly,

Ted Nicholas

P.S. “The secret to success, in life and in business, is to work hard at the margin. Relentlessly.  It’s as powerful as compound interest, the eighth wonder of the world. Those little marginal extra efforts will inevitably grow into something big.”  — Bill Bonner

Little things mean a lot

“God is in the details”