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Book Review - Who by Geoff Smart & Randy Street

Balkrishna Agarwal 6 min read

So have started reading the book “Who” by Geoff Smart. Its an amazing book. Hiring is the most important function of any business, this book really helps in structuring the thoughts & streamlining the process.

  1. Most problems happen because of hiring wrong & it happens because managers are unclear about what is need in the job. The first failure point of hiring is not being crystal clear about what you really want the person you hire to accomplish.

  2. Define the Mission, Outcomes & Competencies for every role. It has a very OKR type system.

  3. Communication within the organisation & prospective employees about the requirements are not clear, so people have different Goals.

  4. Trusting solely/highly on the gut instinct, rather than a throughtout frame work. Decisions based solely on gut feel, end up giving stomachache.

  5. Don’t optimise & always go for the A-players.

  6. Have a clear scorecard & hire with competencies that fit with both the culture of the company & role. Overlook the culture of the company at your own peril.

  7. Don’t expect every member do everything. A VP of sales should only drive revenues. He isn’t responsible to build channel sales or seek new industry verticals or serve as an administrator. If they contribute more, fine but the basic agenda should be clear & they should be evaluated based on that primarily.

  8. Hiring generalists or all-around athletes rarely works. Only leads to dilution of responsibility & culture. The mission should help you find not the generalist but the very best specialist.

  9. Most of the jobs for which we hire should have three to eight outcomes, ranked by order of importance. Focus on outcomes, not activities. (Not how many sales calls but on the Revenue targets)

  10. Socrecards not just help in finding A players but also helps A players in delevering A performances.


So I completed the book “Who” by Geoff Smart & Randy Street. I have literally highlighted the whole book. Everybody, no matter their hierarchy in the organisation needs to read the book. If you learn what the recruiters want from you, you can always Ace it.

Here are the notes, not sorry about being too long

  1. Recruiting is not a one time or intermittent process. Its a constant, never stopping/pausing process. Be aware of whats needed for the org next & be on the lookout.

  2. Ads get resumes but is a lousy way. Referrals from personal & professional networks is the best way to source A hires.

  3. Every manager should have a personal quantitative target of searching & hiring talented people. Motivate them to tap into their network.

  4. Whenever you meet somebody new, ask “Who are the most talented people you know that I should hire?” Ask your customers for the best salesmen they know. Ask about the best purchasing agents from you suppliers. Join professional organizations & ask the perople you meet through events.

  5. Doing the above turns your employees into talent spotters. Give them recruiting bonuses.

  6. Senior hiring should be targeted hiring. Make a network of advisors for the company. Their purpose is to offer advice & make introductions, reward them with stock or cash. Double-check to make sure its sufficient to compensate for the time & effort of these busy people.

  7. Schedule 30mins every week to identify & nurture A players. Ask them to suggest & introduce other A players. Create a list of the ten most talented people you know & commit to speaking with at least one of them per week for next ten weeks.

  8. Tactics: Interrupt; Measure performance against Previous, Plan & Peers; Push Vs Pull; Painting a Picture; Stopping at the Stop Signs.

  9. Gut feel & instinct is particularly important but you cant hire based on gut feel alone.

  10. Any rating below 7 is actually a 2.

  11. Err on the side somebody who is being too fast & focused versus being slow & extremely collaborative.

  12. Use the What, How & Tell-Me-More framework to ask questions. Go into the details, don’t assume anything.

  13. Don’t unnecessary prolong the process when you are sure that the person is a misfit. Don’t waste time on border-line cases. To succeed you need 3 T’s, Talent, Teamwork & Attitude.

  14. Example: “Create a sales strategy that the CEO approves during the annual planning cycle”. Six competencies for a sales job - Aggressive, Persistent, Hires A Players, Holds people accountable, Follows through on commitments, Open to criticism & feedback.

    4 stages of interview:

  15. The Screening Interview - Do it on phone. (a) What are your career goals? (b) What are you good at professionally? (c) What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally? (d) Who were your last five bosses, and how “will” they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them?

  16. The Who Interview - Go through each job one by one with all these questions. Start at the oldest & work to the most recent. (a) What were you hired to do? (b) What accomplishments are you most proud of? Do they talk about outcomes or about events/connections/process, etc… (c) What were some low points during that job? (d) Who were the people you worked with? & Ask them to spell their name & ask “ What will(not would) Ms. Boss say were your biggest strengths and area for improvement?” “ How would you rate the team you inherited on a A, B, C Scale? What changes did you make? Did you hire anybody? Fire anybody” How would you rate the team when you left on same scale?” (d) Why did you leave the job? (e) How did they feel about it? How did their boss react to the news? Don’t accept non-answers.

  17. The focused Interview - Make your team do these interviews, focused on the characteristics required for the job. Make one team member focus on 2 characteristics & present their report. Focus on actual stories. (a) The purpose of this interview is to talk about _________(dash). (b) What are your biggest accomplishments in this area during your career? (c) What are your insights into your biggest mistakes & lessons in this area?

  18. The reference Interview - Do right amount of reference interviews. Interview 3 past bosses, 2 peers or customers & 2 subordinates. (a) In what context did you work with the person? (b) What were the person’s biggest strengths? (c) What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then? (d) 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? (e) The person mentioned that he/she struggled with ______ in the job. Can you tell me more about that?

  19. The Skill-Will Bull’s Eye review. Match all the interactions with the scorecard for the job, do they match? Does the candidate have the will to do the job for the role? Does the candidate have the skill?

  20. After all the above process comes the process of Selling the job to the candidate.

  21. Take care & sell The Five Fs: Fit, Family, Freedom, Fortune & Fun.

  22. You don’t have to just sell to the candidate but also to their family. Take care of their anxieties, show them you care.

  23. Five waves of selling. (a) When you source (b) When you interview (c) The time between your offer and the candidate’s acceptance (d) The time between the candidate;s acceptance & his or her first day (e) The new hire’s first one hundred days on the job.

  24. Be persistent!

  25. 52% top businessmen say Management Talent is their reason for success. 20% - Execution 17% - Strategy.

  26. As a CEO Move Fast, be Aggressive, be Persistent, be Proactive, have high Work Ethic, have High Standards vs being Respectful, having Listening Skills, being Open to Criticism.

  27. As the roles grow, the talent & requirement changes. “What got you promoted to one rank won’t necessarily get you promoted to the next rank.”

  28. Focus on using & improving the peoples strengths rather than focusing on weakness to make it better.