Stop hiring TO’s at your company

Terrell Owens looks GREAT on paper. He catches more touchdowns per game than almost any wide receiver in recent NFL history. TO is also a jerk to team up with. He’s demonstrated an ability to blow up healthy organizations from SF to Philly and maybe even Dallas.

In my humble opinion, Bill Parcell’s retirement had something to do with TO’s impending return for another year with the Cowboys.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned for any business manager or leader who seeks to establish a friendly, customer delighting company. The lesson is simple: No more TO’s.

We hire TO’s all the time based on their stellar resume and our hunger to fill a job opening with the most qualified candidate. When they have top producer numbers, you salivate at their potential contribution to your bottom line. When they have a great education and good company’s in their history, you drool over their superior background to your average charge. Then you hire them, they make everyone else in their working group miserable, and you find yourself filling two or three openings a year later.

It is far easier to hire a likeable person with modest qualifications and then train them on the job than to hire a competent jerk and try and Dr. Phil them into getting along with other people. You’ll find that Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton and Google all hire this way. They first screen the candidate for social fit THEN they look at job requirement fit. This way you can build a real culture of friendly people that delight your Customer. No training program can overcome a lazy hiring program where managers are hooked on the “resume crack” and rely on tangibles to make their decision.

The next time a superstar is sitting accross from you in an interview, and unemployed, chances are you are staring at a TO who was thrown out of his last job despite great numbers. They got sick of him and they’d love for him to be your problem. Do yourself a favor and call one of your competitors and send him over. Chances are, they are hooked on the resume crack and will gladly accept him. Then wait a few months and get ready to hire the people that bug out of that organization because they cannot stand their working environment.

I also list this in marketing, because in a bloggable world, your jerk employees can kill your brand faster than your ad program can build it. As Scott Bedbury says in the book New Brand World, “your brand inside is your brand outside eventually.”

Recommended HR hiring strategy: Let the HR Staffing group screen a candidate for education and work history. Make the hiring manager do the interview WITHOUT seeing the resume first. Tell the hiring manager that she is not to ask the candidate where they went to college or the specific company they last worked for. Instead, in the first interview, have the manager evaluate their fit with the group and whether or not they are likeable to work with. I’ve created a Likeability self-assessment they can fill out prior to an interview that may give you some insight. If the hiring manager says they pass the social fitness test, then the manager can review job qualifications for the second interview. Besides improving the personality of the new hires, you’ll also notice that this really helps you avoid cronyism and build diversity. (Have you noticed that a Kansas University grad tends to hire other Jayhawks? Have you noticed that an IBM alum tends to hire other IBMrs?)

Recommended read: The No Asshole Rule by Bob Sutton