Ask the Headhunter: A manager’s 8 secrets to better hiring

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Mature businessman and businesswoman talking in office.Yokosuka Museum of Art,Kanagawa Prefecture,Japan. related words: job interview, jobs, job, job search Photo by sot via Getty Images.

Headhunter Nick Corcodilos shares a manager’s eight secrets to hiring the best candidates. Photo by sot via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Some of the best mail I get isn’t in the form of questions. It’s advice from one reader to other Ask The Headhunter readers. What follows should be required reading in every organization. These are some of the best suggestions I’ve ever heard from a manager about how to hire.

If companies had managers like this, they wouldn’t have to tolerate the mess that most HR departments make of recruiting and hiring. And if the best HR departments had managers like this in their companies, they’d dance a jig.

A manager writes: Most of my colleagues do not know how to interview anyone. They rely on rules of thumb, guts or chicken entrails.

Actually, they have their direct reports interview the candidate and then vote on the candidate. I have a different way to hire, and I think it works.

  1. Recruit all the time. Always be in interview mode. Talk to prospective candidates even if you don’t have a place for them. (See “The manager’s #1 job.”)
  1. Don’t hire by consensus. Do not allow your team to vote on candidates. The hiring manager hires. People are tribal and will pick people like themselves. Do not have a team where everyone is the same.
  1. Start with all the resumes. Tell HR to send you all the resumes. Don’t let anyone edit your selection, because they’re not as qualified as you are to judge the applicants. If you know what you want, you can go through them much faster than an HR clerk. (See ”Sorting Resumes: A strategic hiring error” and “Why HR should get out of the hiring business.”)
  1. Hire the dancers. Don’t hire anyone for whom the job is a lateral move. That’s what contractors are for. You want people for whom the job will make a difference in their lives. You want your new hires to dance to work.
  1. Interview wisely. Interview only five candidates to prevent interview fatigue. Schedule interviews over a three to four week period and make a decision within 24 hours of the final interview. (Do all interviews in-person. Use the phone only to confirm availability. Phone interviews are nearly worthless.)
  1. Can they do the job? Ask candidates to audition for the job. Give them a simple assignment before the interview. (See “What is the single best interview question ever?”)
  1. Act responsibly. Write to every candidate after the interview and give them your results. It is common decency. Besides, you may want to hire the second best candidate in a few months.
  1. Get better at hiring. Last, review your process and look for improvements.

The problem with hiring this way is that the people you hire are so good that other departments will poach them. But that’s really okay, because you want to bring motivated people into your organization. Be proud of the impact your hires make.

Nick Corcodilos: I’d like to thank the anonymous manager who essentially wrote this week’s column. He offers some additional tips about how many job candidates to interview and how to handle questions about salary during interviews here: “How To Hire: 8 Stunning Tips.”

Like I said, this advice is so good that there’s nothing for me to add. What I think would be incredibly productive is to hear from this community — from hiring managers, job seekers and HR folks — about how you would flesh out these eight suggestions.

Dear Readers: How exactly would you put these tips to work? How would you tweak, bend and shape these ideas about how to hire, to make them work best in your work environment? If you’re a manager, maybe you already do some of these things. If you disagree with some of them, please explain and offer your own tips.


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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