Hiring for Creativity: The 5 Best Hiring Articles on the Web

I read a lot. I like good writing and I like to bookmark. Every day I see a new article on the latest hiring trend. But there are certain pieces of writing on the process and philosophy of hiring for your company that stand out in a big way. They’re heavy with the whiff of experience. They’re rational and useful. I’m constantly referring them to clients and friends.

This list is heavy on the tech end of the industry spectrum. That isn’t intentional. If your business is not tech related, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll find fantastic hard-won advice and logical thinking on hiring creative people in any fast moving industry.

Here are excerpts from and links to my five favorite hiring articles on the web:

1. How to Find and Hire Great People, Part 1, 2, 34 (from Adam Smith’s Blog)

This four-parter has probably been read by everyone in the Y Combinator orbit, or every tech start-up that’s hired anyone since 2009 for that matter. That’s because it’s to-the-point, practical and preventative in ways that many hiring articles are not. This piece is definitely written through a highly specific lens, but it’s in-focus and the high level tips–utilize your network, give homework, set the bar high but not too high–are spot on.

Building a network and using it to find the best people is a long term play.  CEOs who knew lots of people at Yahoo got a windfall when Yahoo started faltering, for example.  These events are rare and hard to predict.

You also can’t predict when you’ll get a phone call from a friend of a friend who isn’t happy at his current gig.

The best you can do is try to encourage these random events.  Meet lots of people, spread the word about what you’re doing, and be so awesome and excited that people remember you and your enterprise.

This is a great strategy overall, and will result in more frequent coincidences that result in positive results.

2. Wanted (from Rands in Repose)

There are two good reasons that I’m a fan of Michael Lopp aka Rands. He writes about business stuff that other people ignore and he’s a stellar writer. Reading his musings on management, software, and general geekery is doubly enriching. This article has a corporate-y spin, centered around the “req” process, but does well to highlight one essential element of hiring right: a clear, persistent, vocalized desire.

If you’re hiring well, you’re hiring people not just for this job, but for your career. These are the people who, for better or worse, will explain to others what it is like to work with you. They’ll explain your quirks, your weaknesses, and your strengths. When they eventually leave the group, they’re taking your reputation with them. You may never talk to them again, but they’ll continue to talk and my question is: what stories are they going to tell?

3. The Top 5 Qualities of Productive Creatives (and How to Identify Them) (99%)

This piece was written by Jocelyn Glei who edits my own posts for 99%. I’m a huge admirer of Jocelyn’s writing (and editing) and this is the piece that finally pushed me to inquire if I could write for her. Hiring any employee means making a reasonable guess of what a person will do at some point in the future. Therefore your tactics should center around teasing out the do. That means personal qualities and a well-communicated track record of events.

We tend to judge people based on their experience. This is, of course,  the whole basis of the resumé. Yet, while on-the-job experience is valuable, we must dig deeper. A better indicator of productive creativity is one’s willingness to act, to take the initiative to put an idea in motion.

4. Never Read Another Resume (Jason Fried for Inc. Magazine)

37 Signals honcho Jason Fried is known for his often contradictory and against-the-grain view of business building and process. I love his advice about doing every job yourself before hiring, and if you find that you really need someone, hire away  (though I don’t know how practical it is for every situation.) Jason’s advice boils down to this: you don’t have to do what everyone else does. Find your way.

I’ve run into a lot of companies that invent positions for great people just so they don’t get away. But hiring people when you don’t have real work for them is insulting to them and hurtful to you. Great people want to work on things that matter. Inevitably, a great person working on imaginary work will turn into an unsatisfied person. Then he’ll leave.

5. Cult Creation (Blog Newcomb)

Cult Creation is about building a team that acts like a cult: “a group of super high quality people who trust each other and have similar ways of thinking, learning, reacting, problem-solving and working together. ” Sign me up! Newcomb argues that the way to build a cult is through the hiring process. He clearly came to this conclusion by living it, and this comprehensive and informative review of his process is riveting, which is probably why it’s been read 39,000 times.

Never, ever make it easy to join your team.  In fact, make it very hard to join your team.  More talented people will respect this and be excited that it’s hard to join your company.  It is very important to A-level people that they work with other A-level people.  Publicly letting the world know that you have a very difficult hiring process will generally attract more A-level people and will scare off B-level people and below – making your job that much easier.

The reading you do before hiring is preparation. Hearing about other people’s stories may prevent you from making mistakes… or may not. In the end, finding a hiring process that works for your organization is something that comes with the framework of a well-built process and lots and lots of practice.

What are your favorite hiring articles?

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