Books about Hiring


The short list immediately below are books that have been useful.  Haven’t had time to write a full review and wanted to save the reminder here.

Bossidy, Larry, and Charan, Ram.  Execution:  The Discipline of Getting Things Done.  Crown Business, 2002.

Fried, Jason, and Hansson, David.  Rework.  Crown Business, 2010.

Kawasaki, Guy.  The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything.  Portfolio, 2004.

Kennedy, Dan.  The No BS Guide to Business Success.  Entrepreneur Press, 2004.

Novak, David.  The Education of an Accidental CEO.  Random House, 2007.

Rath, Tom.  Strengthsfinder 2.0.  Gallop Press, 2007.

In the course of developing this package, we read a lot of books about hiring.  Here are a few that are a good use of your time when you’re ready to take your own hiring system forward and learn more. These links go to the dead-tree versions; e-books are available for many.

Note:  these are affiliate links.

Books about hiring

Hire with your head, Lou Adler

Hire With Your Head
The subtitle of this book is, “using performance-based hiring <SM> to build great teams.”  It’s a great book for companies with HR departments, who hire people with resumes, and pay executive salaries.  When you’re ready to improve your hiring system at this level, read this book, or the edition he’s publishing when you’re ready.

If you’re hiring hourly workers, or serving as your own HR manager, this is going to be like looking at the Sears Catalog and drawing up a wish list. You’d love to be able to do everything he suggests, and you can’t afford it, yet.

Lou Adler has one of the BEST descriptions of the process of focusing on the results you want from a position, rather than any “characteristic” you think of that describes the person who would be a good fit for the job.  He also believes that you can interview with two questions, augmented  with great probing after-questions. I am less convinced that small business owners, hiring the range of talent that runs a small business, can get by with just two questions. His questions are, “what is the most significant accomplishment?” and “tell me how you would address {insert your biggest business problem here}?”

96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, Paul Falcone

Great book about actual interview questions, not necessarily behavioral, and what you might expect to get as answers.  This is a good book to read if you have no idea of what a qualified candidate might sound like, especially if you are hiring outside your own technical expertise.

First, Break All The Rules

This book is comes from one of the people who brought the entire Discover Your Strengths phenomenon to the best seller lists. In his book, he calls a person’s innate gifts “talent” rather than “strengths.”  The point is the same.  People have innate gifts and leanings, and if you can hire to and play to a worker’s natural gifts, you will get infinitely better business results than if you try to fit square pegs into round holes by training or motivation.

Help Wanted and Help Found, Shawn Boyer

I’ve read a lot in the “how to hire” genre this summer, and Help Wanted, Help Found is the only book to focus on the hourly, lower-wage worker. In a world where turnover runs 100-140%, the approach taught in most of the other books on the market is at best useless, if not ludicrous. Applications vs resumes. Instant decisions.
OK, the author runs a job seekers website for hourly positions. That’s a lot of jobs–the board is full.
One other limitation–HW&HF does assume you have an HR department. If you’re starting out and figuring out, you’ll still have a lot of work to do. But if you’re stuck trying to figure out how to apply executive interview advise to your search for a lawn maintenance crew, this book will help.

Hiring Great People, Kevin C. Klinvex et. al

Hiring Great People was written in 1999 and while it is not at all wrong, it is fascinating to see how the market has shifted.  1999 was an employee’s market, and the examples in this book focus on persuading the best candidate to work for you.  Today, many employers have their pick and employees aren’t playing off three ideal alternatives. There’s a lot of good information about why behavioral interviewing is the way to go.

In addition, this book presumes an HR department.  It wasn’t always clear to me who would be making the process improvements the book recommends–the hiring manager, or HR?

Hiring Great People puts a lot of faith and energy into pre-employment testing.  For most new hiring managers, formal testing is not likely to be a cost-effective part of the hiring process.

Books about business with good information about hiring

The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber

E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber
The E-Myth Revisited was written in 1995. The original version, written in 1980, was called The E-Myth. Immediately after the 1995 book hit the bookshelves, the “e” prefix was reassigned from “entrepreneurial” to “electronic.” Many owners of real world, in-person services or brick-and-mortar small businesses overlook this book because they think it is about doing business online. It is not. It is about doing business, period. You should read it.
Especially if you are in a small business trying to do much the same work you once did as an employee for someone else, The E-Myth Revisited will help you understand how your thinking about being in business needs to be very different from what it was to do a job as an employee. You really should read it.

Winning, Jack Welch

I listened to the audio version of this book. Jack does the narration himself. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I’d read the paper version first. There’s definitely a sense of the man in his voice.
That said, GE got people right while Jack was there. (Maybe they still do–we’ll have to wait for Jeff Immelt’s book to know.) Jack spends a chapter or two on hiring, and people-management, and it’s hardball. If you drive a lot, this is a good book to pop in the stereo and listen to. You’ll know a lot more about very big business by the time you’re done, and it’s probable that at least some of the lessons will apply to what you do.

The Knack, Norm Brodsky & Bo Burlingham

The Knack by Norm Brodsky

Two businesses are what I’m remembering = courier service and records management. Norm may see them differently.
Norm’s view of business opportunity is almost as far from mine as I can imagine. I have a boatload of schooling and want to own my own job. He aims at $100M revenues and employs a significantly under-educated work force. In as much as he writes specifically and in detail about exactly what he knows, I can map his experience to my situation. People who write in more general, superficially “universal” terms rarely provide as much take-away value.

After the cash-flow chapter, the next-most useful paragraph, to me, was his wife’s explanation of how they can work in the business together, and how it took them 20 years to be married enough to be able to do it.
While Norm does not say much about how TO write a business plan, he has a lot to say about how NOT to. The lesson about reality-testing expectations of the future is useful. Infinitely readable and well worth the time you give it.

Pour Your Heart Into It, Howard Schultz

Pour Your Heart Into It is the story of Starbucks’ intersection with Howard Schultz from their beginnings as a coffee roaster to their international growth as of 1997. It’s an entrepreneurial story with a lot of emphasis on people care and people-thinking.

Books about Money

Where Did the Money Go? and How Much Should I Charge?

How Much Should I Charge?

These two books are the BEST financial guide for the small business owner  who doesn’t come to the numbers naturally.  If you’re a bookkeeper or a CPA, or any of the other businesses that handle money for profit, you won’t need them and you may well find them boring and simplistic.  But if you’ve ever been baffled by a bank statement, or someone who wonders why charging $65/hour doesn’t leave you with enough at the end of the month, Ellen is a gift.

The author intended you to read the books in the order presented–first, to understand accounting, and then to use your own accounts to reach a rational costing decision.  I came to them in reverse order, and they helped me.  YMMV.  Seriously–if numbers make your brain hurt and you’re the owner, you need to read these books.

Books about Security, Trust, and Violence

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe these books. When I’m talking about them, I’ll say, “books that tell you when to trust both good and bad feelings about people.” LOTS of people-trouble is MUCH more predictable than we may want to admit, at least in casual conversation. Being suspicious is generally considered a bad thing, but suspicion, rightfully applied, can spare your business a lot of headache, long before it escalates to actual disaster.

The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker

The Gift of Fear is simply the single most immediately, and long term, useful book I’ve ever read. I have given away more than 50 copies, and only once did someone give it back saying she didn’t need it. She happened to be wrong about that, unfortunately. Gift is about learning to trust your instincts, especially in the face of social pressure to “be nice” and “think the best of everybody.” One chapter is devoted to workplace violence in particular. Get background checks on everyone.
Protecting is similar information, written for parents about keeping your children safe but not cloistered.

Liespotting, by Pamela Meyer

Liespotting discusses three separate “lie detection” strategies–facial (emotion) recognition, interrogation, and current research–that can help you recognize important lies while they are being told (employment interviews, for the purposes of this recommendation). Some business owners will want to learn the questioning techniques that are more likely to unearth business problems and fraud; others will perhaps want to turn this part of investigation over to specialized risk management professionals. Either way, improving your own ability to recognize a probably lie, and get more information, will protect your business.