Hiring: Easy as Pie

08/22/2011 06:31 pm ET | Updated Oct 22, 2011

Over the last few weeks I've gotten involved in hiring for two startups, a public agency and a non profit. Part of each conversation was getting asked to help them put together a "job spec."
I had them leave with a pie chart.

There must be something in the air. In the last week I had four separate groups through the ranch all wanting to talk either about hiring a senior exec or a senior exec looking for a new job. Having sat through these job discussions as an entrepreneur, board member, and now an interested observer, here's what I concluded:

  1. Decide whether you're hiring someone to help search for the business model or to help execute a business model you've already found (same is true is you're looking for a job - are you going to be searching or executing?) Are you looking for a visionary or an operating executive?

  • The job specs for the same title differ wildly depending on whether the job requires search versus execution skills. Founders search, operating executives execute
  • If you're hiring an operating executive (CEO, VP, Executive Director, etc.)

    • Don't start with the candidate (board member x has a great VP of sales he knows, founder y wants this CEO he met at a conference, etc.)

  • Don't even start with the job spec
  • Since I've always been a visual guy, job specs with their long lists of job requirements always left me cold. My eyes would glaze over at these recruiter/board wish lists. I wished there was a way to see them at a glance. (Just to be clear this isn't the entire hiring process, just a way to visually begin the discussion.) So here's my suggestion: Start with a Pie Chart.

    1. Draw a pie chart.

  • List all the job specs as slices
  • 2011-08-22-Pie1.jpg

  • Adjust the width of the pie segments by importance. (Extra credit if you get the current CEO or internal candidate to help you write/draw the slices and weight their importance. Everyone involved in the hire gets to have an opinion on the slices and weights, but the person/group making the hiring decision gets to decide which ones to include.)
  • 2011-08-22-Pie2.jpg

  • Now that you have this spec, evaluate each candidate by showing his/her competence in each slice by length
  • 2011-08-22-Pie3.jpg

  • Compare candidates
  • 2011-08-22-Pie4.jpg

  • Easy as pie!
  • Lessons Learned

    • Are you hiring for search or execution skills?
    • Show the job requirements visually as a pie chart
    • Prioritize each requirement by the width of the pie
    • Show your assessment of each candidate's competencies by the length of the slices
    • Now with the data in front of you, the conversation about hiring can start
    Steve Blank's blog: