MSMP 84: Mark Webster on Hiring Practices

Hiring is one of my favorite topics to discuss, and my guest for today’s episode of the Mads Singers Management Podcast, Mark Webster, had so much good information to share about that topic.  Mark is Scottish but has spent enough time in the US that his accent is somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.  He currently runs Authority Hacker, which he co-founded in 2014.  Authority Hacker educates website owners about the ins and outs of SEO.  In a previous life, he ran a digital marketing agency with 30 team members.  He also holds a small portfolio of affiliate websites.
One of the first things Mark talked about was the importance of hiring superstars.  “We want A+ people or nobody,” he said.  I couldn’t agree more: the cost of a bad, or even a “not so good” hire is significant.  Mark agreed, noting that one of his big mistakes in the past was not firing a bad hire quickly enough.  He noted that in big companies they get a “performance improvement plan” and three warnings, etc. but those small businesses don’t have that kind of “luxury.”  A business can be significantly damaged while you drag your feet on what should be a simple decision: letting a bad fit leave the organization. 
Mark also shared some great tips to mentally frame the recruitment process.  Firstly, he thinks about recruitment as a funnel.  You want to get “leads” (applicants) and you can only do so by really compelling “copy” (job descriptions).  He then shared that 10 out of every 50 applicants are people he really wants to pursue.  He also gave his thoughts on various online assessments (I mentioned my love for DISC) and he also shared some questions he likes to ask:
  • How would your last three bosses/clients rate you on a 1-10 scale?  We do check references.” He says this even though they might not have time to check references.
  • Are you more interested in the job or the company?”  If they don’t mention the job at all in their answer Mark knows it’s not a good fit.
  • What sorts of books/podcasts/youtube channels do you read/listen to/follow?”  If it’s mostly trashy fiction, we know these aren’t people who are dedicated to personal development.
I loved hearing these, so I added one of my own, “Do you do better working on your own or on a team?”  I’m not so much interested in the answer than in the way the question is answered.  If the person answers right away, I know that is the true answer.  If they pause and answer more slowly, then I know they are telling me what I want to hear (or at least what they think I want to hear).
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Mark and I talked for quite a while and could have gone on for even longer, but I wanted to be respectful of his time (and yours), so I had to wrap it up at some point.  If you’re interested in thinking through your hiring process more thoroughly, this episode is for you.
Key Learning Points:
1. Mads points out the costliness of a “not so good” hire - 4:54
2. Mark argues that you can outsource many things in a startup, but not HR - 6:41
3. Mark talks about a mistake regarding bad hires - 10:15
4. Mark shares his conception of recruiting as a “funnel” - 14:50
5. Mads talks about the concept of “recruitment as sales” - 24:11
6. Mark agrees and talks about “pre-selling” the company during a final interview - 24:40
7. Mads notes that the best hires love challenges - 25:25
8. Mark offers a framing question that helps him weed out candidates - 27:32
9. Mads adds on to that point, by noting the way that a particular question is answered gives a lot of information - 28:22
10. Mark adds some additional unusual questions that help him gain information about candidates - 33:45
11. Mads underlines the importance of having forums/opportunities to connect with staff - 45:41
Connect with Mark Webster