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Should You Hire People Smarter Than You?

It’s one of the pieces of wisdom you read in business magazines.

Hire people smarter than you.

Employee Empowerment

You hear it from motivational speakers, successful entrepreneurs, and people who like to give advice on any topic. “The secret of my success was hiring people smarter than me.” But is that true?

If that were really true, than the dumbest person in any corporation would be the CEO. While some people may snicker behind their hands when they read that, most of us know that it’s just not true. So what’s the behind the myth? What does it really mean to hire someone smarter than you? And does Corporate America follow it?

What Does Donald Trump Think? “Management — Donald fought the platitude pattern and said “You want to be smarter than your people.” He thought the notion that you should hire people smarter than you was a poor one.” 800-CEO-Read (The CEO Blog) has Bob Rosen weigh in: “One of the most important aspects of being a leader is hiring people smarter than you. That’s why top leaders spend more time putting the right team in place to accomplish their objectives than they spend on planning, strategizing, or many other components of their job.” Small Business Bloggers Like Staff Writers Better Than The Top Guy: “Skellie is a young writer who he hired in late 2007 to be Problogger’s first staff writer. I don’t know what it is about her that makes the writing better than his; it just is to me. Now, you may think this is a dig against Darren Rowse, but is it not—in fact, this is praise. The reason why I give kudos to Darren Rowse is because he is a very talented writer and yet he managed to find someone who is more talented than he is. I think that hiring people who have a high level of talent is the mark of strong leadership, forward thinking, and a commitment to quality.” And this Kiwi (New Zealander) buys into the notion: “When we recruit new staff we encourage managers to hire people who are smarter than they are, with more energy and better ideas.”

So maybe that isn’t indicative of Corporate America, but Google ranks them the highest, and it brings a nice cross section of opinion. But what does it mean. Should we be shelling out IQ tests to candidates, and hire the ones who beat us? Should we challenge our employees to Sudoku matches, with the winners getting a set of steak knives and the losers pink slips?

Of course not. Like most management phrases, the words in general are true, but are often misused. You don’t want employees smarter than you, you want employees better than you at the tasks you want them to perform.

If you want a financial analyst, you don’t hire someone with a perfect 1600 on your SAT. You hire someone with a knowledge, experience, and most important, passion for what they do. That they’re good at crunching numbers and data doesn’t make them smarter, but you do want them to be better than you are at the task. As a manager, the skills you need are much different than those the financial analyst needs. So why hire a clone of yourself. You’d be smarter to find out what makes your current people so good, and then go out and find people who match that profile.

Whether it’s web development, sales, or even running a cashier station at Walmart – your goal is to find people who can do the job you need better than you can – because they want to do the job better. It’s as simple as that.


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