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The Hiring Game


It's not a surprise or a new idea that when it comes to hiring, you should strive to select the best and brightest people who have the greatest potential to grow and further your organization's goals. It should also not be a surprise that not every leader of an organization has the expertise to ask the right questions and gather the information necessary to be successful during the hiring process.

High potential candidates, also known as "hi-po's", are the applicants who have qualities, skills, and abilities that give them the most promise as future leaders in an organization, in comparison to other employees. Hi-po's work smarter, faster, and more effectively, while learning and leading others along the way.

So, let's try a hiring game of sorts. Here's the situation, you're a high performing principal in a district with 15,000 students. Your reviews with the superintendent are fantastic and you are well-respected among your current staff. For the past five years, you've been recognized by the district as "Principal of the Year," which not only includes a plaque and your picture in the paper, but a $50,000 grant for your school that can be spent on anything from books and field trips to teacher recognition programs. Now, the district office has come to you and needs your help. A new school is being built and a new principal needs to be hired quickly. They send you two candidates to interview and ask for your professional opinion.

Candidate 1
• Has a Masters Degree in Education and a Masters Degree in Math
• Has demonstrated success in their current position as a principal in another district for three years
• Received a National Math Teacher of the Year award five years ago
• Recognized two years in a row for the school with the greatest growth in the state
• Is a positive, inspiring hi-po with a clean background check

Note: Candidate 1 seems to be a high flier and an excellent hiring option. However, if they are hired, there is a good possibility that you will lose the highly-coveted Principal of the Year award.

Candidate 2
• Has a Master's Degree (Just like you)
• Has shown success in their current position as a principal in another district for the past eight years (Just like you)
• Is a positive, inspiring hi-po with a clean background check

Note: Candidate 2 seems to be just like you, an excellent principal and hiring option.

Question: Who do you believe the district should hire?

This situation is one that happens every day in school districts across the country. Leaders are asked to help make hiring decisions. The real question is WHO do you hire? Candidate 1, who has the ability to outperform you, or Candidate 2, who is a non-threat?

Who an organization hires says as much about the person selected as the person who is making the hiring decision. There is a saying in the world of HR that I frequently use, because it not only helps you make decisions, but allows you to reflect on your personal leadership growth.

"A's hire A's and B's hire C's."

In other words, the greatest leaders (the A's) choose to hire the person whose resume is stronger than their own and who has the greatest potential to help the organization succeed. Many leadership books say similarly that the greatest leaders are not threatened by people with better credentials, but inspired. Other leaders, (the B's) may experience great success, but they look to hire people like them or candidates who will not pose a threat to their position (B's and C's).

The "Hiring Game" Answer:
Using this thinking, the best choice for the district, teachers and students is Candidate 1.

What type of leader are you? How might you approach the hiring process differently in the future?


Not sure if I should leave a comment for this, but I enjoyed reading this :D Sometimes I think blogs should all come equipped with "Like" buttons.

Well, thanks Keith! :)

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The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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  • Emily Douglas: Well, thanks Keith! :) read more
  • Keith Salser: Not sure if I should leave a comment for this, read more