Who: The A Method for Hiring — A summary

“I feel great ! I have a fantastic team working with me now. […] It’s all because I have a team of A players.”

This is my summary of Who: The A method for recruiting by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.

Photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash

The “A” method for recruiting

  • Make a scorecard for the position
  • Source candidates
  • Select a candidate
  • Sell the job to them

The scorecard is what you seek: the mission, the outcome and critical competencies.

The mission: An executive summary of the job purpose. = why you need to hire for this role. Example: “Double revenue over 3 years by signing large contracts with industrial customers. Set one team for goal X”.

The outcome: Aim for 3–8 outcomes ranked by order of importance. Outcomes are what must get done and not what the employee will be doing.

Critical competencies: How the new hire should operate/What competencies really count. Competencies can bu used as checklists during the interview process.

Such as:

  • efficiency, integrity,
  • organization,
  • aggressiveness,
  • follow-through on commitment,
  • intelligence,
  • analytical skills,
  • attention to details,
  • persistence,
  • proactivity.
  • Or others, such as for Heinz CEO: chemistry, commitment, coachable, ego under control, intellect.

People agree that the best methods are, in order:

  • Referral from professionals
  • Referral from personal relations
  • Recruiters
  • The rest

There are 4 steps.

Short phone-based to weed out B and C players as fast as possible (less than 30 minutes).

  • What are your career goals ?
  • Seek passion and alignment
  • What are you really good at professionally? Push for 8–12 positives. Ask for examples.
  • What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally? You should get 5–8 areas.
  • Who were your last 5 bosses and how would they rate you from 1–10 when we talk to them (because we will) ?

Ask “how, what, tell me more” to get into real details.

The greatest interview to collect data on the candidate. It is eighty percent of the process. For every job the candidate has done, ask the following questions. Ask about the jobs in chronological order. Can be 3 hours long or even more (or less for junior candidates). The recruiting manager should do it, with a second person of the team (easier to take notes). Explain what the interview will look like at the beginning.

  • What were you hired to do (how their success was measured) ?
  • What accomplishment are they most proud of ? (The answer should match the scorecard)
  • What were some low points during that job ?
  • Who were the people you worked with ? Specifically: What was it like to work with your boss ? What would he/she tell us your biggest strenghts and areas for improvement are ? How would you rate your team on a A-B-C scale ? What changes did you make ? Did you hire/fire anybody ?
  • Why did you leave that job ?


  • You have to interrupt the candidate otherwise it will last forever
  • 3 Ps: ask to compare performance to Previous year, to the initial Plan and to Peers.
  • Seek if the candidate was pushed out of jobs (was not good enough, bad) vs pulled (better offer somewhere, good)
  • Be curious / try to truly understand the candidate

1–3 persons at the company should do it. Focus on a specific competency from the scorecard then ask the following questions:

  • What are your biggest accomplishments in this area ?
  • What are your insights into your biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area ?

You have to call references from old jobs.


  • In what context did you work with the person
  • What where the person’s biggest strengths ?
  • What where the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then ?
  • How would you rate his/her overall performance on a 1–10 scale ? Why ?
  • The person mentioned they struggled with X in the job, can you tell me more about it ?
  • Skill: Does the candidate have a >90% chance to achieve the outcome ?
  • Will: Does the candidate have a >90% fit with the mission and competencies ?

Now you have to sell the job the best you can to the candidate. You have opportunities to do so at every step of the process.

  1. Identify which of the five F’s really matter to the candidate: fit, family, freedom, fortune, or fun
  2. Create and execute a plan to address the relevant F’s during the five waves of selling: during sourcing, during interviews, between offer and acceptance, between acceptance and the first day, and during the first one hundred days on the job
  3. Be persistent. Don’t give up until you have your A Player on board

The five areas, which we call the five F’s of selling, are fit, family, freedom, fortune, and fun.

  • Fit ties together the company’s vision, needs, and culture with the candidate’s goals, strengths, and values. “Here where we are going as a company. Here is how you fit in”.
  • Family takes into account the broader trauma of changing jobs. “What can we do to make this change as easy as possible for your family?”
  • Freedom is the autonomy the candidate will have to make his or her own decisions. “I will give you ample freedom to make decisions, and I will not micromanage you”.
  • Fortune reflects the stability of your company and the overall financial upside. “If you accomplish your objectives, you will likely make over the next five years.”
  • Fun describes the work environment and personal relationships the candidate will make. “We like to have a lot of fun around here. I think you will find this is a culture you will really enjoy.”
  1. When you source
  2. When you interview (usually end of an interview)
  3. between offer, candidate response, first date, first month.

How to install the “A” method

  1. Make people a top priority
  2. Follow the method yourself
  3. Build support around peers
  4. Cast a clear vision for the organization
  5. Train your team to use the method
  6. Remove barriers (remove policies, standard, … that get in the way of hiring A players)
  7. Implements policies that support the change (have 90% of A players in team, require scorecards)
  8. Rewards those who use the method
  9. Remove managers who are not on board
  10. Celebrate wins

Avoid traps

  1. Do not reject candidates for irrelevant reasons
  2. Use the same process all the time

Product advisor & designer • I write about product design & management • Work with me: https://laugri.com • 🏄‍♂️ 🥘 🪴