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Actually, You DON'T Want To Hire "The Best"

Of all the lies recruiters tell themselves this might be one of my faves. We only hire "the best". We only engage with "the best" talent on behalf of our clients. We won't consider less than "the best" for our open roles. In fact, someone looking to hire a recruiter recently told me "decent is a bad word to me", as he only hires "the best".

As I'm thinking about this post, I'm wracking my brain trying to remember a time a hiring manager said those words to me. "ONLY BRING ME THE BEST! NOTHING ELSE WILL DO!" I gotta tell you guys, I'm drawing a blank here. This is not to say leaders get it right all the time - but generally they know to caveat their requests with some specifics. In all my years of tech recruiting, we are usually looking for someone who -

  • writes clean code
  • has been part of or possibly led a team
  • solved large scale problems
  • has a relatively provable track record of success

Can I with any confidence say I'm going to find "the best" developer and convince them to take this role? Or "the best" manager to lead that team? What the hell does it even mean? Is it all just meaningless buzzwords we use to feel superior? If I let myself fall too far down the rabbit hole I have to wonder just who is holding the measuring stick for all this best-i-ness!! HOW CAN I KNOW???

Fun Fact - I can't. And neither can you. There are certain things we can and should vet as part of the recruiting process. Can the person accomplish this thing? Check. Are they interested in doing said thing for my client? Check. Will they actually leave the current place they're doing the thing and come do the thing here for the amount of money I can pay them? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you might have yourself a hire! Now congratulate yourself on being a master of the recruiting universe and stop wondering if someone "better" is out there. Because they are. You will drive yourself absolutely bat shit crazy if you focus on only "the best" however you choose to define it.  I guarantee someone else involved in the process will have a whole 'nother way to measure "best".

How about we look at this a little differently, hmm? Start asking yourselves these questions -

  • is my prospect QUALIFIED (they can do the thing)
  • are they INTERESTED (willing to talk about doing the thing here)
  • can I AFFORD them (I can pay what it will cost for them to do the thing)
This is obviously the BARE MINIMUM of what we should be thinking about / discussing - but how differently does our recruiting approach look when we stop caring about subjective, silly qualifiers like "best" and focus on things we can actually measure? A simple change in mindset is so freeing. All of a sudden I can start focusing on what MATTERS and forget about pipeline that won't fit my criteria, no matter how great. This is often a discussion when it comes to remote work - you can't really say you want "the best" when you're not willing to let people work from home. Or bring their cats to work. Or wear yoga pants. Someone, somewhere, is doing an AMAZING job at the thing, and you won't hire them because you have this or that rule. You can have those rules. Within reason and the law, you can have just about any old rule you want. So throw out "the best" and focus on what works for the team AND the candidate. In other words, "the best for this specific role, at this specific time, under these specific circumstances".

You can have a high bar. You can expect BIG THINGS from people (even more so if you give them something juicy in return - be it money, culture, growth, whatever). Just keep it real. Your clients and candidates will love you for it.


Not the best - but definitely sometimes really great :)


  1. Totally agree ! Screening in qualified candidates will bring in more engaged candidates compared to screening in the best :)
    Moo point Amy !

    1. Thanks friend!! :) it really is that simple, no? I don't know why we try to over complicate things...

      - Amy

  2. Replies
    1. :D
      I can't help but think how much time we'd save if we at least started with these basics ya know? ;)

      - Amy

  3. It’s statistically impossible for everyone to hire the best

  4. Totally agree with you. Hiring the best has no meaning. Hiring someone with a right skill sets, but highly passionate about her/his work is what it needs to be consider. Hire people with skill you are looking, but provide the opportunity and platform to them to deliver the best for you. All these nonsense interview processes never worked and never will work. Start building your team base on your own capabilities and your leadership, and have a best functional team than hiring a best candidate and rely on her to build a best team for you.


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