Hire People Who Are Better Than You

My grandfather was a lifelong chemist at Miles Labs, the makers of Alka Seltzer. At his funeral, a colleague got up and told a story about a job candidate who they called a “rocket,” someone who was so talented that they would most likely stay a short time and then shoot off to a higher position elsewhere. “I don’t care,” said my grandfather. “If you can get her for even a year, it’s worth it.” Sure enough the candidate was hired, did great work, and left a couple of years later, and sure enough, everyone thought it was a good hire.

There are many reasons hiring managers are wary of candidates who seem more talented, experienced, or credentialled than they are. One is the concern above, that you’ll invest in them only to have them move on. Another is that the candidate will outshine you.

There are a couple of reasons why you should not hire someone better than you:

  • They are a difficult personality, uncollaborative, or otherwise a bad culture fit
  • They will be bored at the job, not learn anything, and consequently not do a great job
  • Their skills and interests are exactly the same as yours and there is no way to divide the work that will make you both happy

But otherwise, hire them. Don’t let fear or your ego stop you. It’s your job as a manager to hire them, train them, and then get out of their way so they can do great things. And in the end, their success will reflect on you.

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