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Who The A Method for Hiring - Book summary

In any organization, the #1 challenge is not about the right strategy, products or processes. It’s about finding and putting the right people in the right roles, so they can make the right decisions and deliver outcomes that matter. “WHO: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street presents a proven 4-step approach for hiring A Players in any level of your organization. In this free WHO summary, we’ll explain how to solve your #1 problem.

Understanding Your #1 Problem

Focus on Who, not What

Many leaders focus on the “Whats” in their organizations, e.g. the strategies, products and services, systems and processes. However, without the right people in the right place, whatever problems you fix will only resurface again. When you address the “Whos”, the Whats” will naturally fall in place.

Overcome the 4 Key Hiring Mistakes

Most traditional recruitment and interview techniques are ineffective because they don’t test if someone can really do a job well. After interviewing many CEOs, leaders and management experts, and then analysing the data in detail, ghSMART found 4 key mistakes that lead to hiring failures at all levels:

  • Lack of clarity on what the job requires;
  • Lack of good candidates;
  • Inability to choose the right candidate; and
  • Losing the selected candidates.

In the book, ghSMART also shares 10 common approaches (or “voodoo hiring methods”) that lead to hiring failures. You can get an overview from our full 14-page summary.

Ultimately, you want to hire A Players who fit with your company culture and can accomplish a specific job with high standards. ghSMART defines an A Player as someone who has at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of candidates could achieve.  Now, let’s dive into how to find, identify and hire such A Players!

The A Method for Hiring: The 4-Part Approach

The A Method for Hiring is a simple, proven 4-step process to identify and hire A players at all levels of the organization.

Who The A Method for Hiring summary_Process for hiring A players1. SCORECARD: DEVELOPING YOUR SUCCESS BLUEPRINT

You can only build a house with a blueprint. Likewise, you can only hire the right person with a scorecard. The scorecard is a job blueprint—it describes exactly what success in a role looks like, including the (i) mission (why the role exists), (ii) outcomes (what the person must deliver) and (iii) competencies (how the job should be done given the job requirements and company culture).

To get a breakdown of each of these components and tips on how to develop them, do get our complete summary.  Basically, you can’t develop great scorecards without first having clarity on your company’s strategy, culture and goals and how it translates into specific objectives and activities for each person in the organization.

Unfortunately most managers start hiring with only a vague idea of what’s required, or using a general/standard job description. A good scorecard creates alignment, lets the candidate know how exactly he/she will be evaluated, and can be used to monitor and evaluate performance after the person is hired. It should be updated/re-crafted each time you rehire, since job roles and requirements will change over time.

Here’s an example of how a scorecard may look like:Who The A Method for Hiring summary_scorecard sample


Most managers don’t plan in advance. When a position opens up, they pull out an old job description and rush to fill the vacancy. HR shortlists several candidates with the limited time and info, and the hire one of them using voodoo methods. Sourcing is about systematically looking for and identifying potential talents before you actually need the people.

The best way to find A Players is through referrals, not advertising.  In our complete 14-page summary, we share more tips and insights on how to get referrals from (i) your personal and professional networks,  (ii)  your employees, and (iii) business network. We also touch on using external recruiters and/or researchers and the use of sourcing systems to build your talent pipeline.


Traditional interview techniques don’t predict job performance because they focus on how someone behaves during the interview rather than on their track record. You need a structured approach to gather info and evaluate candidates against the Scorecard. Specifically, you’re looking for A Players who have a history of delivering the desired outcomes, have competencies that fit the role and culture, and are passionate about the role.

In our full book summary you can find a detailed processes, examples, tips and questions for each of these 4 interviews:

i. The screening interview

Sift out the B and C Players quickly using a short phone-based interview. You can potentially weed out 80-90% of the candidates at this phase, thus saving yourselves lots of unnecessary time and energy later on.

ii. The Topgrading Interview

This interview covers the candidate’s career in a chronological order, using 5 questions to draw out specific facts and stories about each career phase. By the end of 3-5 hours, you’ll have a much clearer assessment of the candidate.

iii. The focused interview

This interview takes about 45-60 minutes, and the goal is to dig deeper for info on specific outcomes or competencies in the scorecard.

iv. The reference interview

You’re now ready to test what you learned about the candidate through reference checks. Never skip this step.

Only move someone to the next phase of the interview if you’re truly excited about them and convinced that they could be the ideal candidate. After the 4 interviews, complete the scorecards and give each candidate an overall grade of A, B, or C. Only hire A-graders. If you have no A-graders, keep sourcing; if you have multiple A-graders then hire the best.


Your job is not done until the candidate is delivering results as your employee. To get them through the door, you must sell to them by sincerely appealing to the 5Fs that people care about: Fit, Family, Freedom, Fortune, and Fun.  And, in reality, you’ll have to sell throughout the recruitment process, not just at the end. Specifically, you must sell across 5 phases of the hiring process: during sourcing, during interviews, while waiting for the candidate to accept your offer, after the offer has been accepted, and during the new hire’s first 100 days on the job. You can lose the person at any point in this process. Listen for concerns regarding the 5Fs and address them immediately. Do your best to maximize your A Player’s chances of success.


Hiring A Players takes deliberate effort, hard work and persistence. However, the results are worth it, since the right talents will influence/shape your company culture/direction and define your long-term success. Eventually, your goal should be to build an A-team, i.e. a team of A Players, each with their own strengths suited for a specific role.

You don’t have to be a CEO to use the A method of hiring—it can be applied at any level in an organization, be it a department, business unit or a function.

Getting the Most from WHO The A Method for Hiring

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 23-minute audio summary.

Who The A Method for Hiring summary - book summary bundle

This is an invaluable human resource (HR) guidebook, with clear, structured recruitment tips for hiring A Players. Besides the highlights in this summary, the book includes many other tips and insights, including: red flags or behavioral warning signs to look out for, 10 things required for installing the A method, legal traps to avoid, and numerous examples with specific scripts and phrases to help you get the most from your hiring process. You can purchase the book here for the full details, or visit

About the Authors of WHO The A Method for Hiring

Who: The A Method for Hiring is written by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.

Geoff Smart is an entrepreneur, speaker and author. He’s the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership advisory firm that helps companies with hiring, developing and leading talented teams. In 2017 and 2018, Forbes named ghSMART as the best management consulting firm in its industry segment based on surveys of business leaders.

Randy Street is the managing partner of ghSMART. Prior to that, he was an EVP for sales & marketing and EVP for corporate development & strategy with EzGov, and a strategy consultant with Bain & Company.

WHO The A Method for Hiring Quotes

“In business, you are who you hire.”

“One of the painful truths of hiring is this: it is hard to see people for who they really are.”

“The first failure point of hiring is not being crystal clear about what you really want the person you hire to accomplish.”

“By turning employees into talent spotters, everyone starts viewing the business through a who lens, not just a what one.”

“The key to successfully selling your candidate to join your company is putting yourself in his or her shoes. Care about what they care about.”

Click here to download the WHO summary & infographic

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