Every Recruiter Needs This CEO's Crude Hiring Catchphrase in Their Life

June 5, 2018

“Really take your time making this hire…” said no hiring manager ever. Every role you’re recruiting for needs to be filled ASAP. And not only do you need to hire someone fast—they need to be absolutely perfect.

In other words, you’re under a lot of pressure. And this pressure can easily result in hiring someone quickly over finding the very best person for the job and company.

However, Luis von Ahn, the CEO of Duolingo, is determined to make sure he never rushes into making a hire he will regret. The co-founder of the popular language-learning platform has hired a lot of people throughout his career, and his philosophy can be summed up in one short, colorful phrase that every recruiter should have on their desk:

“It’s better to have a hole than an a**hole.”

In a podcast interview with Business Insider, von Ahn says that when we’re pressured to fill a position, our natural instinct is to overlook a candidate’s thorny personality and hope it won’t crop up in the workplace. But this approach can be much more damaging to a team’s success than leaving a position unfilled for months. In von Ahn’s experience, “it is really detrimental to the organization when you hire people who are not very nice.”

While von Ahn’s hiring rule deserves a laugh, it’s also a pretty great one to follow—bringing a jerk on board can seriously hurt the bottom line and the long-term success of your company. In “The No Asshole Rule,” author Robert I. Sutton tells the story of a bad egg at the Men’s Warehouse who stole customers from co-workers, bad-mouthed the company, and refused to help other teammates—in short, he acted like an a**hole. When the firm finally fired him, total sales in the store increased by 30 percent.

But sniffing out a candidate’s character flaws isn’t easy. Von Ahn suggests that reference checks will often provide clues. For instance, if you ask a referee whether the candidate is good at working with others and they say it depends on the person, “that usually means they’re an a—hole,” he says.

It’s not just whether a candidate is a team player, it’s also important to be hiring for culture add over culture fit. People who complement and expand your company culture in positive ways can be real value-adds over the long-run.

So, the next time you’re facing a deadline and tempted by a less-than-ideal candidate, close your eyes and repeat von Ahn’s savage mantra. It may not solve your immediate hiring challenge, but at the very least it will bring a smile to your face.

*Image from Duolingo

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