How to Hire the Right People: Operation Horsethief

If your company is growing – and we hope it is! – chances are you’re looking for new employees to get the work done. Out of a sea of applicants, how can you make sure you find the right one?

For starters, seek out candidates who clearly exhibit an eagerness for your company or industry from the get-go. Passion makes progress. “Operation Horsethief” was Mustang’s solution to finding passionate people, AKA Mustangers, and building a winning team. The excerpt below chronicles how Mustang Engineering succeeded in hiring the best of the best.

Excerpt from Mustang, The Story: “Operation Horsethief” 

It is pretty common that 20% of the people in a company pull the bulk of the load in making the company successful. We were working to develop a company where 80% of the people were pulling the load. We did this through small things like getting secretaries and drafters in front of the client to hand out their business card and show how they were helping the project.

We disseminated information broadly in a continuous attempt to make all eyes informed eyes”. By having informed eyes and people’s brains turned on in an encouraging environment, we could catch problems and conflicts while they were still small.  As we needed additional folks, we asked our people, vendors and clients if they knew people that would thrive in an environment like ours. We needed people who could work in an open, transparent, fun environment that also required a lot of personal accountability to produce.

 Good people know good people. That is about all we could believe in for hiring. We started calling our hiring process Operation Horsethief…identify the horses in other companies and go get them.

By Having A Fun Name For Identifying Top Performers, We Were Able To Keep It At The Front Of People’s Minds, Resulting In A Very Successful Hiring Practice.

It also helped that we would bring people in, have them drop all of the bureaucratic training they had and ask them to just take care of projects and people. They found this simple philosophy invigorating!

Sometimes we brought in people for interviews, liked them, but the timing was not right for either them or us. We may not have had enough work to add them, or they may have wanted to complete a job in order to not burn any bridges with their old company or their client. We agreed to keep talking and they were put on a department manager’s “want to hire” list. In many cases we worked out compensation and just put it in a folder. We wanted to be continuously interviewing and looking for good people that matched our criteria.

We had cobbled all of these people together from various companies and backgrounds and we wanted to rely on their capability in taking care of clients. We asked them to think in terms of working for the client and just getting paid by Mustang. Do what it takes to satisfy the client and get them coming back time after time. We’ll make sure you get paid and have the people and tools required in executing what you promise.

The payoff for joining and performing would be continuous work in a company that would not disappear out from under them, as happened all too frequently from ’83-’89 and again in ‘91. They could focus on the work while Felix, Paul and I would continue to work hard on their behalf to create a strong, stable company.

For more tips on how to create culture that inspires success, follow Bill Higgs on Twitter @MustangHiggs

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