A’s Hire A’s, B’s Hire C’s

By | December 6, 2013

[December 06, 2013] It is long understood that much can be learned about an organization by the people who are hired.  Simply put, hiring (and retaining) the best employees make for a better organization. 

The finest employees do not fear others who are the best and often enjoy the professional competition and camaraderie of others like them.  Any leader worth their title knows this. 

A deeper look into hiring patterns, however, demonstrates that this is not so easy and for a reason that may be unexpected.  Donald Rumsfeld1 notes that “A’s hire A’s, B’s hire C’s” and maybe even hire a few “D’s.” 

He explains, as others have, that talented and hard working people help create a positive work culture; a “culture of excellence.”  The best employees, those he calls “A’s,” are smart, experienced, and savvy people who know other A’s and can call upon them to consider for a job vacancy. 

The average employee knows they are not the best.  Those less talented, he calls them “B’s,” are reluctant to hire people who might “outshine” them.  Alas, these employees do not know the best people outside their organization or likely to know people like themselves.  Thus they hire C’s, those with even less competence. 

I will add that when A’s make an error hiring the wrong person they are more likely to repair the error.  B’s who make the same error are more disposed to avoid taking action on the problem. 

The lesson is simple … the best people hire the best people, average people hire mediocre people. 

The problem with too many marginal people in an organization is that the workplace starts to deteriorate, production slips, the working environment is less professional, the best people start to feel marginalized (see The Bias Against Achievement), and teamwork suffers.  Eventually, the best employees leave and the organization will no longer attract the best. 

Senior leaders in organizations should identify their best employees, let them do the hiring of other star level employees and encourage and recognize their successes.  Leaders know this intuitively and the best employees will only need encouragement and authority. 


[1] Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life by Donald Rumsfeld 

There are a number of books written on the subject of hiring the best people for your organization.  Here are a few that stood out as some of the best:

Hire and Keep the Best People: 21 Practical and Proven Techniques you can use Immediately by Brian Tracy 

Hiring the Best: A Manager’s Guide to Effective Interviewing and Recruiting by Martin Yate 

Hiring the Best: How to Staff Your Department Right the First Time by Martin Yate 

Hiring the Best: The Fast Track Guide To Win by Nick White 

Hire the Best…and Avoid the Rest by Michael W. Mercer 

Hiring the Best and the Brightest: A Roadmap To MBA Recruiting by Sherrie Gong Taguchi 

Hiring the Best Person for Every Job by DeAnne Rosenberg 

How to Hire the Best Service Professionals by Susan Hash 

Perfect Phrases for Perfect  Hiring: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Interviewing and Hiring the Best Employees by Lori Davila and Margot King 

Strategic Hiring: The Dynamic Managers Handbook On How To Hire The Best Employees by Dave Donelson






Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.