Who: Solve Your #1 Problem

Who: Solve Your #1 Problem

Randy Street
In Progress
Suggested By
Tim Ferris Podcast
Jan 29, 2021 β†’ May 31, 2021
Related to Insights and Realizations (Inspired by)

Notes from "Who: Solve Your #1 Problem"


  1. Mission: the essence of the job. Clearly define what the position has to do and avoid being too generic. Don't Hire a Generalist β€” Hire the Specialist.
  2. You won't let your family-practice doctor perform an open-heart surgery on you.
  3. Outcomes: the things you want the candidate to achieve in his role. Specific and measurable. Address later after the hire to evaluate performance.
  4. Competences: soft and hard skills you are looking for in the candidate.


  1. Referrals from your professional and personal networks. Talented people are likely to know other talented people. Always ask β€œwho are the most talented people you knowΒ».
  2. Referrals from your employees. Add sourcing as an outcome to every scorecard. Encourage employees to search their own networks for candidates. Offer a referral bonus.
  3. Deputise friends of the firm. Consider offering a bonus to partner companies or friends of the firm for successful referrals.
  4. Hire recruiters. Use the method in this book to hire A level recruiters. Invest time to ensure the recruiters understand your business and culture.
  5. Hire researchers. Hire contractors to source candidates for your scorecard. Ensure they understand your business and culture.
  6. Use sourcing systems. Create a system that captures the candidates and schedulers weekly times for follow ups.


Screening interview

Meant to understand if the candidate can be considered.

Keep short, 30 minutes or less.

Collapse the call if you don’t like what you’re hearing.

  1. What are your career goals? Ask before telling about your company. A good candidate knows exactly what they want and it matches your company needs.
  2. What are you good at professionally? Push to tell 8-12 strengths. Ask for examples that will put each one into context.
  3. What are you not good at or not interested in professionally? If they struggle to recognize their weaknesses, ask what would their colleagues, peers, and bosses say about their shortcomings. Ask for 5-8 areas of improvement.
  4. Who were your last five bosses and how will they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them? Notice the β€œwhen”. Press for details. You are looking for lots of 8-10. Consider 7 neutral, 6 or below is a red flag.

Conclude the call by offering to ask questions. You will be in a better position to sell the company based on the first part of the interview.

If you are not thrilled to take things forward with the candidate after the interview or feel hesitation, screen them out.

Don’t be afraid to take things forward with as little as 10-20% of the screening candidates.

It’s better to screen out a potential A-player then waste a lot of time interviewing B and C players.

The WHO interview

It’s a chronological walkthrough of a person’s career. Begin by asking highs and lows of a persons educational experience to get insights into their background.

Ask 5 questions for each job experience in the last 15 years. The questions are simple because it’s like telling the story.

It is important to work chronologically.

  1. What were you hired to do?
  2. What accomplishments are you most proud of? Watch the accomplishments to match the role expectations. If they don’t match it’s a red flag.
  3. What were some low points during that job? If a candidate hesitates, push with specific questions: β€œWhat went really wrong?” β€œWhat was your biggest mistake? What would you have done differently?”
  4. Who were the people you worked with? The first part is called TORC - threat of reference check. It is important to follow the order of the questions.
    1. First, ask for the boss name. Make a point you are writing it down, to let them feel you are actually going to call.
    2. Ask what they though it was like to work with their boss. If they are very negative, it’s a good signal that they will paint you in the same colours.
    3. What will your boss say were your biggest strengths or areas of improvement? Once again, it is important to say β€œwill”. If candidates can’t answer, keep reframing the question until you get an answer.
    4. β€œHow would you rate the team you inherited?” - applicable to managers. Do they accept the hand they were dealt or so they make changes to make a better team? Use the TORC framework on their team.
  5. Why did you leave that job? This question is the source of biggest insights. Were the candidates for your position promoted, recruited, or fired along with their career progression? A players are valued by their bosses, so they usually leave the job because of seeking for the next level.
TORC has a way of uncovering a mother lode of data about a person.

The average duration of a Who interview is 3 hours.

Master tactics for the WHO interview:

  1. Interrupting. You have to interrupt. The good way to interrupt is to match their enthusiasm β€œWow! It looks like X was really Y... Now, you were just telling me about Z...”
  2. The three P’s to measure the importance of the accomplishment:
    • How does it compare to the previous year performance?
    • How did your performance compare to the plan?
    • How did your performance compare to peers?
  3. Push VS Pull. Don’t hire a candidate who was pushed out of more than 20% of the jobs.
    • Push: β€œit was mutual, it was time for me to leave, I missed my number”
    • Pull: β€œmy biggest client hired me, my old boss rehired me”.
  4. Get curious enough to be able to clearly imagine the story.
  5. Stop at the stop signs. Spot the inconsistencies in narration and get curious.

The Focused Interview

Get into details of a specific outcome our competency.

Double check the cultural fit by exposing the candidate to other team members.

  1. The purpose of this interview is to talk about _____
  2. What are your biggest accomplishments in this area in your career?
  3. What are your insights into your biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area?

The Reference Interview

Pick the bosses or colleagues that you would like to speak from the Who interview, not the ones the candidate provides you.

Ask the candidate to set up the calls themselves.

Optimal number of reference interviews is 7.

  • 3 past bosses
  • 2 peers or customers
  • 2 subordinates

Ask the five simple questions:

  1. In what context did you work with the person? (memory jogger)
  2. What were the person’s biggest strengths?
  3. What were the persons biggest areas of improvement back then?
  4. How would you rate his/her overall performance in that job on a 1-10 scale?
  5. The person mentioned that he/she struggled with ____ in that job. Can you tell me more about it?


Use Skill/Will to match the candidate with the scorecard.

  1. For every outcome give an A-D score for the candidate
  2. For every competency give an A-D score for the candidate

An A-player is someone who matches the scorecard 90% or more, for both mission and outcomes and competencies.

Red flags during hiring process

  1. Doesn’t mention past failures
  2. Exaggerates answers
  3. Takes credit for the work of others
  4. Speaks poorly of their past bosses
  5. Cannot explain job moves
  6. Never had to hire or fire
  7. Tries too hard to look like an expert
  8. Compensation is the most important

Behavioural Derailors when hiring

  1. Winning to much. Boasting about wins that don’t matter that much. Their need to win can lead to conflicts and unnecessary battles.
  2. Candidate tries to add too many of their own ideas on top of yours. It means that yours one was not good enough. It’s an indicator of excess EGO.
  3. Taking excessive credit for leadership position.
  4. Making excuses. If asked what their challenges where leads to blaming others β€” that’s no good.
  5. It’s β€œjust me” attitude. If a person shifts all responsibility to β€œjust the way I am”.