Can you read value signs?

Dave had mentioned something to me which I can’t get it out of my head until I blogorcise it (Steve’s great new word) because it is bothering me so much: this statement is really messing with my quest to get to David Allen’s “mind like water” nirvana.

The statement is a Tampa company’s description of their approach to recruitment, and in my view it is just so wrong:

“We hire slow and fire fast.”

What a huge red flag. They must do nothing but interview constantly while they are steeped in crisis management. If you hear something similiar in any company you interview with, hightail it to the door, for you don’t want to be there.

This is how I interpret “we hire slow”:

  • We aren’t very sure what we are looking for.
  • We can’t make up our minds.
  • It takes a lot for the people making the decision to agree.
  • We lose a lot of good candidates because we don’t show them much respect.
  • The people already working for us are expected to pick up the pieces when there’s a labor vacancy, no matter what it takes, and no matter what suffers as a result.

This is how I interpret “we fire fast”:

  • We don’t tolerate mistakes of any kind.
  • If you err once, we expect you to fail and will cut our losses early in the game.
  • When something goes wrong, we tend to look for the problem within our own people.
  • Agree with us and keep your job, air any difference of opinion and pack your bags.
  • Our managers are constantly reminded that the “at will period” in your first 90 days means “if in any doubt whatsoever, end it while it’s legally easy” — and by the way, their attitudes about all of this isn’t any different than ours.

This is how I interpret the combination of the two statements:

  • We can only afford to pay for instant producers.
  • We only want continuous, routine, specified delivery from you.
  • We allow no time for training, learning, growth or innovation. Don’t think, just do what you’re told.
  • Change of any sort will rattle our cage, and make us more vicious.
  • Meaningful work? What does that have to do with anything?

Now as the author of Rothacker Reviews Dave’s radar is truly up for telling statements like these, however if you are on a job hunt, or you are interviewing for contractors, suppliers, or business partners of any kind, you best learn to uncover their values by listening carefully to the things they say. Personal values and company values are illustrated every single time an opinion is expressed or a policy is explained to you. How carefully are you listening, versus thinking about the next thing you want to say? You don’t have to bother with a response if it’s not a partnership which is in alignment with your own values anyway.

If people tell me the work they do is “just too hard” I know their personal values are not a match for those of their company. Remember that in a recruitment situation of any kind, for job or partnership, there are always two decisions to be made, theirs and yours. Association is voluntary: choose wisely.


  1. says

    Actually, I think you’re being a bit harsh, Rosa…
    That’s also GE’s mantra, and they’re not exactly a snakepit.
    Let me suggest to you an alternate, benign hypothesis:
    We hire slow = we ask enough questions, and get enough people involved in the decision-making process, to be sure we have a good fit intellectually, culturally, emotionally, etc. Maybe there’s a detailed process conducted over a short period of time. Because of the number of interviews, it’s a slow process – as opposed to one interview, then an offer.
    We fire fast = we don’t keep dead wood around. When someone isn’t doing well, we make a legitimate effort to improve their performance, or find a role in which they’re effective, but we don’t just keep people on the payroll because they’re nice people.
    Now, you may be totally right about these folks. But, it’s only a possible interpretation that you’ve assumed.
    Why not ask the company what they mean by the statement?

  2. says

    Good thoughts Eric, and I do love your positive spin on it!
    Your point is well taken that a bit more context may be needed, and the advice does boil down to this: ask enough questions to discover what values drives the company, and how they actually walk their talk.
    Mahalo nui for adding to the discussion.

  3. says

    To some extent, I am with Eric on this one. I think the firm is trying to say “We take care to recruit the right person for the job. Once we have found you, we will expect you to be disciplined and effective in your work.”
    But by using slow to suggest taking care and fast to suggest decisiveness, this firm has totally obscured the point it was trying to make. They bring negative interpretations upon themselves.
    Ultimately, “we hire slow, we fire fast” has the same sort of cliched tone as “lunch is for wimps.” And who wants to work for Gordon Gecko?