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Hiring the Right People – A Trim Tab

The Trim Tab metaphor was used by Buckminster Fuller ~ an American philosopher, systems theorist, architect, and inventor. I met him years ago.  He shared something that has impacted me ever since ~ The Trim Tab Effect.  It provides access to the possibility of making something happen more efficiently without exerting more effort.

Bucky said: “Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.”

Consider your hiring process. Face it, you’re not going to be happy if you hire the wrong person. Anyone who has done so knows exactly what we’re talking about here. It takes a lot of time to recognize that you’ve hired the wrong person. Then, a lot of time to admit it to yourself, to try to adjust to it, and then to attempt to fix the problem. After all that it usually takes a lot of time to make the decision to fire that person. And after all that you have to start the process over again ~ more time, more energy and more money. Have a process that makes something happen more efficiently without exerting more effort. Trim Tab.

Here’s the process we designed to ensure a good hire:

  1. Start with good, qualified candidates. We hire a good placement firm.
  • The candidates will be pre-screened for skill level. In our firm it is essential that the right hire is competent in all Microsoft processes.
  • The placement firm will pre-test and pre-qualify candidates before referring them.
  • They will also conduct a thorough background check ~ don’t underestimate the value if this. I have and it has backfired on us.  Trim Tab.


  1. Conduct a thorough interview process. This means more than one interview with several people interviewing each potential hire. Sometimes there is the right “chemistry” with one person, but another manager may not experience the same. We conduct three interviews: the initial interview. the call back, and a final interview.  Simultaneously the firm is interviewing several other candidates in the process, rather than a linear process. This will expedite things significantly. Trim Tab.


  1. Test their skill. Give the potential candidates a TASK to complete. We do a lot of presentations with our clients so it is essential that our employees are facile with generating Power Point presentations. The assigned task is to provide a 14-page presentation ~ “Tell us why we should hire you.” The document should represent who you are and what you are about. The purpose of this Power Point is to present yourself in a way that represents you as the best person for the job.  This will give us a chance to find out more about you; give us a sample of the kind of work you do and the quality of the work you do; give us a better sense of how you think of yourself, how you think and approach a situation and how you think you might fit in with Leadera.  (We then give examples slide by slide of how the person might complete the task.)

PROVIDE SIMPLE, CLEAR DIRECTIONS: “Complete the following assignment and send it back within 24 hours.”  Following directions is a “must”. I’ve learned a lot from this step as well ~ how a person follows directions is essential to the successful fulfillment of work flow in the firm.  Trim Tab. 


  1. Trust your instinct. Recognize the difference between what’s “on paper” vs. what your “gut” is telling you. Some candidates have all of the right qualifications, but something about them tells you they are “not quite right”. Determine the difference between their credibility vs how they “show up” for you in person.  Trim Tab.


  1. Bring them into a public setting. We’re looking to discover what it’s going to be like working with this person ~ what they’re like in real life. We take them out for a lunch or dinner meeting. There we can see how they interact with people ~ reveals much more than how they behave in an interview. How do they treat the wait staff?  How do they place their order ~ are they ordering from the menu or requesting the chef design something specific to them? Are they easy to interact with socially? Where is their attention focused ~ on themselves or on others?  Trim Tab.
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