3 Recruiting Lessons Learned From the Red Hot Chili Peppers

The RHCP are playing the Super Bowl!

Through their career they had recruiting issues just like any tech startup and company out there.

I have been recruiting and venting my frustrations on Twitter.

Recruiting is not BloodSugarSexMagik!

Recruiting is not Hot or Sexy or Magik

When Frusciante left the band the RHCP needed to fill that spot soon.

Dave Navarro just quit his band but had drug problems.

Zander Schloss wasn’t a good fit.

Arik Marshall got busy doing other projects and was “laid off”.

They held open auditions and this didn’t go too well.

They met Buckethead but he wasn’t a good fit.

Buckethead is so effing weird

Jesse Tobias also not a good fit.

Later on they hired Navarro.

These are the 3 recruiting lessons I learned from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

1. Don’t hold open auditions

When I used to play in bands I held open auditions. It’s a mess. You get a lot of everything but usually not what you are looking for.

A lot of hours and days of rehearsal wasted.

Lesson learned.

Don’t hold open auditions.

This could compare to hiring people for your company or your startup.

Don’t just put up a sign that says “We are Hiring”

This might work for a fast food burger restaurant.

This doesn’t work for your company.

“We are Hiring”…what? anybody?

Don’t set a day of interviews where anybody can show up.

This is a waste of time. Don’t do that.

Don’t ask candidates to call. You will get hundreds of calls from unqualified candidates.

Don’t ask candidates to email their resume. Your inbox will get hundreds of emails.

You need qualified candidates.

2. Find Qualified Candidates

The RHCP reached out to Dave Navarro who just quit Jane’s Addiction. He had drug problems. But he was a very talented guitar player. They have never rehearsed with him or played with him. They just knew he was talented.

They would go out to spot bands and find candidates. This was a great way to see how musicians played and behaved on stage.

How do you spot candidates in action for your company?

This is difficult.

Maybe you are hiring developers, sales people, marketing, startup hustlers.

How do you see them in action?

You could follow the usual process of qualification:

  • Use tools like the Resumator to collect applications
  • Read cover letters
  • Read resumes
  • Create score cards to evaluate applicants
  • Lookup their Linkedin and their online presence
  • Find their portfolio
  • Schedule phone interviews
  • Send them personality tests
  • Schedule personal interviews and question them thoroughly
  • Call their references

Another approach is to Pair Up with Candidates

  • You could pair program with developers
  • You could pair design with designers
  • You could pair market with marketers
  • You could pair sell with sellers
  • You could pair hustle with startup hustler

Pairing Up with Candidates

Pair programming is one of the best recruiting methodologies for programmers.

The same methodology could be used to recruit designers, marketing, sales, hustlers ONLY if the recruiter has the same or superior skills than the candidate.

For instance. It wouldn’t make sense if the recruiter doesn’t know anything about marketing and he/she pairs up with a marketing candidate. How can you evaluate if the candidate is any good or just full of bs?

Pair marketing

You could share a computer and work on a marketing campaign. You can evaluate the candidate by:

  • How they brainstorm the strategy for the campaign
  • How they write a blog post
  • What keywords they use
  • How they brainstorm the post title
  • How they put together an email campaign
  • How they use Google Analytics and other software tools
  • How they use Linkedin and Twitter

Pair selling

You could create a test scenario of making some sales calls. Your lead could be your coworker who is trained to simulate different types of profiles (the nice lead, the asshole lead, the not interested lead, the talker lead, the secretary, the boss, the non technical, the technical).

Have the candidate make the calls and put the speaker on. You can evaluate the candidate by:

  • How they communicate
  • Their body language
  • The way they take notes…if they take notes
  • How they respond to negative behavior from the lead
  • Their attitude
  • Their ethical and moral values

Pair Hustling

You could try and do business development out somewhere. You could prepare some surveys for a potential B2C product and talk to people at the mall or other public places to get answers for your survey.

You could also go to a mall and ask your candidate to go to a store and negotiate the price of an item. Everybody buys what is priced on the tag. See if he can negotiate the price down.

Go to a touristic area with a lot of city maps and give them away in exchange for hugs. Make a sign that says “Maps for Hugs” and tell your hustlers to collect 20 hugs.

There are other creative ways to pair hustling.

You can evaluate the candidate by:

  • Their assertiveness
  • Their self confidence
  • Their leadership
  • Their achievement drive
  • Their helping disposition
  • Their communication skills

3. Assess Cultural Fit

The RHCP played their first gig with Navarro at Woodstock ‘94. They played in light bulb costumes but Navarro didn’t really like the idea. Navarro didn’t really care for funk music and this affected the band since their music is mainly funk punk rock. Navarro quit the band later on in ‘98.

A light bulb

Navarro never was a cultural fit for the band.

If you play funk and one of your band members doesn’t like funk he is not a cultural fit.

Cultural fit is a tough cookie.

Even after qualifying candidates, going through all the recruiting process, through all the pairing, there is a chance this person is not a cultural fit.

Defining your culture

Do you have a culture of working hard, party hard?

Do you have a culture of remote working?

Do you have a culture of onsite working?

Do you have a culture where every person in the team is highly independent with no supervision?

Maybe your company culture is strongly tied with your company values or the personality of the ideal team member. If your candidate is not up to the same standard level they might not be a good fit.

Experience or skills are not enough.

If I can jam with Frusciante and the songs flow so easy. Damn! I want to have him in my band. If the guy just doesn’t get what I am playing and I have to stop and explain to him. Not a good fit.

Hiring for the culture you want is tricky. You migth not be Google and you won’t be able to have free food for everybody. Or have ping pong tables (which I find to be annoying as hell). Don’t over promise. It will lower morale.

Hire for the culture you have now or the culture you are trying to have in the near future.

Set some small goals for the culture you want to have and test your candidates for that type of culture.

Cultural fit makes the difference between a Navarro and a Frusciante.

I hope Frusciante is playing the super bowl