Why I Never Hire Brilliant Men

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Why I Never Hire Brilliant Men originally appeared in the February 1924 issue of The American Magazine. An excerpt:

Every year I picked up a half-dozen live young fellows who seemed to have a capacity for hard work, and shoved them in at the bottom of the pile, letting them make their way up to the better air and sunlight at the top — if they had it in them to do it.

For a time I tried picking these youngsters out of the colleges. But my experience with college men was not fortunate. If I selected good students, I found too often that their leadership had been won by doing very well what their teachers had laid out for them. They had developed a fine capacity for taking orders, but not much initiative. If I hired athletes, too many of them seemed to feel that their life work was done; that the world owed them a living in exchange for what they had achieved for the grand old school. Also, there is not much social distinction in the grocery business. Young ladies — and their mothers — are much more thrilled by bonds than by butter and eggs.

So I took most of my raw material from our delivery wagons, or other places right at hand. Out of this hard-muscled, hard-headed stuff I have built a business that has made me rich according to the standards of our locality, and has built modest fortunes for at least twenty other men. More important than that, it has stood for clean dealing and a faithful adherence to the best business ethics. Even our hottest competitors, I think, are willing to grant us that.

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