Back in 1997, I wrote Hire With Your Head and have since updated it multiple times. It was based on benchmarking more than 100 hiring managers I had worked with over the previous 20 years who had a track record of hiring and developing great talent. Two years later, Gallup introduced its Q12 in the seminal book, First Break All of the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Not surprisingly, these management principles weren’t much different than those identified in my far smaller sample. Fifteen years later, Google confirmed the earlier findings in itsProject Oxygen study.

My purpose, though, was different than Gallup’s or Google’s. It was to use these great management techniques to find and hire great people. This quickly led to thePerformance-based Hiring approach I’ve been advocating since the turn of the century.

The Five Core Principles of Performance-based Hiring

  1. Define the results, not the skills. If we manage and promote people based on defining and achieving results, shouldn’t we hire people the same way? So rather than define the skills a person needs to have to do a job, define the job as a series of 6-8 performance objectives. To get started thinking this way, convert all of the required skills into results by asking, “What does on-the-job success look like using this skill?” For example, 5+ years of product design for outdoor wearables becomes “design and develop the complete 2015 product line for delivery to the factory by Q2.”
  2. Fast-forward one year. Every job has 2-3 big objectives. One way to determine these is to ask, “What are the biggest performance objectives the new hire would need to accomplish in the first year that would earn the person a promotion, special bonus or huge raise?” For a director of HR this may be, “Lead the implementation of the Workday HR system across six international operating units representing 10,000 employees.”
  3. Define the “Process of Success.” Whether it’s a sales rep, engineer, mid-level manager or executive, there’s a sequence of steps involved in achieving any major objective. This starts by first figuring out the problem or challenge, followed by conducting some type of analysis, developing the key subtasks, putting a detailed plan together, organizing the resources and then successfully executing the plan. Once you have these steps figured out (see slideshow), you can reverse the process as the basis for the Performance-based Interview. This involves asking candidates to describe some comparable major accomplishments and then peeling the onion to uncover the process they used to achieve the objective.
  4. Put the performance objectives in priority order. The above steps typically yield 10 or more performance objectives. From a practical standpoint, the top 6-8 represent the critical factors driving on-the-job success. To increase interviewing accuracy, make sure everyone on the hiring team is aware of and agrees to these objectives. Otherwise they’ll revert back to their normal, and suspect, interviewing practices.
  5. Think Backwards. As seen in the slideshow, emphasizing what people need to have on their resumes and what they get in terms of compensation as preliminary filters excludes the best people from consideration. To attract stronger people, it’s far better to emphasize what people need to do and what they could become if they’re successful. This backwards thinking should start the hiring process. For one thing, if the work represents a career move, compensation will be a negotiating item not a deal breaker. Even better, if the person can do the work, they’ll have exactly the level of skills needed to do the job.

Hiring results-oriented people starts by defining the results you want and then hiring people who are competent and motivated to achieve them. This has nothing to do with skills, competencies or behaviors. Surprisingly though, those you hire will have exactly the skills, competencies and behaviors you’ll need to achieve the results you want.