The Two-Question Performance-based Interview - Part 2 - The Formula for Hiring Success

Recap: in part one of this series, the two-question performance-based interview was introduced.  The first question involves asking candidates to describe some of their most significant business accomplishments in great detail. While it’s only one question, it’s repeated multiple times to ensure you’re covering all aspects of exceptional performance. Of course, to accurately assess this question you need to first define exceptional performance in the form of a performance profile describing the top 5-6 critical performance objectives required for job success.  Most job descriptions over-emphasize skills and experience requirements with a short list of vague responsibilities. Being reasonably specific with regard to expected outcomes is the key to using the two-question interview and making an accurate assessment

The second question involves asking the candidate how he/she would go about completing one or two of the most critical performance objectives, including figuring out the problem, putting a plan together, and overcoming job-related challenges. This is more a give-and-take type discussion to get at thinking, planning and the ability to visualize job-related problems

The two questions in combination with the performance profile, and an in-depth review of the person’s resume looking for the achiever pattern is all that’s necessary to accurately assess a candidate across all job needs.

The following formula defining hiring success will help guide you through this process

Hiring Success = (Talent x Motivation2)+ Team Skills (EQ) + Problem-solving Skills

Organizational Fit

Here’s the quick explanation of each term. Some people call these factors competencies or behaviors. Regardless of what you call them, the idea is that you need to assess them in order to better predict a person’s ability to meet objectives described in the performance profile

Talent is the ability to do the work, and the easiest of the factors to measure. Surprisingly, too many interviewers, especially those with a technical bent, overvalue this factor, oftentimes demanding brilliance. While talent is obviously important, it needs to be measured in terms of job demands, not some artificial standard

Motivation to do the work required is the most important of these factors, and the hardest to assess. It’s squared in the formula since it has so much impact on job success, output, and performance. To assess it properly you need to find multiple examples of where the person went the extra mile doing work comparable to what’s needed to be done. Alternate terms for this could be “drive” or “results-oriented,” but the key idea is that during the interview you’re not looking for generic motivation, but specific job-related examples of the person doing far more than required

Team skills, aka Emotional Intelligence (EQ refers to the term Dan Goleman coined in his book on emotional intelligence), relates to how the person relates with others. During the interview look for examples of how the person interacted on projects and/or led teams. Seek out coaching examples, dealing with conflict, and persuading or inspiring others. Also look at the make-up of the teams, the person’s role, if the make-up changed or grew in size over time, and if they were multi-functional or comprised of more senior-level company leaders. Team skills and cultural fit is not determined by warmth or affability during the interview. It’s determined by the person’s impact and effectiveness in collaborating with others and the teams the person has been asked to join

Problem-solving skills addresses the person’s understanding of job-related issues and being able to figure the best course of action among various alternatives. The problem-solving question involves asking the person how he/she would solve a realistic problem. Look for depth of insight, the questions asked, the process the person uses to figure out the problem, and how he/she develops and evaluates different alternatives. As part of the assessment, get detailed examples of actual accomplishments the person achieved comparable to the problem under discussion. This two-question combo is called the Anchor and Visualize interviewing process

Organizational fit covers a number of dimensions including fit with the job, the hiring manager, and the company’s environment, values, culture, and its way of doing business.  From what I’ve seen, the candidate’s fit with the hiring manager and the job are the dominant factors here. If the candidate and the hiring manager clash from a style, coaching, and/or development standpoint, the person will fail, regardless of capability. Job fit is just as important. A person competent enough to do the work, but not motivated to do it, will underperform. On top of this you need to consider resource availability, the company pace, and the level of sophistication, to accurately assess organizational fit. Ask about these cultural issues as part of each major accomplishment question for comparison purposes.  (Here’s a video I’ve prepared that describes how to use the two-question interview to assess organizational fit along these dimensions.)

There are some caveats to follow as you assess candidates using the formula for hiring success. For one thing, don’t make a yes/no decision until the end of the interview. Most people are overly affected by the person’s first impression, good or bad, so it’s best to temper this by waiting until the end of the interview to determine the candidate’s suitability for the job. While it’s okay to determine if the person’s first impression will impact job performance, do this at the end, when you’re not personally affected by it. To make sure the team assessment is as objective as possible, go through each of the factors in the hiring formula as a team getting specific and factual evidence from each interviewer. Using the following 1-5 ranking scale can help minimize errors caused by first impressions, intuition, or biases. The idea is that each interviewer has to provide evidence to support their ranking, not feelings or emotions

The 1-5 Evidence-based Ranking Scale

Level 1: Not hirable. Not competent, missing a critical skill, or not motivated to do the work required under the organizational and cultural demands of the job

Level 2: Competent, but not motivated, or not a cultural fit. Technically and team-wise a fit, but not motivated to do the work required. Alternatively, the person is a weak fit from a cultural or organizational fit standpoint.

Level 2.5: Average performance. The person meets the minimum needs of the job on all factors, including cultural fit, but not exceptional in any

Level 3.0: Hirable, rock-solid performance. This is a person who can achieve all of the performance objectives listed in the performance profile and is highly motivated to do the work required. In addition, the cultural fit is right on. This person is promotable and can take on bigger projects quickly

Level 4.0: Far exceeds performance expectations. This person will do more, faster, and/or better. While the person will likely exceed the performance standards of the job, the person must also be given the freedom and opportunity to perform at this higher level

Level 5.0: High-potential all-star. This person will achieve a level of performance far in excess of what’s described in the performance profile. The company and hiring manager must support and encourage this, otherwise dissatisfaction will quickly follow

Using the two-question performance-based interview in combination with the hiring formula for success is a great way to assess competency, motivation, and organizational fit. It’s vital that some type of formal debriefing be part of the assessment where everyone on the interviewing team shares their evidence for each of the factors. Using the 1-5 ranking scale can help minimize the impact of feelings and emotions. Under no circumstances should you allow the team to add up individual yes/no votes to make this decision

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll describe how this type of interview can be used for recruiting purposes. Conducting an in-depth professional interview is part of this. Another part involves looking for differences in what the candidate has accomplished in comparison to the performance objectives for the job. These differences could relate to the size of the project or team, the importance of the work, or the opportunity for accelerated growth. Collectively, these gaps can represent a significant career move for the candidate, which can more than offset the need for a significant compensation increase.

Use a Forensic Phone Screen to Instantly Spot Achievers

While finding and accurately assessing candidates has always been important, doing it quickly will take on extra urgency as the economy recovers. Interestingly, if your candidates are high achievers, most managers will meet them even if they’re a bit off experience-wise. This is one way to ensure 100% of your candidates are seen. It will also reduce the amount of work involved in putting together a slate of candidates for any search assignment.

You can spot achievers in about 15-20 minutes by looking for clues high achievers leave in their wake. This is the forensic connection. But first, let’s define an achiever.

An achiever is a person who:

    • Is highly motivated to do the work required
    • Consistently delivers high quality results on time and on budget
    • Is personally driven to become better
    • Takes great pride in doing high quality work
    • Works well with a broad and diverse group of people
    • Will commit and deliver high-quality results despite the challenges
    • Doesn’t make excuses; just gets it done somehow
    • Volunteers for tough tasks or takes them on despite personal inconvenience

Let me start the forensic interviewing approach with a bit of reminiscing. I vaguely remember a high school physics experiment where the teacher demonstrated how to determine if a primary activity was present by looking at its secondary impact on other things. I suspect this is comparable to determining if a planet that isn’t visible is present by examining the gravitational shift it has on other planetary objects. Forensics is a form of this by looking at the clues left at the crime scene to determine what actually occurred (think CSI). From an interviewing standpoint it means looking for clues that an achiever pattern is present rather than looking directly for achiever-related behaviors or competencies.

Here’s how this works during the phone screen. A phone screen should consist of these four core sections:

    • First, the introduction and engagement
    • Second, the resume and work history review, looking for general fit and the achiever pattern
    • Third, determining if the person is a strong fit for the actual opening and if the position offers the person a career move
    • Fourth, either recruit the person for the open position, put the person in the talent pool for future positions, and/or get referrals

During the phone screen, the work history review should last at least 15-20 minutes, and longer for senior-level positions. For the uninitiated, a work history review is a comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s resume, job by job. Done properly, the achiever patter will quickly emerge. Here’s how to conduct this type of forensic assessment:

  1. Find out the actual dates of each major job, including months and years. Many people hide non-positive information in their resumes, so it’s important to first ferret this out.
  2. Get an explanation of any gaps in employment. If there are gaps, look for areas of personal development or special training the person initiated on his or her own. Achievers are constantly improving themselves, so look for this throughout the interview.
  3. Determine why the person changed jobs and why each new job was selected. Achievers tend to carefully select jobs based on some major overriding career goal. I’m not fond of asking candidates first what their long-term goals are, since this is often fanciful. Instead, I ask them about major career goals they’ve already achieved. If they have a pattern of achieving these goals, I then ask them about their long-term goals. Make sure the jobs selected logically support the major goal.
  4. Determine if the job change achieved the desired result. Non-achievers tend to move from job to job based on circumstances out of their control, or convenience, with a focus on tactical issues like compensation, location, security, and basic job content. Achievers tend to focus more on the strategic aspects of the job, including the potential for learning, impact, and growth.
  5. Within each company ask about major projects, accomplishments, and results achieved. Achievers demonstrate a pattern of increasing impact and consistent results. Quantify this with specific details, and look for trends and improving performance over time. Also find out how the person proactively expanded his or her role and influence. This is what achievers do, so look for it.
  6. Get comparisons of performance to the person’s peers. Compare the person’s specific performance to others in the group by asking about rankings, standings, differences between the top and average, and what the person would need to have done to be at the top level. Achievers are competitive and self-motivated to improve.
  7. Ask about any type of recognition received. Achievers receive lots of recognition, so look for this and be concerned if you don’t find much. Recognition can be any number of things like raises, bonuses, awards won, promotions, patents awarded, assignments to bigger projects, presentations at industry conferences, published whitepapers, huge blog followers, commendations of any type, scholarships, honorary societies, and leadership awards. The amount of recognition received, when it when was received, and what it was for are the best confirming evidence of this achiever pattern.
  8. Prepare a graphical work chart for each major position. Rather than use personality traits and personal affability to assess team skills, just track the growth of the teams the person has been assigned to over the past 5-10 years. If this has increased significantly to include expanded functional responsibility, broader cross-functional involvement, and more exposure to senior management inside and outside the company, you can be assured the person has strong team skills.

Achievers leave lots of evidence in their wakes, and if the wake is big enough, you can rest assured there’s an achiever out in front. Of course, you then need to determine if the person is a good fit for your current job opening and if the position provides the candidate a strong career move. You need both to ensure you can recruit and close the candidate on favorable terms, and beat back the competition. In my book, Hire With Your Head, I demonstrate in detail how to do this. Once you get the person on board, don’t be surprised that those with the achiever pattern also possess all of the traits described in your company’s competency model. As an old high school teacher demonstrated many years ago, you can often find something without looking for it.

This article originally was published in the Electronic Recruiters Exchange ( Check out ERE for more great recruiting information.

Lou Adler’s Single Most Important Recruiting Technique since His One-Question Interview

After 30 years of recruiting outstanding senior staff, mid-level managers, and company executives, I can now state unequivocally that the single most important step in the passive candidate recruiting process is the 30-minute exploratory interview. Here’s why:

  1. You will engage with 5-10X more passive candidates. Asking people who aren’t looking if they’d like to chat for a few minutes about a potential career move is far more productive than selling lateral transfers. Of course, you have to ask the question the right way to get 93.6% of them to say yes. This is at the core of our Recruiter Boot Camp program.
  2. You will be able to convert a job into a career. When you start the phone screen, don’t tell the person much about the job. Instead suggest that the purpose of the call is to determine if the job represents a true career move to the person. For the next 5-10 minutes review the person’s LinkedIn profile and find 4-5 learning and opportunity gaps your job offers that their current job does not. Use these to fashion the career opportunity as you move on to the next step.
  3. You will be able to minimize the impact of compensation in the decision process. As long as your job offers a combination of less pain, some short-term stretch, and long-term growth, you’ll be able to get the person to agree to minimize the need for a big compensation increase. Use this to gain a compensation concession to move forward into a more serious career discussion.
  4. You will be able to get 2-3 warm referrals of outstanding talent. If the person isn’t qualified, you’ll be able to network with them on LinkedIn and then search on their first degree connections. This is the most powerful feature and primary reason why every recruiter should have LinkedIn Recruiter. We provide step-by-step instructions in our LinkedIn Recruiter Master Course, but you need the exploratory phone screen to set up the process.
  5. You will be able to open up the search process to more top talent. Few top people are likely to jump at a chance to take a lateral transfer. In our training we show recruiters how to get 93.6% of passive candidates to engage in a short, exploratory career discussion. You can’t do this without the exploratory call, but converting these prospects into serious candidates is what you need to do during the call.
  6. You will be able to get your hiring managers to “own” the candidate. We suggest that all hiring managers first conduct a similar 30-minute exploratory discussion with the prospect. By taking full responsibility for inviting the candidate onsite, managers will become more objective and responsible in their evaluation.
  7. You will be able to minimize the impact of first impressions and increase assessment accuracy. Knowing something about the person before you invite them onsite for an interview naturally minimizes the perverse impact of first impressions.
  8. You will be able to get more people open to consider the idea of relocation. Asking people if they’ll relocate on the first call is like asking someone to buy a house without seeing it. It takes times for a person to fully appreciate the idea of a relocation as part of a significant career move. The exploratory call allows for this repositioning first step.
  9. You will be able to get passive candidates to sell you. Recruiting passive candidates requires finesse and advanced recruiter skills. Overselling is not a part of it. The key is to make your career move so attractive the person sells you as to why they’re qualified. This is the primary purpose of the exploratory phone call – moving one step at a time – and at the heart of all of our Performance-based Hiring training programs.
  10. You will raise your company’s overall talent level. While you might hire a few strong people who are more interested in what a job pays than its career value, this is no way to implement a “raising the talent bar” program. The exploratory call is a foundational step that should be part of every company’s hiring process. If you want to hire people who are looking for career moves, you can best demonstrate this by having the exploratory interview as the first step in your hiring process, rather than submitting an application and hoping for the best.

And the list goes on. All it takes is 30 minutes. If you want more ideas on how to hire more top performing passive candidates contact us right away, or sign up for our next Recruiter Boot Camp or our LinkedIn Recruiter Master Course.


The Recruiting Funnel

Just like sales, there’s a comparable funnel for recruiting, moving potential prospects and candidates from first contact, through the assessment process, and ultimately into great hires. This is shown in the diagram.

I recently wrote an article for ERE describing my 20/20/60 sourcing plan. This plan represents the idea that a blend of sourcing programs should be used to ensure your company is hiring the best active and passive candidates possible. The recruiting funnel offers a graphical means to describe how to optimize this type of program.

Recruiting FunnelThere are two big assumptions behind this funnel concept. First, if the demand for talent is greater than the supply, you’ll need to emphasize passive candidate recruiting and sourcing. This is referred to as a talent scarcity strategy. This is represented by all of the steps, or layers, shown in the funnel graphic.

In a talent surplus situation, the assumption is that there are plenty of good people in the talent pool: the top level in the funnel. Assuming the assumption is correct, all you need to do then is force everyone who’s interested in the job to formally apply and become official candidates. This is the “Active Path” represented by the shortcut handle on the left. Once in this pool, the objective is to screen out the weak with the hope that a few good people remain to become finalists and ultimately great hires.

Recognize that for this active, or surplus, model to yield top performers, a number of conditions need to exist:

  • First, the person needs to be actively looking
  • Second, the person found your posting or job listing somehow
  • Third, the person is willing to accept a lateral transfer
  • Fourth, the person is a top performer, or at least meets your minimum hiring standards

This is a rare set of circumstances, and will only work, even in the short term, if a talent surplus actually exists. But even if the process works in the short term, a true top achiever will be unwilling to remain in a less-than-ideal job for too long. To minimize this potential problem, even in a talent surplus situation, the focus should be on offering career growth opportunities, not lateral transfers. This is why I suggest that traditional skills-infested job descriptions be replaced by performance profiles for both active and passive hiring processes. In a talent scarcity situation the active candidate shortcut will not work at all; in fact, it will be counter-productive. For one thing it will be difficult to maintain quality of hire standards, and for another, hiring managers will delay hiring anyone, hoping a star will soon emerge.

In a talent scarcity situation, recruiters and hiring managers actually need to talk with people and convince them that what you have to offer is better than what they either have now, or are considering. This is represented in the funnel by the extra two steps: getting high-quality leads and referrals, and converting these people into prospects. A prospect is someone who is fully qualified, but needs more information before agreeing to become an “official” candidate.

A number of important steps are required to work through the lead to prospect to candidate passive path properly. One, making sure the prospect pool is filled with enough highly qualified people; and two, strong recruiters who can contact these people and covert them into prospects and ultimately into candidates. A recruiter who is deeply networked in a niche specialty is one way to get great referrals. Getting referrals by proactively searching on your co-workers’ connections using LinkedIn Recruiter and getting them to vouch for the person before calling is another way. (Note: we cover exactly how to do this in Recruiter Boot Camp and the LinkedIn Recruiter Master Course.)

Since these referrals and warm leads aren’t looking (that’s the definition of a passive candidate), it’s important to slow down the process. That’s why the two extra steps are mandatory. This starts with an exploratory career discussion rather than trying to force-fit the person into a specific job opening. Then if the person is qualified and interested, it’s important that the prospect has a chance to talk with the hiring manager on an exploratory basis before becoming a candidate. The hiring manager needs to be proactively involved in this step, both qualifying the person and then getting the prospect to commit to becoming a serious candidate by demonstrating that the opening represents a true career move. You might need to modify the job a bit to pull this part off. Passive candidate recruiting requires the close partnership with the recruiter and hiring manager, and while it takes some extra effort, it’s worth it, especially if quality of hire is improved.

Of course there’s more to passive candidate recruiting than just this. In fact, much of the “how to” will be covered in my new book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired, which will be published in December, 2012. (Email to be added to the mailing list.) In the interim, I’d suggest reading through some of these articles to gain a better appreciation for passive candidate recruiting.

In a talent scarcity situation you don’t have a choice of which path to take down the recruiting funnel, at least if you want to maximize quality of hire. While passive candidate sourcing and recruiting might seem more challenging to begin with it, higher quality hires clearly justifies whatever extra effort is required. In fact, a case can be made that passive candidate recruiting using this recruiting funnel model results in higher quality hires at a lower cost and much shorter time to fill than taking the active candidate shortcut. The key reason: defining quality of hire up-front and using a direct recruiting process is more likely to produce great hires on a consistent basis rather than waiting for top people to find and apply to your postings. While you need to be more active finding and hiring passive candidates, the recruiting funnel offers a simple means to explain your options and show you how to get there.

Stop Doing Searches Over Again

Adler’s first rule of recruiting: Don’t do searches over again. Once is enough. If you’ve presented a slate of 3-4 strong candidates for the position, one of them should get hired. If not, you have a problem.

Adler’s second rule of recruiting: If you present more than 3-4 candidates to a hiring manager on any search and one of them doesn’t get hired: STOP! Don’t send any more candidates to be interviewed. Something’s wrong. Figure out what it is and correct it before you waste your time on a fool’s errand.

Adler’s third rule of recruiting: When you first meet a person wait 30 minutes before making any yes or no decision. If you and your hiring managers put your emotions in the parking lot for these first 30 minutes you’ll cut the number of times you need to follow rules one and two by 50%.

Over the past 12 years I’ve written over a thousand articles, multiple books, and spoke at hundreds of conferences and training sessions on this and related topics. Here are the top five things that are the typical causes for “too many candidates before one is hired” syndrome:

  1. Someone doesn’t know what they’re looking for or how to find the person, or typically both. Banishing job descriptions and using performance profiles instead will solve most of this problem.
  2. Someone doesn’t know how to measure what they’re looking for accurately, even if they found the person. This is always part of the problem.
  3. Everyone overvalues first impressions. This is a big problem, even if you do everything else right. That’s why it’s my third most important rule. (See below for some quick ideas on how to fix this.)
  4. You have a real company constraint like the person as described doesn’t exist, your job or company really is awful, or your pay is not competitive. You need to get your executive team to solve this problem. Doing searches over again won’t help.
  5. You’re probably using a “talent surplus” approach to hiring in a “talent scarcity” situation. Watch this video and then get your executive team involved. This change is so big it impacts points one to four above.

The “number of candidates interviewed to hired” ratio is a great metric for recruiters and recruiting leaders to track on a weekly basis. If it’s too high or trending up, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Surprisingly, most recruiters ignore this obvious warning signal.

While four of the above five causal factors require significant process or strategy changes, the “Wait 30 Minutes” rule can be applied on your very next search. The only point is that everyone on the interviewing team needs to follow it, so it’s a bit like herding cats. Nonetheless, it might reduce your candidates interviewed to hired ratio by 50% or more, so it’s worthwhile spending a few minutes on how to use it.

More hiring mistakes are made in the first 30 minutes of the face-to-face interview than at any other time. Most interviewers unconsciously react to the candidate’s first impression, good or bad. Prospects who are prepared, confident, friendly, outgoing, communicative, and professional in appearance tend to be instantly considered viable candidates for the open position, even if they lack critical skills. If you’ve ever hired someone who makes a great first impression, but doesn’t deliver the results needed, you’ve experienced one side of this first impression bias problem first hand – hiring the wrong candidate for the wrong reasons.

Not hiring the right candidate for the wrong reasons is a waste of time, too. But it happens frequently. If a candidate is slightly less professional than expected or a bit nervous, managers become uptight, convinced the person is not qualified, and then go out their way to ask tougher questions, attempting to prove the candidate is not qualified. This is how we lose good candidates who are actually top notch. Stopping or minimizing this unnecessary loss of good candidates is one way to improve your interviewed to hired ratio. Waiting 30 minutes before deciding yes or no can help the interviewer become more objective and see past the superficiality of presentation and focus on the person’s ability to meet the performance needs of the job.

Many of you will loudly protest the need for this 30-minute delay, arguing that good first impressions are essential for anyone in a sales position, working with executives, or being part of multi-functional teams. However, if you just try it out, you’ll discover that after just 30 minutes about a third of the people aren’t nearly as great as you initially thought; another third will be a lot better than you first imagined (you might even want to hire a few of them); the remaining third will turn out to be pretty much as you first imagined. In addition to reducing the need to present too many candidates, you’ll also stop hiring people who are long on presentation and personality, but short on ability.

Here are some practical ways to force yourself to remain objective for at least 30 minutes:

  1. Use Yellow Stickies. Put these on the top of every résumé with the words “Wait 30 Minutes.” During the initial 30 minutes of the interview conduct a work-history review looking for the Achiever Pattern and ask one job-related Most Significant Accomplishment question. Your emotional reaction to the candidate will have changed completely by then.
  2. Use the Plus or Minus Reversal Technique. When you first meet a candidate note your initial reaction to the person with some type of plus or minus indictor. Then force yourself to do the exact opposite of what you’d normally do. For those people you don’t like, ask them easier questions, going out of your way to prove they’re fully competent. Ask those you do like tougher questions, going out of your way to prove they’re not the least bit qualified for the job. This mental reversal is how you offset your natural reactions to first impressions.
  3. Treat candidates as consultants. Assume everyone you’re meeting is an expert for the job at hand. Under the consultant umbrella you assume competence, you give respect, and you listen attentively, assuming the person has more expertise than you do. You do this even if the consultant makes a bad first impression. Since you don’t require a consultant to be a close co-worker, first impressions and friendliness are less important in your ultimate decision, so it’s a great way to reframe the situation.
  4. Phone screen the candidate first. You would never invite a person for a face-to-face interview if you didn’t think they were reasonably qualified. Conducting a 30-40 minute phone screen helps you make this assessment. When you meet a person whom you know something about, first impressions are naturally far less impactful. You also have something already invested in the person, so you feel more obligated to conduct an objective assessment.

Doing searches over again is a waste of time. If you didn’t do it right the first time, figure out why before continuing. You’ll discover it’s usually some fundamental process problem or a skills gap with the recruiter, hiring manager, or someone on the hiring team. While these changes could take weeks or months to implement, they are essential changes you need to make. However, you can get started right away by waiting 30 minutes when you meet your next candidate. In 30 minutes you’ll notice the difference.

Stop Doing Searches Over and Make Twice as Many Placements

From what I've seen over the past 15 years of working with recruiting teams around the world is that too much time is spend on doing searches over again. This is the biggest productivity drain of all time. Worse, most recruiting leaders don't even measure it, control it, or try to fix it.

If you need to send more than 3-4 candidates to the hiring manager, and the manager can't decide, and wants to see more candidates, you've experienced the problem first hand. If you want to make 50-200% more placements per month you need to solve this problem. It starts by figuring out the cause.

We've identified the five big reasons why recruiters need to present too many candidates to get someone hired. Feel free to add your own to The Recruiter's Wall blog along with any and all comments and solutions.

  1. The recruiter or the manager doesn't understand real job needs. If neither the recruiter nor the manager knows exactly what you're supposed to be looking for, how will you know when you've found someone? Here's the primary cause of the "Waiting for Godot" problem - hiring managers procrastinate, waiting for the ideal candidate to arrive with the glib comment, "I'll know the person when I see him." Some say "her," but either one is an indicator that the search will take far longer than necessary. I suggest using a performance profile to at least define OTJ success before you start looking.
  2. The hiring manager isn't very good at assessing competency. If you use skills and experience as the primary screen-in or screen-out filter, you're leaving it up to the hiring manager to decide what on-the-job competency looks like. The problem is that people come in all shapes and sizes, and many with imperfect experience matches turn out to be perfect candidates. Behavioral interviewing won't help much on this score either, since these minimize all of the situational fit factors in the assessment. These factors, which have been shown to dominate on-the-job performance (e.g., Google Oxygen study and Gallup's Q12), include fit with the job, manager, and culture. Our 2-question performance-based interview addresses these fit issues, and more importantly allows managers to accurately assess a person's competency and motivation to do the actual job in the actual environment required.
  3. The hiring manager is afraid to make a mistake. Newbie managers are especially prone to this problem, but even more seasoned managers who have been recently promoted or have a track record of making bad hiring decisions also find the yes/no hiring decision to be an agonizing one. Our Performance-based Hiring process using a performance profile and the 2-question performance-based interview is a start in the right direction. Tying all of the interview evidence together using our Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard provides the hiring manager a business-like approach to make this decision. Often this is all that's necessary to get the manager over the fear of making a bad hiring decision.
  4. The recruiter isn't very good at screening candidates. This problem could be due to overreliance on the job description to weed out weaker candidates. In the process you also might be weeding out the high potential person the hiring manager actually would like to see and potentially hire. In our Performance-based Hiring training course for hiring managers, we ask if they would be open to trade off 10-20% of the skills and experience listed on the job description for significant upside potential. 75-80% say of course, and then we show them how to do it. Recruiters should ask the same question and then incorporate this same technique into their screening process. This is one sure way to improve quality of hire while also improving time to fill and increasing productivity.
  5. Good candidates opt-out for one reason or another. Let's be frank, it's easy to hire an active candidate who has no other options. A top-notch active candidate adds a layer of complexity and competition into the mix, and passive candidates are another breed entirely. If you're offering lateral transfers to fully-experienced people with multiple options they'll opt-out on first contact. Others will opt-out as they find out the details behind your job aren't career enhancing. The rest will opt-out at the offer stage if you're not competitive on all fronts. Minimizing this cumulative opt-out effect requires strong recruiting skills coupled with hiring managers who understand the difference between hiring for talent and filling seats with the last person standing. Part of the Performance-based Hiring program is adding recruiting countermeasures to minimize the impact of these fallout problems.

If you're a recruiter or hiring manager you'll recognize these pervasive problems throughout your organization. From working with large and small companies around the world for the past 20 years, we've developed a half-day Performance-based Hiring workshop that offers simple solutions to each of these problems. As a result, these companies are now hiring outstanding people at all levels in all functions throughout their organizations.

One thing we've learned as part of this is that hiring top people requires close teamwork with the recruiter and hiring manager. On July 24 and July 31, 2012 we're offering to a very limited number of people the chance to attend the first public and online version of this program to help us test it out in a new partnership format. The only pre-requisite is that recruiters need to invite and attend along with one of their hiring managers, and hiring managers need to invite and attend along with one of their recruiters. Here's the link to sign up. While you'll definitely reduce the number of people needed to make one hire, the real value of the program is hiring stronger people. By August 1, 2012 you'll be shocked at how easy this is. All it takes is teamwork.