I contend that a hiring process problem exists whenever a hiring manager needs to see more than four different candidates to make a hiring decision. This is typically due to a job that has not been properly defined, sourcing or recruiting problems, or weak interviewing skills. Regardless of the cause, recruiters react by scrambling about presenting as many reasonably competent people as they can find in the hope that one sticks.

In a recent post I suggested that hiring managers were likely the root cause of the problem by emphasizing skills and experiences for screening rather than performance-based criteria. This has a triple-whammy negative effect.

First, you’ll only attract people who have the skills and are willing to take ill-defined jobs. There are few top performers in this category. Second, unnecessary spending and extra effort is needed to weed out and respond to the unqualified. Third, they won’t attract the best people who could do the work because the job appears to be a lateral transfer.

In the same post I suggested that these problems were virtually eliminated by using performance criteria to define the job rather than skills and experiences. This required the recruiter to ask the hiring manager to do the following:

  1. Define the major objectives. After 6-12 months what will the person hired have accomplished that indicates to you without a doubt that the person is in the top 25% of his or her peer group? These are the biggest challenges the person is expected to handle in the job.
  2. Define the “process of success.” What will the person need to accomplish in the first 30-120 days after starting to indicate to you that the person is on track to accomplish the major objective defined in Step 1? These are the critical subtasks that define the “process of success.”
  3. Define the #1 trait of success. What’s the deal breaker? This is the primary subtask the person needs to be able to do to ensure all of the other subtasks are achieved. This is the number trait of success.

The original post offers several examples but this one for a sales representative is a good sample:

Major Objective: During the first year hit a run rate of $100 thousand per month with a growth rate of 10% per quarter.

Short Version of Process of Success:

  • Prepare a territory plan with a prioritized account list.
  • Identify, meet and get key decision makers to agree to conduct detailed discovery with the most important users.
  • Conduct detailed cost-benefit and ROI-based discovery with these users.
  • Prepare detailed proposals with ROI and customer value propositions.
  • Negotiate, close and expand internal sales growth.

Deal Breaker: For this (and most) complex sales positions it’s getting access to the senior decision makers and convincing them to move forward. This requires them to advocate the product or service and have their teams spend the time with the sales reps to conduct in-depth discovery.

Using the Performance-based Job Description to Control the Process

Defining the job is the first step. Recruiters then need to convince hiring managers to interview all candidates who can accomplish the tasks even if their skills and experiences don’t fully match the initial job description. If hiring managers balk, I suggest recruiters force the issue by stating they won’t compromise on the performance criteria if the hiring managers give them some relief on the skills.

If this doesn’t work, recruiters need to offer this option: Suggest that you’ll present a few candidates who meet the skills requirement and a few who are performance-qualified. Based on this, the manager can select the best candidate. This always works.

As recruiters present the first two candidates they need to ask the hiring manager if the person meets the performance criteria and, if so, if the person is likely to make the short list of hirable candidates. If not, STOP THE PROCESS. It means something is wrong. Either the recruiter or hiring manager is not good at assessing performance, the job is spec’d improperly or the sourcing and recruiting efforts are subpar. Regardless, don’t keep on presenting candidates in the hope the hiring manager becomes desperate. Instead figure out what’s wrong and change the process.

Performance-based Hiring is a business process for hiring top talent using metrics to control the process in real time. Tracking candidates per hire is an overriding metric that gives talent leaders a sense of how each individual search is going from a quality of hire standpoint.

When off-track it’s better to focus on process improvement (i.e., getting better) rather than process efficiency (i.e., getting faster). This way, problems can be nipped in the bud. As a result you’ll discover that the solution is getting better at attracting and recruiting stronger candidates rather than becoming more efficient screening out the weaker ones.

* image by Garry Knigh