Knowing how companies decide which candidates to interview and whom to hire can help job seekers increase their odds of getting interviewed and ultimately hired. The following is a disruptor idea and not guaranteed to work, but if you’re not having any luck being interviewed for good jobs you might want to try it out. But first, some background.

Performance-based Hiring is the process we use for all of our search projects and the foundation of our recruiting and hiring manager training programs. It’s fully described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. The purpose is to help companies hire stronger people but it requires them to throw out their traditional hiring playbooks and do some radically different things. These same tactics can be reverse engineered to help candidates get more interviews and improve their performance during each one. To get started you need to know the new rules for hiring top people.

The New Performance-based Hiring Playbook

  1. Define the work as a series of performance objectives. We call this list of 6-8 performance objectives a performance-based job description. This replaces the traditional skills and experience-based job descriptions most companies still use.
  2. Question 1: Evaluate the candidate’s major accomplishments. For each performance objective, ask candidates to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. The technique is explained in this post, The Most Important Interview Question of All Time.
  3. Question 2: Evaluate job-related problem-solving. For one or two of the most important objectives, interviewers need to ask candidates how they’d go about accomplishing the objective. This is more a give-and-take discussion with the idea of understanding the candidate’s approach to job-related problem-solving.
  4. Conduct a formal debriefing session emphasizing past performance. While each interviewer asks similar questions, the focus needs to be on different factors using different performance objectives. The trend of the candidate’s performance over time is a strong predictor of success. The full assessment process is covered in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired including the talent scorecard we suggest using for collecting the assessments.

Reverse Engineer Performance-based Hiring to Get More Interviews

There are a number of ways candidates can reverse engineer this process to both get the interview and perform better during it. Here’s how:

  1. Do not apply directly. Unless you're a perfect fit on skills, experience and industry do not hit the apply button or send your resume to HR. This will be a pure waste of time.
  2. Don’t submit your resume, provide a solution. Instead of applying directly, submit a write-up of your most significant business accomplishment that most closely aligns with the job. The write-up needs to answer the two questions above. Part of it will be to describe something you’ve accomplished and the other part how you’d go about implementing a solution. You can format this any way you want or you can use Pat Riley’s book, The One-Page Proposal, as a guide or go to his website and use his automated format designed for job seekers. (I met Pat Riley last week and was blown away by his approach.)
  3. Figure out the real job requirements before preparing your summary. To prepare your write-up you’ll need to figure out what the job is all about first. The posted job description will provide some clues. In addition, do some company research looking at all of their open jobs to spot any trends, check out recent press releases, review LinkedIn to see if anyone has been promoted and read the analysts reports if the company is public. This will help identify the likely challenges involved in the open job. Then tailor your summary accordingly.
  4. Use the job posting as a lead. In an earlier post I suggested using the back door to find someone who knows the hiring manager in order to get a referral. In the same post I suggested sending in a sample of your work to get noticed. The one-page summary is probably better. As you do your research on LinkedIn, look for someone who runs the department you’re interested in and send your write-up to this person or directly to the hiring manager if you can find the person’s name. You’ll likely be rerouted back to HR but if your write-up is credible, it will be to arrange an interview.

While the above steps will increase your odds of getting the interview, you still need to perform well once you get the chance. My suggested approach is described in this post on how to improve your interviewing performance. This video series describes the complete job-hunting and preparation process.

Recognize that this process will not work if you don’t have any accomplishments related to real job needs. If you do, you’ll likely get better results than applying directly to a job posting with your resume. Even better: you already know the answer to the two questions every manager should ask.


Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He's also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. You can continue the conversation on LinkedIn's Essential Guide for Hiring Discussion Group.

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