Hiring Managers Need to Recruit Like the Golden State Warriors

There's a lot more to hiring top talent than interviewing. Full-court press recruiting is the key. Everyone can take some hiring lessons from the Golden State Warriors and their pursuit of Kevin Durant.

Since I'm a frustrated Laker fan but a current recruiter, I watched how the NBA's free agency market for star talent unfolded this past week. The star of course was Kevin Durant and the team that out-recruited everyone else was the Golden State Warriors.

The Lakers overpaid for reasonable talent but that's what happens when you don't know how to recruit.

The graphic describes the skills every hiring manager needs to possess to attract, assess, recruit and hire the best talent in the field. Without these skills managers will not see the best talent and, as a result, will wind up overpaying for reasonable talent.



As you review the factors, notice that strong interviewing is just a piece of the puzzle. Putting the full puzzle together starts with the right talent acquisition strategy.

The right talent strategy is more important than strong hiring managers.


The big gorilla in the room preventing hiring managers from hiring stronger people is that the companies they work for have the wrong talent strategy in place.

From a practical perspective you can't use a talent surplus hiring process designed to weed out weaker candidates when a talent surplus doesn't exist. The problem with this strategy is that the best - and normally passive - candidates won't apply. I refer to this dilemma as hiring's Catch-22. It's described in the video. The big point is that to hire stronger people you need to attract them by offering career moves, not weed them out based on offering ill-defined lateral transfers.

Stop doing the wrong stuff before doing the right stuff.


One of the big problems with a surplus of talent strategy is the assumption that you can filter out weak candidates on their skills, experiences and competencies. While the skills and experiences are relatively easy to measure, having them in abundance doesn't predict on-the-job success.

More important, the best people tend to have a different mix of skills and experiences. Competencies, on the other hand, while important are hard to measure without knowing the context of the job. Both problems can be solved by replacing traditional skills-based job descriptions with performance-based job descriptions. The latter describes the actual work required to be successful as a series of performance objectives and how the required competencies are used to achieve these objectives.

Despite the logic in this approach, HR leaders make the excuse that it takes too much work to make this shift and/or that it doesn't meet the legal requirements. As this top legal mind contends the legal excuse is bunk. More important the too much work excuse is silly when the big strategic win is making better hires at every level in the company. However, the excuses are examples of the Catch-22 problem described in the video.

It's Never about the Money - The Other Excuse


When you ask a top performer who had multiple career opportunities to choose from why he/she took your offer you'll usually get a list like this:

  • The job was more impactful than the other opportunities.
  • The work was more intrinsically motivating.
  • The people and the hiring manager fit better.
  • The opportunity to grow and develop was clear.
  • The compensation and benefit package was competitive.
  • The culture of the company matched the person's character, values and motivating needs.

However, if you ask a top person who's not looking for a job if he/she would consider your job the list of preconditions would be far different. The money would lead the list followed by the company name, job title and location. If these are satisfactory the candidate would agree to the discussion and the recruiter would then box check the candidate's skills, experiences and compensation requirements. If there's a match on both sides the conversation would continue.

But notice the preconditions have nothing to do with the career opportunity. They all relate to what the person has in terms of experience and what the person will get on the day he or she starts on the job. Yet if the person is ultimately hired little of this determines if he/she will accept an offer or not. Overemphasizing the having and getting in the first call is another great way to eliminate the best people from consideration.

I tell candidates and recruiters alike to put the compensation and everything else they get on the start date into the parking lot during the first conversation. Instead focus on the career opportunity inherent in the job. If it's not there the compensation, title, location and company name won't matter.

Unfortunately everyone has their own Catch-22 excuses that prevent them from ever having these kinds of long-term career discussions. They're all excuses though. The Lakers have their own and look what happened to them. The Golden State Warriors don't make them. And look what's happening to them.

Why Hiring Managers Need to Be Totally Responsible for Hiring

There's a reason LinkedIn has fallen on hard times. It's the same reason job boards are now ineffective and why every new hiring tool quickly falls short of its initial promise. It's due to the law of diminishing returns: Once everyone has the same tools and uses the same techniques, everyone will get average results.

However, there are still a few things when it comes to hiring that can't be mass produced. The big ideas fall around these central strategic shifts:

  • Modify the job to the person, rather than force fit the candidate into some ill-defined lateral transfer and hope for the best. This shift starts by first defining the work required to be successful rather than defining the skills needed to do the work.
  • Use a "less is more" consultative approach rather than a more the merrier sourcing model. It takes hours spread over weeks for a top person to decide to change jobs. Hurrying the process is too transactional for the 80-90% of the people who are not actively looking for another job but are open to discuss a career opportunity.
  • Make your hiring managers fully responsible for hiring and developing talent. This is an important subject most companies just talk about, however it represents an untapped area essential for improving quality of hire.

To test it out a survey was created to determine what competencies and factors hiring managers need to possess in order to attract and hire the strongest people possible. The graphic summarizes the current results.

In the survey only three factors were ranked either Very Important or Quite Important by more than 80% of the respondents:

  • The willingness of hiring managers to invest the time necessary to hire the best people.
  • The ability to manage and develop A-level talent.
  • The ability to build a diverse team of top performers.

Five others were ranked as essential by more than 70% of the respondents. These include being a partner with the recruiter, the ability to create a career move, the need to define the job as a series of performance objectives rather than a list of skills, being unbiased and unemotional when conducting the interview and then conducting a comprehensive in-depth interview.

Given the shift to a more high-touch approach to recruiting here's my advice to recruiters, talent leaders, business executives and to all of the hiring managers who want to hire stronger talent:

  1. Make hiring managers responsible for their results. Hiring the best is not something that can or should be delegated to HR or the recruiting department. The quality of the hiring manager's hiring results should be part of the performance review. Part of this is offering the option to go outside the company if HR doesn't deliver the appropriate level of talent.
  2. Know the job as a series of performance objectives. When top candidates ask "What's the job?" hiring managers must be able to describe the big challenges and the impact the job can have on a project, the company's mission or some strategic initiative.
  3. Ask the most significant accomplishment question for each performance objective. Any job can be defined in terms of desired outcomes, results and performance objectives. For each of these it's important to spend at least 15 minutes understanding the candidate's major comparable accomplishments.
  4. Spend the time needed to do it right. Don't take shortcuts. You'll need to spend hours with the final candidate to make sure the person is totally competent, 100% motivated and fully invested in the job you're offering.
  5. Use a consultative selling process to create the career move. Hiring the best people is not a transaction. It's a high-touch consultative process. The key to this is determining if the open job represents a true career opportunity that offers a bigger job, more impact, a richer mix of more satisfying work and more upside learning and growth.
  6. Compare candidate quality of hire scores using the new techniques. As part of the assessment process we use a Job Fit Index to measure quality of hire. This is a great tool to measure before and after results to determine the improvements in quality of hire using these ideas.

As the law of diminishing returns continues to impact the quality of hire at companies throughout the world, there is a need to shift to a high-touch approach to recruiting and hiring. And the key to this shift is not waiting for the next great piece of technology to arrive. It's making every hiring manager fully responsible for every person she or he hires.

Are Hiring Practices Fundamentally Flawed?

Hiring managers who use tests, assessments and behavioral interviewing to find the best candidates may be looking at the wrong things, according to new research from Harvard professor Todd Rose. None of those tools takes into account what makes each candidate unique—and successful.

In his new book, The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness (HarperOne, 2016), Rose claims that an overreliance on statistics, prescreening, competency models, behavioral interviewing, and skills-laden and experience-based job descriptions are inappropriate, ineffective and counterproductive.

And that’s just a start.

Rose specializes in the study of individual performance. He is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit Center for Individual Opportunity, and is also a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he teaches educational neuroscience.

Rose argues that the assumption that people who rank above average on popular hiring assessments are the best hires is flawed. Equally flawed is the idea that not hiring people who rank below average will prevent poor performance—and this is because, Rose argues, no one is average.

Rose offers three core principles to explain his “no one is average” concept:

Jaggedness cannot be ignored. Rose discovered wide variation on many multi-factor assessments of performance. No one candidate is good at all of them. For example, a good engineer might be brilliant when it comes to system-level thinking and high-level architecture but weak at the design level. From a hiring standpoint, this means the job must be “jagged,” too: so identify and prioritize the critical needs for each job.

Context is critical. When hiring to fill a position, the actual job, the hiring manager’s style, the true culture of the company, the depth of the resources, the structure of the company and its values, and the team the person will work with all matter. Rose contends that all of this must be understood by the employer before the person is assessed during the interview.

Speed of learning is not important. Rose found that a candidate’s speed of learning is not an indicator of ability or performance. How one learns and the circumstances involved are what matters most. As long as there is time to learn, this principle means that companies can hire people from different industries and backgrounds by providing more customized training and support.

Prior Research Confirms the Theory

Early last year, Rose asked me how I developed the principles behind my work on performance-based hiring, since they closely match his research. As a result of our conversations, he added some examples into his book of companies now using performance-based hiring to eliminate many common problems with the hiring process.

During our talks, I told him I conducted a series of short experiments in the 1980s and 1990s, trying to understand how the most talented people changed jobs and how these techniques could be used to improve the hiring process. While they didn’t break down cleanly among Rose’s three principles, here’s what I discovered:

Clarifying expectations matters. The best candidates—active or passive—always wanted to know the specifics about the work, the manager’s style and the opportunity before they became too interested in a job. To address this, I began asking hiring managers to define their jobs as a series of performance objectives rather than a laundry list of skills, prior experiences and competencies. For example, for an accounting position it was better to say, “Set up a weekly internal management reporting system highlighting the six to eight most important factors driving company performance,” rather than “Must have five to eight years of accounting experience with a midsize manufacturing company, a B.S. in accounting and a CPA preferred.” After a few years, I discovered the bulk of every job could be described with five to six performance objectives like these.

Even the best people’s performance is very situational. In addition to doing work that was intrinsically motivating, the person’s long-term success depended greatly on the fit between the manager’s style and how the person wanted to be managed. These situational factors—including the actual job, the environment, the company culture and the hiring manager’s leadership style—are so important, in fact, that they represent the tipping point between great success and underperformance.

Psychometric assessment tests don’t predict ability or fit. The problem is that assessment tests paint with too broad a brush to be useful; a result that indicates above average or below average doesn’t track with performance. After a few years of using these tests and following people’s performance, it was clear that at best these tests confirm ability, but they certainly don’t predict it. Worse, there were so many false negatives (good people being excluded) and false positives (weak people being considered) that the tests shouldn’t be used for screening. More importantly, it turned out the best people could adapt their core styles to meet the needs of the situation. This critical point—that style is fluid and changeable—is never evaluated in these tests.

Behavioral interviewing and competency models do not improve quality of hire. In fact, academic research over the past 30 years clearly demonstrates that behavioral interviewing in conjunction with a comprehensive job analysis is only 12 percent superior to flipping a coin when deciding which candidate to hire. Since most companies fail to conduct a thorough job analysis, such as by preparing a performance-based job description, the hiring results are worse than a coin flip. According to Rose, ignoring the context of the job is at the core of every bad hiring decision.

While these concepts have been refined over the years, the big idea is that people are unique and an effective hiring process needs to address that uniqueness. When these concepts are ignored and good people are hired for ill-defined jobs, emphasizing short-term rewards rather than long-term satisfaction, companies are setting themselves up for underperformance and unnecessary turnover.

While it’s not possible to customize every job for every person, it is possible to stop forcing people into poorly defined jobs designed to fit above-average people. Thus, embracing “the end of average” is the essential first step for redesigning a hiring process that works for everyone.

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/staffingmanagement/articles/pages/hiring-practices-flawed.aspx#sthash.4eehjMYe.dpuf

A Hiring Manager's Do-It-Yourself Guide to Recruiting

The Uberizing of the hiring process has arrived. Forget about using recruiters if you're hiring only a few people per year. With LinkedIn, hiring managers can now do their own sourcing and recruiting. Unless the recruiter is deeply networked in the field, managers will likely do a much better job by going solo. Here's how to get started.

1. Define the work to be done, not the skills needed to do it.

To attract top people looking for career moves, you'll need to define the job as a series of four or five major performance objectives. For example, it's better to say "build a team of six engineers to launch the new ABC project" than "Must have a BSEE, 10+ years of experience in servo valves, and 3-4 years in a supervisory role."

2. Conduct a supply vs. demand analysis to determine if you can do it yourself.

You'll need to use LinkedIn to do this. I'd suggest starting with a premium account and if it doesn't give you access to enough people, upgrade to LinkedIn Recruiter Lite. To determine if there are enough candidates to choose from, divide the total number of possible candidates you have access to by the number of similar open jobs. If the ratio if greater than 4:1, you can probably do it yourself.

3. Use Achiever search terms to bring top performers to the top of your search list.

As you use LinkedIn's powerful search tools, add terms that match what top people in your field would likely include on their LinkedIn profile. For example, a top math person would likely be a member of the Pi Mu Epsilon honor society, a top sales rep would include such words as quota, club, or 100% in his/her profile, and a strong team player would likely have the terms like coach or mentor listed. By adding more of these Achiever terms, you'll be able to quickly develop a list of 20 to 30 strong local prospects to email and call.

4. Tap into your co-workers' connections.

LinkedIn is a network of 400 million people--not just a database of them. Your co-workers or former associates likely know some top people who could fill your role. Don't ask, "Who's looking?" Instead ask, "Who's the best person you know doing _____?" Then ask them to call the person to see if he/she would be open to a short exploratory call.

5. Determine the Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

If you don't know why a top person would want your job in terms of the impact he/she can make and the growth opportunity inherent in the job, you won't attract or hire any. The EVP needs to lead your voice mails, emails, and job postings.

6. Focus on job branding over employer branding.

Tie the job to some company project or mission to demonstrate its importance. This is called job branding. It's a critical component of how top people compare opportunities and how you customize the job to better tie to the person's intrinsic motivators.

7. Use emails to tell stories.

You'll be sending out 20 to 30 emails to the best people you've found on LinkedIn. Aside from a creative subject line, describe why the job is important, what the person will be learning and doing, and where the job could lead if the person is successful.

8. Don't sell the job, sell a short chat.

Forget about having candidates apply directly. Instead, in your email mention that the first step in your process is a short 10- to 15-minute exploratory phone conversation to determine if the job offers the possibility of a significant career move. By slowing the process down, you'll dramatically increase your response rate since most people are always open to building stronger networks.

9. Offer a potential 30 percent non-monetary increase.

The purpose of the phone screen is to determine if your position offers a combined 30 percent increase in job stretch, job growth, and satisfying work. If it does, describe why and suggest that the next step is a more detailed phone interview.

10. Conduct a 45-minute phone-based interview.

Describe some of your big challenges and have the person describe some of his/her most significant comparable accomplishments. Using the most significant accomplishment question, you can assess most of the factors on our Performance-based Hiring Job Index. If the person is a contender and interested, either meet the person for coffee or invite the person onsite.

While there's more to finding, recruiting, and hiring the best passive candidates, these steps form the foundation of the process. Most important, when hiring managers do it themselves, they'll be able to restructure the job on the fly, more likely to pursue a high-potential person with less experience, and less likely to exclude a great person on factors that are negotiable. Collectively, this is why I believe the Uberizing of the hiring process offers a great opportunity for hiring managers who want to be sure they see and hire the best person available, not just the best person who applies.

How to Hire Hiring Managers Who Know How to Manage

Hiring hiring managers is no easy task. For one thing, too many interviewers focus on assessing individual contributor skills even though assessing management skills should dominate the assessment.

In a recent post I suggested there are 12 deadly sins you need to avoid when hiring someone for a management role. These range from being autocratic, an insensitivity to the needs of others, and an inward departmental focus to being inflexible, a poor judge of talent and a lack of project management skills.

As far as I'm concerned, the focus of all hiring decisions should be on a person's track record of achieving comparable results to what needs to be accomplished in the job. For managers, this needs to focus on management accomplishments. That's why I suggest that job descriptions should emphasize performance objectives rather than skills, experiences and competencies.

Here's a non-management example: "Design the user interface for the voice-based mobile app in 90 days" is better than saying, "Must have intense knowledge of Objective-C, REST, XML, and JSON, great interpersonal skills, a 'can-do' attitude and a technical BS degree." Every job can be described by some mix of 6-8 individual, team and management performance objectives.

To determine ability and job fit just ask the candidate to describe a major accomplishment for each performance objective. After doing this for the top 3-4 objectives it will be apparent if the candidate possesses all of the skills, behaviors and experiences necessary to successfully perform the work.

Emphasize Management Performance Objectives When Hiring Managers

For management positions these performance objectives should emphasize management objectives, not individual contributor ones. This shift in focus coupled with the same major accomplishment question ensures the 12 deadly management sins are avoided.

I'm putting together a series of performance-based job descriptions for an upcoming project for a variety of jobs. Following are some from the Team and Management sections. Select a few on your next search project involving hiring hiring managers.

Sample Team and Management Performance Objectives

  • Assess and rebuild the team to support the department's growth plan.
  • Some of the team problems likely to be encountered soon after starting are (describe). Develop intervention or reorganization programs to minimize their disruption on the department plan.
  • Review and rebuild the organization to ensure success of the __________ project.
  • Build a team consisting of (describe) to handle the (describe project). Give specific consideration to the (describe most important issues).
  • Setup a method or system to improve the performance of the (describe group) by implementing a series of programs consisting of (training, tracking, support, coaching). The goal of this effort is to (describe change in a measurable way).
  • Evaluate the team involved with (describe) to determine its ability to (accomplish something). As part of this, put together a rebuilding and development program with a goal of (describe) by (timeframe).
  • During the next (timeframe) working with (recruiting, HR) find and hire (describe requirements) in order to meet the (describe purpose of hiring).
  • As part of (describe program), coordinate with (HR, OD) to prepare detailed team development plans for each staff member to ensure (describe objective).
  • Put together a workforce plan for 20XX by (date) with justification for all new hires. Tie specific organizational needs to the department budget and the company annual operating plan.

Managers struggle creating these types of performance objectives so selecting from the list as a starting point is very helpful. Of course, these need to be clarified for the exact position but it's easier to present a grab bag of hiring tasks to consider rather than starting from scratch.

Hiring hiring managers is a far bigger and more impactful hiring decision than hiring a staff person. To make the right decision it's essential that everyone on the interview team understand the management challenges in the role. Then the decision to hire or not needs to be made on the candidate's ability to successfully handle these challenges. Hiring hiring managers is not the time to trust your gut or focus on emotions, intuition or individual ability. This is a recipe for hiring the wrong person and demotivating everyone else.