Lou Adler's Hiring Troubleshooting Guide
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There are two distinct job markets. The public one is comprised of the 5.6 million open jobs anyone can find on the job boards. However, before each one of these jobs is formally approved and posted, hiring managers try to fill these jobs internally or by getting a referral from a trusted source. During the process these jobs are often modified to better fit the person hired or promoted into the role. As a result these jobs are more satisfying, performance is higher and turnover is far less.
The process used for hiring people in this hidden, semi-official job market provides tantalizing clues on how hiring could be done in the public arena. In fact, in Harvard professor Todd Rose's new book, The End of Average, he demonstrates that current hiring processes are fundamentally flawed and offers this type of guidance to correct the situation.
According to Rose, defining average jobs and attempting to fill them with above average people is destined to fail since no one is average. Rose offers a solution: Modify the job to fit the person; don't force fit the person to the job. As a result, you'll improve Quality of Hire, increase job satisfaction, reduce turnover and improve performance. While an interesting concept, achieving it requires some fundamental process changes. Despite this, the current process companies now use to promote people internally and hire high-quality external referrals is a workable and scalable solution. More important, the changes will result in a stronger and more diverse workforce.
Here are the big points to consider in order to make this shift from a skills and experience based hiring model to one based on individual performance and upside potential.
Companies already promote people who are light on skills and experience.
The basis for promoting someone internally is based on his or her past performance and ability to handle stretch assignments. More important, the person's performance is highly predictable. By definition, these people don't possess the full set of skills and experiences demanded of outside hires. External candidates can and should be assessed the same way: on their past performance, their rate of change of growth andtheir upside potential.
Performance is more important than behaviors.
To get promoted into bigger roles. internal candidates are not assessed using behavioral interviewing or screened using some psychometric test. A Performance-based Interview benchmarking the external candidate against the performance requirements of the position is one way to better evaluate unknown candidates using a similar process for evaluating known internal candidates.
Customize the job to fit the person interests and abilities.
The jobs internal candidates are assigned to are designed to broaden their skills and experiences. It's the exact opposite for external candidates. They're force-fit into ill-defined jobs based on their current level of skills and experiences. In this case success, satisfaction and performance is problematic.
The shift to a better approach starts by combining related jobs (e.g., all staff engineers) into broader categories. This way you'll be able to attract more people and better match the candidates' abilities and motivating interests with your open jobs. You might also redesign some of these jobs to better fit the person. For example, a brilliant two-year staff engineer might be able to handle the design aspects of a five-year person but be less capable of handling the project management challenges. Modifying jobs this way opens up the talent pool to more diverse, high potential and non-traditional candidates.
The Performance of Known Candidates is More Predictable than Unknown Candidates
These are important changes to make and not difficult to implement. Making the changes starts by recognizing that known candidates for open jobs (current and previous employees and referrals) are evaluated differently than unknown candidates. More important, the predictability of the known candidate's performance is far greater than the unknown person's. Based on this fact alone it seems logical that the methods used to find, hire and evaluate known candidates should be applied to unknown candidates.
Whether you look at Professor Rose's work, Gallup's report on the causes of employee underperformance or Google's Project Oxygen, it's clear that current hiring processes used by the majority of corporations in the world today are fundamentally flawed. To me it's time for HR and business leadership to recognize this truth and implement programs that focus on better matching people with jobs that maximize their ability, performance and satisfaction. It starts by breaking free from outdated thinking that relies on statistics, compliance and force fitting people into ill-defined jobs. The truth is out there, you just need to know where to look.
It took me 30 years to find out where all of the best people hang out. I then drew this map. If you look closely, you'll find them all in the Talent Sweet Spot in the upper right corner of the map. Most managers are still looking for them in the lower left and wondering what the problem is. They're either using the wrong map or don't know how to read the right one. So if you're a hiring manager, or know one, give them these directions. They'll all thank you once they arrive.
A Manager's Guide for Hiring in the Talent Sweet Spot
The best people all hang out in the Talent Sweet Spot. To pull them out takes a great job, a strong recruiter and a fully engaged hiring manager. These 10 steps describe what it takes to be fully engaged.
I needed to put the following video together for a Performance-based Hiringmanager interview program we’ve just launched. Whether you’re a recruiter, hiring manager, a member of the interviewing team or a job-seeker, I thought you’d find it useful as a means to more accurately identify high performers. It’s based on the following assumptions:
If job expectations aren’t clarified up front, it’s problematic if the person hired will be both competent and motivated to do the work required. Creating SMARTe objectives, asking SMARTe questions and looking for the process of success changes a random event into a highly predictable outcome.
As described in my previous post, there are 12 skills recruiters need to master in order to identify, attract, assess and recruit people who aren’t looking to change jobs. And the most challenging set of skills to develop are around identifying talent and potential.
Having done this for about 35 years and written about it for the past 20, I believe that there is a set of traits common to the most outstanding candidates. Most of these can be figured out as part of the fact-finding involved when asking a person to describe his or her major accomplishments as part of the Performance-based Interview I recommend.
Here they are:
Being results-driven or motivated is not enough. Achieving the expected results is what’s important. To figure this one out, ask about the biggest project the person handled and how he/she achieved the objectives.
During the interview, ask about the person’s three biggest accomplishments in the recent past. Then ask why he/she was assigned the roles. Look for people who stretch themselves or are assigned to stretch jobs.
People get awards, bonuses, promotions and formal recognition for a job well done. Raise the caution flag if you don’t find much regardless of the person’s presentation skills.
Ask the person how they found his/her last job, and the few before that. The best people are frequently sought out by their former bosses and co-workers. If so, find out why.
If the person’s a manager, ask the person to rank the quality of each team member and ask how each new hire was found and hired. The best managers seek out the best people and give them opportunities to become better.
Examine the size, scope, scale and complexity of the person’s major accomplishments over the past 5 to 10 years. The best people increase their impact and influence over time. If the person has plateaued, look for high quality work and exceptional passion for what they do.
Forget the brainteasers. Get into a discussion about some realistic problem the person is likely to face on the job. The best people can put some type of logical plan together to find a solution, including how they’d figure out the answer to things they don’t know.
As you dig into the person’s major accomplishments, ask how he/she overcame major problems. Look for a pattern of making things happen, taking personal responsibility and consistently achieving planned results. Avoid those who make excuses.
Collaborating on major projects with influential people in other functions is a core attribute of those who get promoted. To figure this dimension out, ask about the biggest and most important teams the person has been assigned to, why the assigned to the project and his or her role. Then look for how the person influenced the team results and their ability to understand the challenge from the perspective of people in other functions.
This is a catch-all trait I invented. It’s the ability to get granular to understand a problem, the ability to zoom out to see the strategic and multi-functional consequences and then zoom in to figure out the best tactical solution. The depth and breadth of the person’s zooming ability is a great indictor of the person’s current ability and upside potential. You’ll need to conduct the full Performance-based Interview to figure out how well the person zooms.
I left out leadership from the list but I’ve discovered that if a person has most of the above attributes it’s because the person is a strong leader. Recruiters need to recognize true talent rather than just box check skills and experiences. The best people rarely have everything listed. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, this is actually what makes them the best people. And it’s why recognizing talent is one of the core traits of all top recruiters.