5 Ways Good Managers Can Hire Great People

Back in 1997, I wrote Hire With Your Head and have since updated it multiple times. It was based on benchmarking more than 100 hiring managers I had worked with over the previous 20 years who had a track record of hiring and developing great talent. Two years later, Gallup introduced its Q12 in the seminal book, First Break All of the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Not surprisingly, these management principles weren’t much different than those identified in my far smaller sample. Fifteen years later, Google confirmed the earlier findings in itsProject Oxygen study.

My purpose, though, was different than Gallup’s or Google’s. It was to use these great management techniques to find and hire great people. This quickly led to thePerformance-based Hiring approach I’ve been advocating since the turn of the century.

The Five Core Principles of Performance-based Hiring

  1. Define the results, not the skills. If we manage and promote people based on defining and achieving results, shouldn’t we hire people the same way? So rather than define the skills a person needs to have to do a job, define the job as a series of 6-8 performance objectives. To get started thinking this way, convert all of the required skills into results by asking, “What does on-the-job success look like using this skill?” For example, 5+ years of product design for outdoor wearables becomes “design and develop the complete 2015 product line for delivery to the factory by Q2.”
  2. Fast-forward one year. Every job has 2-3 big objectives. One way to determine these is to ask, “What are the biggest performance objectives the new hire would need to accomplish in the first year that would earn the person a promotion, special bonus or huge raise?” For a director of HR this may be, “Lead the implementation of the Workday HR system across six international operating units representing 10,000 employees.”
  3. Define the “Process of Success.” Whether it’s a sales rep, engineer, mid-level manager or executive, there’s a sequence of steps involved in achieving any major objective. This starts by first figuring out the problem or challenge, followed by conducting some type of analysis, developing the key subtasks, putting a detailed plan together, organizing the resources and then successfully executing the plan. Once you have these steps figured out (see slideshow), you can reverse the process as the basis for the Performance-based Interview. This involves asking candidates to describe some comparable major accomplishments and then peeling the onion to uncover the process they used to achieve the objective.
  4. Put the performance objectives in priority order. The above steps typically yield 10 or more performance objectives. From a practical standpoint, the top 6-8 represent the critical factors driving on-the-job success. To increase interviewing accuracy, make sure everyone on the hiring team is aware of and agrees to these objectives. Otherwise they’ll revert back to their normal, and suspect, interviewing practices.
  5. Think Backwards. As seen in the slideshow, emphasizing what people need to have on their resumes and what they get in terms of compensation as preliminary filters excludes the best people from consideration. To attract stronger people, it’s far better to emphasize what people need to do and what they could become if they’re successful. This backwards thinking should start the hiring process. For one thing, if the work represents a career move, compensation will be a negotiating item not a deal breaker. Even better, if the person can do the work, they’ll have exactly the level of skills needed to do the job.

Hiring results-oriented people starts by defining the results you want and then hiring people who are competent and motivated to achieve them. This has nothing to do with skills, competencies or behaviors. Surprisingly though, those you hire will have exactly the skills, competencies and behaviors you’ll need to achieve the results you want.

Hire More Diverse Talent by Rethinking the Job Description

Skills- and experience-laden job descriptions are at the root cause of why companies are having difficulty hiring enough strong people. There is a solution: First define the results required to be successful. Then find people who are competent and motivated to deliver these results.

For the past 30 years, I've been on a kick to ban traditional skills--and experience-based job descriptions. The prime reason: They're anti-talent, anti-diversity and terrible predictors of future success. If your company is having problems hiring enough strong people, maybe it's time to consider your job descriptions as the cause of the problem, not the solution. Unfortunately, too many human resources people pull out the legal trump card as their excuse for their continued use. To set the record straight, I asked David Goldstein, a preeminent attorney from Littler Mendelson (the largest U.S. labor law firm) to compare the idea of using a performance-based job description to the traditional job description. His whitepaper is included in the appendix of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. (Here's how to obtain acopy, or you can watch this webcast we did together last year.) This is his interesting summary:

  • By creating compelling job descriptions that are focused on key performance objectives, using advanced marketing and networking concepts to find top people, adopting evidence-based interviewing techniques, and integrating recruiting into the interviewing process, companies can attract better candidates and make better hiring decisions.
  • A properly prepared performance profile (aka performance-based job description) can identify and document the essential functions of a job better than traditional position descriptions, facilitating the reasonable accommodation of disabilities and making it easier to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar laws.

For background, a performance-based job description describes the work that a person needs to successfully accomplish during the first year on the job. Most jobs can be fully described in six to eight performance objectives. These are in the form of "complete the detailed project plan for the new automated warehouse in 120 days." This compares to the more traditional: "Must have 5+ years of logistics and supply chain management experience in high-volume consumer durables, plus 3 years of supervisory experience." Here are my top six reasons why using performance-based job descriptions are more effective in attracting, assessing and hiring stronger people than your company is hiring today:

1. Attract stronger people

By emphasizing the work itself and the employee value proposition, online job postings can better represent the career opportunity. Here's an example of how job postings can be used to tell stories that are designed to attract the best people, rather than focus on weeding out the unqualified ones.

2. More accurate screening

While some level of skills is important, the "amount" written on a job description is arbitrary, misleading, and capricious. Unfortunately, front line recruiters use this criteria to screen out people who could do the work but have a different mix of skills and experiences than listed.

3. Increase influence with passive candidates.

A recruiter who doesn't know the real job requirements is quickly branded as a gatekeeper and ignored by any talented person. This is equivalent to a sales rep who doesn't know the product being represented. As hiring needs accelerate in 2015, this will be a critical bottleneck for any company wanting to attract passive candidates.

4. Become a better manager.

Clarifying job expectations upfront has been shown repeatedly to be the foundation of a strong and effective manager. This is the number one factor in Gallup's Q12 list of factors that maximize employee performance and engagement. Google's Project Oxygen reconfirmed this. Most important: a manager who doesn't understand real job needs will not only turn off any strong candidate but is likely to hire someone who is taking the job for all of the wrong reasons.

5. Convert competencies into performance objectives.

Any competency like cultural fit, teamwork, organizational skills, drive or leadership is easy to assess using a performance-based job description. Just ask how the skill or competency is used and measured on the job. On a recent project, for example, strong communication skills for a research scientist was, "convert months of research into 10-minute TED-like talks to the executive team."

6. Increase the predictability of on-the-job performance.

Using the most significant accomplishment question and Performance-based Interview, it's easy to determine if a candidate is both competent and motivated to do the work required. It starts by getting comprehensive examples of the candidate's accomplishments most related to those listed on the performance-based job description.

In a talent surplus situation perhaps it's acceptable to use traditional skills-laden job descriptions to weed out the weaker candidates. In a talent scarcity situation, like we're in now, this approach will backfire.

12 Skills Every Recruiter Must Master

2015 promises to be a challenging year for any company that wants to hire top talent to fill critical roles.

The problem: the rapid growth in new jobs is likely to outstrip the available talent.

The only way companies will be able to rectify this talent shortage is to recruit people from their competition. While this condition has always existed, the hiring boom promises to make 2015 one of the toughest years on record.

The solution: you need to build the strongest recruiting team possible, made up of highly skilled recruiters who are comfortable with winning over passive talent.

Here are the 12 recruiter competencies that we have established as most important, based on ourperformance-based hiring certification workshops:

  1. Motivated to excel. Persistent, doesn’t take no for an answer.
  2. Industry and company expert. Someone worth knowing. Trusted advisor.
  3. Influences hiring manager and hiring team on all hiring related decisions. Every candidate recommended is interviewed. Minimizes interviews per hire.
  4. Understands real job needs at technical and results level. Not a box checker.
  5. Prepares robust, insightful sourcing and branding plans to attract all potential candidates.
  6. Uses advanced social media and marketing tools to find best active candidates.
  7. Boolean and email marketing expert to find and attract top passive candidates.
  8. Has mastered the art of networking to identify and recruit outstanding passive candidates.
  9. Great organizer. On top of all issues, always. Doesn’t waste time presenting weak candidates.
  10. Leverages technology (LinkedIn, ATS, CRM) to maximize candidate quality and personal productivity.
  11. Accurate and insightful interviewer. Focuses on performance, fit and motivation. Predicted performance turns out to be extremely accurate.
  12. With passive candidates: a great recruiter, negotiator and exceptional closer.

Here’s a sample form of this competency model.

While the listed competencies are essential, how each is scored is important for both improving recruiter skills and determining who should be hired or assigned to handle the most difficult search assignments. To help with that, I have listed a scoring ranking below. Note that the ranking is non-linear. Levels 3, 4 and 5 represent the top 25% of an effective recruiting team handling the full range of positions from entry-level to senior executives.

The Performance-Based Hiring Ranking System

Level 0: Needs basic training for the factor.

Level 1: Has entry-level skills, but needs some coaching and training.

Level 2: Reasonably competent. Effectively uses the skill/factor to meet performance objectives. A 2.5 represents the overall midpoint of the peer group.

Level 3: Far exceeds basic requirements. In the top quartile. Coaches others in skill.

Level 4: Formally recognized within the department or company as a subject matter expert in the skill/factor. Top 10-15% of team.

Level 5: Outstanding. Top 5%. A role model. Formally recognized outside the company as an expert in the area.

We’ve created an online survey you can take to rank yourself or your recruiting team members to see how well they stack to the challenge of recruiting passive candidates.

As you take the assessment, recognize the importance of using evidence to justify any ranking. For example, to be ranked a Level 3, 4 or 5 on recruiting passive candidates (factor 12), the recruiter would have to had demonstrated a track record of finding truly passive candidates and worked closely with hiring managers to get them hired. For Boolean search and emailing (factor 7) the person would not only need to know and use advanced Boolean techniques to find the person, but also have a very high percent (60-70%) of these people responding to the emails. The point: ability is not what’s being measuring on this competency model, the results of using this skill, ability or competency are what’s important.

Once talent professionals like you fill out the survey and the survey results are available, I’ll use this blog to summarize the findings. Until then, keep recruiting and keep getting better.

Big Idea 2015: The One Trend That Will Impact Your Job

In this series of posts, Influencers and members predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2015. Read all the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #BigIdeas2015 in the body of your post).

You might have read about the huge growth in jobs being filled in the U.S. this year. Year-to-date it’s now about 2.6 million net new jobs – the largest job growth since 1999. But, according to this chart, things might get even better in 2015.

The graph is a summary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s JOLTs report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover). Simply stated, it shows the total number of unique job openings with all companies in the U.S. As of October the number was over 4.8 million open jobs. The big decline in open jobs came in 2009 followed by modest increases through 2013. In early 2014, job growth took off with almost 1 million new jobs opened. Since new job openings lead to people being hired for these jobs within 2-3 months, it’s a great leading indicator of the future of the job market. Other than the hiccup in September 2014, things look very bright as we head into 2015.

With the job market accelerating in the U.S., here are some things companies and job seekers can do to get ready.

5 Things Companies Can Do to Minimize the Impact of Accelerating Job Growth

  1. Minimize the effect of voluntary turnover. I’m hearing from talent leaders around the world that their best employees are being sought out in increasing numbers by aggressive recruiters and their former co-workers. Companies need to intervene now to prevent this from becoming a bigger problem later. As a minimum, include an increase in attrition into your 2015 hiring plans.
  2. Build a proactive employee referral program. Make sure all of your employees reach out and connect on LinkedIn with their former co-workers. Company recruiters can now search on these connections as new jobs open up.
  3. Raise the bridge, lower the water or widen the river. As hiring needs accelerate there will be far fewer people who meet the stringent (and quite frankly, narrow-minded) requirements listed on most job descriptions. While paying a modest salary premium for the most talented and skilled people is appropriate, it might be better to hire more high-potential and non-traditional candidates who need a bit of coaching to get up to speed.
  4. Implement a results-based hiring process. Everyone wants to hire people who are results-oriented. However, it’s far better to define the results you needand then find people who are competent and motivated to achieve these results. This concept is the foundation of Performance-based Hiring.
  5. Make hiring managers responsible for hiring for the long term. Managers emphasize their short-term needs when selecting candidates while the best candidates select those jobs that offer the most stretch and future growth. Holding hiring managers responsible for bridging this gap requires them to better balance potential with skills and experience.

5 Things Everyone Can Do to Take Advantage of an Expanding Job Market

  1. Be open-minded, even if you’re not looking for a job. Take the call from the recruiter, but quickly ask the person to describe the real job challenges. If the recruiter knows what they are, continue the conversation.
  2. If you are looking for a job, do not apply directly to any job posting. On average, companies get 100 to 200 resumes for every job opening. So to increase your odds of getting noticed, don’t apply directly unless you’re a perfect fit. Instead, implement a 20/20/60 job-hunting plan to cover all channels.
  3. Build an ever-expanding business network. Networking is not about meeting as many people as possible. It’s about meeting a few people you know who can vouch for your performance. Then ask them to refer you to people you don’t know. Then once you get to know these people, ask them to refer you to others they know.
  4. Do not use your resume as your primary marketing material. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is short, robust and impactful with a compelling tagline under your name. Combine this with a slideshow, a short introductory video, a1-Page job proposal, some type of mini-project and a series of compelling emails to round out your marketing kit. You’ll use this to get through the back door.
  5. Use the job posting as a lead into the back door. When I was a full-time recruiter, I used job postings to find out which companies were hiring and then contacted the department heads to get the search assignment. Job seekers can do the same thing. Use your personal marketing material as a means to obtain an exploratory meeting. Take the lead during the meeting by conducting a needs analysis to understand real job requirements. Then describe something you’ve accomplished that addresses each of the major challenges.

Of course, there are more things companies, recruiters, hiring managers and job seekers can do to hire the best people and find the best jobs, but this is a good start. It starts by being different, not by being more efficient doing all of the things you’re now doing.

How to Get a Job in the Hidden Job Market in 2015

I just received a nice email from a woman who had just read The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. She mentioned on Amazon that my point that most interviewers don’t ask relevant questions was correct. As a result, they are not able to determine if a job seeker is both competent and motivated to do the actual work required. Not knowing what the actual work is the fundamental problem. As a result they tend to hire the person who's the best interviewer, not the best person for the job.

Unfortunately for this woman, she didn’t get the job. But she’ll do better on her next interview by following some of the advice described in the book and in the training series mentioned in the video below. However, the following is one major principle every job seeker must follow to make sure they’re evaluated properly. It starts by finding out what the actual work is before answering any questions.

The Big Principle for Getting Interviewers to Ask Job Seekers the Right Questions

First, ask the interviewer to describe the top two or three objectives required for job success. Then describe an accomplishment you’ve had that is most comparable using the SAFW methodology described in the video series and in this post.

This is called a forced-choice question. The technique will help improve your odds for getting the job by answering questions that address your ability to do the actual work. I know this sounds obvious, but if you’re now being interviewed for a job I suspect you’ve discovered that most interviewers ask a bunch of irrelevant questions. This technique will quickly turn the tables to your favor.

Of course, the other big principle covered in the book and training series is the idea that most jobs are filled in the hidden job market before they’re ever advertised. That’s why I suggest implementing a 20-20-60 job hunting program.

2015 promises to be a strong year for hiring, but if you follow the traditional job-hunting approaches the best you’ll do is get a decent job. However by being different, using the hidden market to get more interviews and making sure you’re asked the right questions you might just wind up with a much better job. It might even be the first step in a great career.