5 Ways to Become a 100% Better Recruiter

At the beginning of every Performance-based Hiring recruiter workshop, I ask the recruiters in attendance how much better they want to become at their job over the next 12 months.

Most are in the 20-100% range.

I then ask what they’re now doing to achieve their goal, whatever it may be. Often, I ask them to go to the whiteboard and write these things down. You might want to do something similar. Sharing your goals and ideas with your teammates will increase the likelihood you’ll achieve them, whether they’re of the 20% or 100% variety.

I then offer the idea that becoming 20% better at anything requires nothing more than being more efficient doing what you’re already doing. However, to be 100% better you have to rethink, redo and rebuild. For recruiters, the big shift is changing your focus to hiring stronger people, rather than being more efficient hiring people like the ones you’re already hiring. For those in the workshop, I then offer these five ideas for hiring stronger people:

1. Force the hiring manager to define the job, rather than define a person for the job.

Improving quality of hire is at the core of becoming 100% better. Since the best people are generally passive candidates, none will talk with you unless you can describe the actual job in some detail.

So, before you start looking for a top person, ask the hiring manager to describe what the person needs to accomplish in order to be considered successful. The result needs to be 5-6 performance objectives clarifying real job expectations, not a laundry list of skills, generic competencies and experience requirements.

2. Use the interview to assess the person’s performance, rather than box-checking his or her skills and experiences.

When you get a candidate on the phone, use the work-history review to determine if the person is anAchiever, i.e., in the top 25% of his or her peer group. This is the A-Team. If they are, use the 1-question performance-based interview to determine if the person’s accomplishments are comparable to what you need done.

Emphasizing past performance and future potential, rather than skills and experience, is how you raise the talent bar at your company. If the person is on the A-Team but your opening is not a great fit, find some other job in your company for the person. Some hiring manager will thank you for the effort.

3. Eliminate 50% of all hiring mistakes by leading panel interviews.

The simplest way to become 100% better is to cut your sendouts per hire in half. This is a great area to work on if you frequently lose good candidates to any type of biased hiring decision. Use this “how to eliminate interview bias” list to get started working on the problem. A well-organized panel interview can eliminate all of them at once. That’s why I go out of my way to lead these panel interviews. You should too.

4. Don’t negotiate the compensation (or anything else for that matter) before the candidate understands the job.

You’ll get a lot more top people to talk with you by saying, “Let’s ignore the compensation for a bit and explore the chance the job might represent a good career move. If so, we can figure out if the final package makes sense.”

The point: Changing jobs for a fully-employed and extraordinary person involves a detailed understanding of the job, the opportunity and the circumstances. This is a great way to get more top people into the top of your recruiting funnel and the more you get at the top, the more you’ll hire at the bottom.

5. Lead the debriefing session to eliminate gladiator voting.

Adding up a bunch of yes/no votes based on a series of short or biased interviews is unlikely to result in an accurate prediction of on-the-job performance. Worse, often the best candidates get eliminated for bad reasons.

I suggest recruiters assign interviewers different factors to focus on using this quality of hire talent scorecard as a guide. Then, use this form to look for the Achiever pattern and these three traits of high potential  people. You’ll get kudos for leading these sessions and preventing hiring the wrong people. A few of these turnarounds is all it takes to become a 100% better recruiter.

Final thought

It’s easy to become 20% better just by being more efficient doing what you’re already doing. To be 100% better requires you to do things differently. You don’t even need to be too efficient if these changes are big enough. Hiring stronger people is big enough.

*Image from Duncan Chen

These 15 “Soft Skills” Define the A-Team



In the 1980s and 1990s I placed hundreds of people in management positions. A few dozen got quickly promoted multiple times. I met up with one of them last week who's now an EVP with an F250 company. Many of the hiring managers who hired these people had similar track records of success. Coincidentally, I was at a business conference with a number of them last month. These two events got me thinking about all of these people – the hundreds and the dozens – and what they had in common.

The big aha was that once the person passed a reasonably lofty threshold of technical ability, his or her soft skills are what drove their upward success. In fact, since soft skills are so critical to personal performance, “soft” is too soft a word to describe them. Regardless of what one calls these “non-technical” management and business leadership skills, here’s what those who progressed the fastest had in common.

  1. Focused Work Ethic. Part of this is working hard, taking the initiative, doing more than required and going the extra mile. The other part is working smart. Working hard needs to have some purpose and direction to it. Consistently achieving the required results is the primary bigger purpose.
  2. Operational Leadership. I wrote a post last year titled Leadership = Vision plus Execution. In summary, it means you need to have a clear vision of what needs to get done and then you need to marshal the resources to do it. Then you have to do it.
  3. Strategic vs. Tactical Worldview. When I was sitting in a boardroom many years ago as a rookie financial analyst, the CEO of an F50 company lambasted a group president saying, “Strategy drives tactics. Your strategy is flawed, so the quality of your tactics doesn’t matter.” Those who got ahead the fastest seem to naturally understand this.
  4. Zooming. This has to do with the ability to zoom in on a problem to figure out the root cause and then zoom out to see all of the possible solutions.
  5. Multi-Functional Thinking. This might also be called business acumen. Despite a functional expertise, the best people could see beyond their own department’s requirements to balance the needs of growth (sales, marketing and product development) vs. operational efficiency (operations, engineering, IT, HR and finance/accounting).
  6. Persistence. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever give up.” Sometimes things go wrong, so following the PM’s advice is essential.
  7. Influence. This is the ability to convince those in authority to agree to their proposals (the vision part of leadership) and the ability to get the people working with and for them to agree to willingly participate. This is related to team skills and EQ, but influencing others is the visible outcome.
  8. Proactivity. This has to do with anticipating a problem before it becomes a problem and then taking overt action to address it in a logical and businesslike manner. It’s more than planning, but planning is part of this.
  9. Leveraging Team and Resources. This has to do with efficiency, achieving more with less, figuring out how to avoid or overcome unnecessary obstacles and getting more from their team than would be considered normal.
  10. Organizational Skills. Whether they’re individual contributors, part of a team or running a team, the best people can organize the resources to deliver the results on time and on budget on a consistent basis.
  11. Responsible and Committed. When the best people say they’ll do something, they do it. And when things go wrong, they don’t make excuses or blame others. Getting it done is typically more important than perfection, which is a common flaw of the over-techie.
  12. Ability to Select and Develop the Right People. A-Team leaders don’t compromise on whom they hire: the A-Team. My big win as a recruiter: I got them to first define the job as a series of performance objectives rather than listing a bunch of generic skills. Then I found people who could deliver the results required. Surprisingly, those who made the A-Team had the traits listed here.
  13. Comfortable Swimming in the Deep End of the Pool. Throw people in over their heads and see if they can swim. The A-Team can not only swim, they don’t mind being thrown in over their heads since it builds confidence. In fact, they ask for these types of assignments.
  14. Courage in Decision-Making. Not only does a person need to make the right decisions, he or she often needs to make them with limited information or lack of time. Which, surprisingly, is most of the time.
  15. Situational Fit or Adaptability. Sometimes these people were not successful but were savvy enough to extricate themselves proactively. Circumstances play a big role in any job, most often they’re dependent on the quality of the relationship with the person’s peer and manager. Sometimes it’s a mismatch on culture or values or a disagreement on focus.

These characteristics, and the few that might have been missed, can all be assessed using the most significant accomplishment question in the Performance-based Interview I advocate. The idea is to look for these characteristics in the person’s major accomplishments and map the accomplishments to the actual performance requirements of the job. Done properly, this is how you hire people for the A-Team.


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. His new video program provides job seekers inside secrets on what it takes to get a job in the hidden job market.

A Day in the Life of a Recruiter



I just found this old practice video I put together when preparing a talk for job seekers on how to work with recruiters. When combined with these two posts it offers job seekers a realistic understanding of what's needed to get a new job.

  • A 10-point Plan for Getting a New Job in 90 Days
  • A Performance-based Interview Guide with Questions & Answers

Here's a quick summary of the video:

  1. Biggest point: recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people. So don't waste your time sending them resumes unless you've been referred.
  2. You'll discover the one question you must ask to find out if the recruiter is a gatekeeper or a career counselor. This is the same question you'll use to figure out if the recruiter has any influence with the hiring manager. If not, you'll need to find another recruiter or the back door.
  3. Don't fall into the trap of filtering jobs based on Day 1 criteria. This is what you get on you day you start on new job, e.g., title, company, location, compensation. More important, don't let the recruiter filter you out either on the same criteria.
  4. Force the recruiter to Think Backwards. (FYI - this is the secret to getting a better job and negotiating the offer.)

Here are a bunch of other videos for hiring managers, recruiters and job seekers. Only watch them if your team doesn't make it to the Sweet 16. They'll help you forget. My team (UCLA) made it past the bubble, but it might soon burst.


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. His new video program provides job seekers inside secrets on what it takes to get a job in the hidden job market.