The first requirement for an exemplary user experience (UX) is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.

This seems like a pretty good definition of UX to me. And while many companies embrace this concept, they think the "U" in UX are the candidates they're not going to hire. I suggest the "U" should be those whom they are going to hire. In this case I'd define these people as those who are competent and motivated to do the work you want done. Everyone else is either not competent or not motivated. This simple concept is represented in the graphic, “How Hiring Process Impacts Performance.”

To determine if you have the right UX driving your hiring process, take a small sample of the people you’ve recently hired and assign them into one of the four groups in the table. If you don’t have enough in the Tier 1 group you'll need to rethink your entire hire process to figure out why. The following ideas will help get you started. (Note: Every month we host a monthly public webcast to discuss this UX-inspired hiring process design.)

Tier 1: How did you hire the good people you’ve already hired?

While all Tier 1 people are both very competent and highly motivated to do the work you want done, there are ranges of performance within the tier. Some of them are solid people who love what they do and take great pride in doing it well, others are newbies who want to learn all they can and some are high achievers who want to progress rapidly. Regardless of their level within Tier 1, they’re all considered outstanding people because they produce high quality work on a consistent basis.

When it comes to a UX focus, it’s important to understand that people like this are typically hired when the job represents a true career move coupled with a fair compensation package. In this case a career move needs to offer a minimum 30% non-monetary increase. This 30% is the collective sum of a bigger job combined with more satisfying work, more impactful work and faster growth. While it takes extra time to prove this, few recruiters and fewer hiring managers are willing to make the investment in time necessary despite the obvious advantages. This results in hiring many top people who quickly become Tier 2 hires when the career move was not fully validated.

Tier 2: Could have been a great hire, if only.

While these people are fully competent they’re not consistently motivated to do the required work for one reason or another. As a result their work quality suffers or they need extra pushing to meet minimum requirements.

Hiring good people who underperform is a very common problem. Not only is it totally predictable; it’s also totally avoidable. Two problems are the typical cause. One is an emphasis on short-term non-job related criteria (like discussing the compensation before the person knows about the job) or the process was rushed. The other is a lack of fit in some way with either the job, the manager or the culture.

On the “bad fit” side it could be that the person is not motivated to do the work since it wasn’t fully clarified upfront or the person was misled. Regardless of the cause, lack of fit is usually the problem when otherwise talented people fall short of expectations.

The solution starts by clarifying job expectations upfront, fully understanding what motivates these people to perform at peak levels and making sure the fit factors are considered before an offer is considered.

Tier 3: Why did we hire this person?

There is no question that people who are neither competent nor motivated are bad hires. The cause is obvious: Usually the process was rushed and the assessment was based on a very narrow set of skill-based criteria. In many cases the people hired under these hectic conditions are those who make the best presentations, not the people who are the best performers. The problem is worsened since the candidate accepted the offer for short-term reasons based on compensation or which company could move the fastest.

Tier 4: The big mistakes.

Whenever a superficial assessment process is mixed with a need to hire quickly, big mistakes can be made. The biggest one is hiring people who just don’t fit on multiple dimensions. Worse, they’re often so assertive they make the problem worse and demotivate everyone else around them. This is far worse if they're managers.

Any structured interview process including reference checking and testing will help minimize Tier 3 and Tier 4 hiring errors, but as far as I’m concerned all this does is move the people who are hired into the Tier 2 group. The strategic win is moving everyone into the Tier 1 category. This requires a major shift in your company’s talent strategy and embracing the UX design concept.

But the most important part of all of the UX redesign effort is first figuring out who’s the “U.”