Going Back To Square One

At a recent workshop for CEOs, I asked these three questions: Who would you rather hire…

  • Someone who needed a job, or someone who wanted a better job?
  • Someone who had all of the skills, or someone who could deliver the desired results?
  • Someone who could get the job, or someone who could do the job?

The right answers all came back like clockwork: someone who wanted a job, could deliver the desired results, and could do the job. But underneath I knew the truth: that each of the CEOs who gave the right answers still had their sourcing and recruiting efforts focused on the wrong ones. They still hired people who needed a job; they still screened candidates based on their skills; and they still judged candidates mostly on the quality of their interviewing skills. What all of these CEOs – and the recruiters who work for and with them – must do is go back to square one. They all have to remember three basic and vitally important things: 1. Self-motivation is the key to personal success. You need to attract people who see your job opening as an opportunity to learn something important, do something fulfilling, and become somebody better. The best people all select opportunities to explore and ultimately accept jobs based on these core factors. If you advertise based on skills and competencies, you automatically exclude the best people from applying. Even if a top person desperately needs a job due to tough economic times, once new opportunities become available this person will leave for something more meaningful. Turnover among the best people is primarily attributed to lack of growth and opportunity. It is essential that you examine every aspect of your sourcing with this critical issue in mind: Are you going after people who need any job, or those who want a better job? Consider these three questions. If you answer yes to any of them, you have a problem:

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  • Do your ads overemphasize skills, academics, and years of experience instead of describing what the person will do in the job?
  • Do you filter out candidates for the same reason, instead of filtering in candidates who have already delivered results comparable to your needs?
  • If you use some type of telephone or web-based application process, do you filter out candidates on short-term tactical issues like compensation, relocation, and job interest instead of filtering them in by offering long-term challenges to explore?

Think about your current workforce. Are most of them motivated to do outstanding work? Do most stay late until projects are completed? Do most deliver great results, year in and year out? Do they learn whatever they must to get the job done? Make sure your sourcing plans go after this type of person. Most don’t. Start by finding people who are motivated to do the work you need done. 2. Define success, not the skills required. Here is the single basic prerequisite for an effective hiring system: If you want to hire superior people, first define superior performance. Every job has six to eight deliverables that define job success. Usually, these are the key steps needed to achieve some major objective. If launching a new product or completing a major project is the primary objective, for example, some important sub-steps might include:

  • Complete the market research in 30 days
  • Assess and build the team in a few weeks
  • Lay out the project plan by June
  • Design and build the prototype in the first quarter
  • Train all of the sales team before the launch
  • Prepare the budget for approval by August

Skills and competencies are a subset of these desired results. Just because someone has the skills, it doesn’t mean they can deliver the desired results. Often a different mix of skills and abilities can achieve better results. That’s why past results are a much better indicator of success than past experience, past behavior, or skills. When preparing a job description, first define the desired results, the general process used to achieve the results, and the environment in which the results need to take place. Then put the absolute minimal level of skills needed as a filter. The people who apply will combine their skills with self-motivation. This is a winning combination. 3. Measure job competency, not interviewing competency. The best candidates aren’t always the best at being interviewed. It is the responsibility of the interviewer to obtain the information needed to determine job competency. Most interviewers tend to guess at this based on the quality of a candidate’s communication skills, enthusiasm, and personality during the interview. All are poor predictors of success. It’s better to get detailed examples of major team and individual accomplishments. Do this whether you like or dislike the candidate based on first impressions. For each accomplishment, understand the results achieved, the process used to achieve the results, and the environment in which these took place. Compare these achievements to the deliverables required for job success. Interviewing is more about getting this information from the candidate than asking lots of questions. Otherwise, you’re judging interviewing skills, not job competency. Finding and hiring great people is a tough enough challenge. Bad ideas and artificial barriers make it impossible. Source based on self-motivation, not skills. You’ll attract a bigger and better pool of top candidates. Screen on the results needed, not on some list of arbitrary skills. Then use this to benchmark past performance. When assessing competency, it’s important to pierce the veneer of personality and presentation – to measure substance, not style. Give these three basic ideas a try. We all need to get back to square one.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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