Recruit Smarter, Not Harder

When I first became a headhunter back in the mist-shrouded ’70s, I quickly discovered some basic truths about the search process:

  1. The best candidate often didn’t get the job ? but the best interviewee usually did.
  2. Most people making hiring decisions weren’t very good at it, although most thought they were.
  3. Job descriptions were useless. In fact, they didn’t define jobs at all ? they mostly defined the people who were to take the jobs.

All of this seemed odd, even crazy, given the importance everyone assigned to hiring top people. I quickly became tired of spending unnecessary hours redoing assignments that had by all rights already been completed. As a personal mission, and to keep my sanity, I began a search for the best techniques to define work, find and prep candidates, interview and assess competency, and negotiate offers. It took a while. Along the way I found some people who did it right, year in and year out. I started doing what they did, and surprisingly got similar results. Eventually I realized that there were five core steps involved when the best person got the job, despite their interviewing prowess (or lack thereof), in the least amount of time, with the least amount of effort. This became the POWER Hiring methodology, with each letter of POWER representing one of the steps. They’re quickly described below. Review them. Compare them to your searches that have gone well and to those that have required too much time or effort. The best recruiters will discover they’re doing pretty much the same thing. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. Doing each step every time will enable you to become a great recruiter. Performance Profiles If you want to hire superior people, you must first define superior performance. This is the key to hiring success. Make sure everyone on the hiring team understands and agrees to the deliverables required for job success before ever taking on a search assignment. Every job has five to six accomplishments like this. Skills, competencies, and behaviors are a subset of these required results. “Build a team to launch the new product by year-end” is an example of this type of deliverable. This type of job profile will allow you find more top performers and to better assess their competency. Define the job, not the person. This is the critical difference. Your need something other than skills and behaviors to define competency. Objective Evaluation Make sure that everyone on the hiring team is using some type of pre-structured interview that accurately measures job competency. Most people use their own self-developed approaches that are at best inaccurate, and at worst give wrong results. We developed a simple four-question interview pattern that examines major accomplishments and problem-solving ability in great depth. These are then compared to specific job needs for comparability. The fact that it is structured and used for all applicants eliminates 50% of the errors. Wide-Ranging Sourcing The best candidates don’t look for jobs in the same way typical candidates do. A new job for a top candidate is always a strategic decision based on an opportunity for personal growth. For the typical candidate, the primary motivating need is to get another job. Most sourcing programs don’t take this difference into account, and as a result never attract enough top candidates. Managing motivation is a critical aspect of every successful search assignment. You must focus on the needs of the best to attract a bigger pool of talented candidates. Emotional Control More errors are made in the first 30 minutes of an interview than at any other time. We are all overly influenced by first impressions, appearance, affability and communication skills. Two simple tips can help minimize the tendency to judge on personality rather than competency when interviewing candidates.

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  • Measure first impressions and personality after 30 minutes. By this time, the emotional impact on the interviewer has been neutralized.
  • During the first 30 minutes, change your frame of reference. If you like someone, ask tougher questions, and if you don’t like someone, ask easier questions. This mind shift increases objectivity.

Most interviewers tend to evaluate a candidate’s ability to get the job, rather than do the job. These tips will shift the focus on performance, rather than personality. Personality is critical to success. But interviewing personality isn’t the same as true personality. You’ll see these differences emerge after 30 minutes. You’ll discover that about a third of the people you thought were very good are pretty average, and a third of those you thought were weak are significantly better. Recruiting Right Recruiters need to be able to offer sophisticated career management advice to their top candidates every step of the way. This requires consultative solution selling techniques that match needs with benefits. I’ve seen recruiters and hiring managers lose more great candidates because of unsophisticated and overbearing selling practices than any other reason. It’s easy to “sell” a candidate who needs a job. It requires a pro to close a deal with a top performer who has multiple job opportunities, or doesn’t need to change jobs. Few companies would send their sales people out to their customers without training. Yet most send their recruiters to call on top candidates without the skills needed to present and manage career opportunities. If you don’t get this aspect of recruiting right, then you’re losing some of the best candidates at every step in the process. Hiring the best shouldn’t be left to chance. A process that seamlessly links these five steps together using the performance profile is essential. By establishing job success upfront, managers have a relevant benchmark to assess competency rather than their own biases. From the candidate’s perspective, the performance profile is what attracted them to the job opening in the first place, and why they decided to accept an offer ? even though they had multiple opportunities. This now represents a career opportunity, not just another job. I don’t care if you’re a corporate or third-party recruiter: if you’re tired of spending unnecessary time redoing searches you’ve already completed, you need to take the lead on implementing this type of process. Start looking for tools that work best for your and your clients. You might even create your own new hiring system. Along the way, you’ll make a lot more placements.

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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