The Thinking Person’s Guide to Improved Performance

It has always been my assumption that people want to get better at what they do. If they are good, they want to become great; if they are great, they want to become world class; and so forth. Nearly everyone has the desire to reach his or her potential and achieve some level of hard-fought success. Regrettably, greatness is elusive. Just when we scope out the spot in which it lies and plot a course to attain it, we often see the landscape has shifted. Where perceived greatness once existed, now we see only questionable solutions and partial success, as the fluidity of business makes our plans irrelevant. So we pick ourselves up and start again. This trek towards self improvement is a tricky business, leaving many of us frustrated and doubtful of both the path and, sadly, the purpose. Fortunately, those seeking greatness in any endeavor, and in our case in recruiting, still have principles they can count on to help navigate today’s interesting business conditions. While these are not necessarily a guaranteed delivery of greatness in our recruiting field, I would like to share with you five ideological tenets that might just smooth out the journey. They take guts and imagination to implement, but as with most things, the tougher road is usually more rewarding and in the end, even somewhat easier. 1. Question everything. Being a bit on the defiant side, the saying “I am more concerned about unquestioned answers than about unanswered questions” has never been lost on this writer. I urge you to be weary of anything that you read as it relates to new solutions, startling “everyone’s doing it” ideas, and best-of-breed practices. Though often helpful, experts, thought leaders, and pioneers can be very dangerous people, as advanced degrees and titles are often associated with more credibility than the solutions they claim to deliver. Opinions passed on as facts are rampant, as are studies comprised of data that can be manipulated 18 ways to Sunday. Question everything with the simple words “how” and why” and do not let it go until you have reached a level of comfort that works for you. Be impressed only with sensibility, practical application, proof of concept, and a sound argument. If someone says something that initially strikes you as nonsense, there is a good chance that it is. 2. Utilize different methodologies. With the exception of always hiring the best candidate, there are few holy grails and absolutes that exist to which recruiters need to be anchored. Active or passive candidates, networking or job boards, Coke or Pepsi…the answers to these earth-shaking choices vary from situation to situation and are greatly influenced by such factors as:

  • The position to be filled
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  • The sense of urgency
  • Available sourcing methodologies
  • What has or has not worked before
  • Your industry, etc.

Be very wary of doing the same thing in the same way over and over again. Each day is a new day, and each position is a new deal. Assess your options with fresh eyes on a regular basis and do what will deliver the best results for that given situation. As always, never worry about doing what is popular; worry about doing what is right. Great planning, strong execution, and on-time delivery almost always equal success. 3. Do not worry about diversity. Thomas Jefferson said, “In matters of taste, swim with the current; in matters of principal, stand like a rock.” Hiring the best candidate is the principle, and as such you must stand like a rock. Bear in mind that doing what is politically correct might not be the same thing as doing what is best for the business you represent. Being critical of diversity either conceptually or as an initiative is akin to dissing motherhood and apple pie. However, as I stated above, I question everything. The more dearly held the belief, the more I question it. My gripes with diversity are many, but my primary concern is that it creates a clear and present danger to the recruiter’s primary mission: to hire the most qualified candidate. Simply stated, if you pressure hiring managers and recruiters to look at anything other than a candidate’s ability to do the job, you compromise the process and, as a result, you compromise the outcome of that process. That sin is unforgivable. There are few people that value a diverse workplace more than I do, but as businesspeople, we have a fiduciary responsibility to hire the best candidate and only the best candidate. Any program, agenda, initiative, or belief that interferes with hiring the best candidate has no place in the business world. 4. Watch one, do one, teach one. This is a classic medical school philosophy used to create new MDs, and I’ve yet to see a time when it does not work. Few of us are good at everything, and speaking personally, I struggle more than I like to admit. As an example, six months ago, I did not know a Boolean search from a Chevrolet, but I signed up for the AIRS Search Lab (watched one), practiced for two weeks (did one), and then taught it to my wife (taught one). The results were great; not because of my MENSA membership but because the above mentioned philosophy works. Are you unsure of how to use Linked in; need to know how to turn a position outline into an opportunity profile or looking for ways to warm up cold calls? Watch one, do one teach one. It is as close to magic as you will get. 5. Create change. We live in a society that is largely uncomfortable with change. This is unfortunate, because change is all that we really have. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the strong who survive; it is the adaptable who do so. If you want to become more comfortable with change, be the one who creates it and use it in ways that make you more successful by adding new dimensions of ability, effectiveness, and value. Alan Weiss, PhD, consultant extraordinaire, and founder of Summit Consulting Group, is fond of commenting on how dumb he was just six months ago. His belief in ongoing innovation and the ability to drive the type of change that creates more value is legendary, and his clients love him for it. Do your hiring managers love you? If not, what can you change to make that happen? As we move into the summer, business slows just a bit. We have the chance to dip our feet into the ocean, wiggle our toes, buy Birkenstocks, smell the beach and the barbecues, and bask in the glory of this wonderful warm season (they tell me it even stops raining in Seattle for a few days). I urge you to take a break, kick back, and give some thought to how you can achieve the greatness you have always wanted. If you do this, consider the above-mentioned ideas. I am sure they will make a difference. Making that difference might be all you need to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


2 Comments on “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Improved Performance

  1. Valuable article Howard! A ‘Must Read’ (and remember) for those committed to excellence; practical and much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  2. Just an opinion…
    Your article was a nice professional read/reminder untill you ventured momentarily into what appears to be your personal gripe arena. It seemed out of step with the rest of your article.

    ‘Being critical of diversity either conceptually or as an initiative is akin to dissing motherhood and apple pie.’

    I’m sure you understand at the end of the day, ‘fit’ is what carries the day regarding hiring decision making. Diversity should be viewed as simply a variable in the multifaceted hiring equation.

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