How does it feel when you are confronted with a salesperson
you've hired who doesn't understand the product or service he or she
When I asked 37 recruiters last week, this was part of their
Not worth the time talking to
Want nothing to do with these types of sales people
This is the same thing candidates say about recruiters when the
recruiter doesn't know the real job. A recruiter who doesn't
understand the real job he's trying to fill comes across as weak,
timid, ineffective, and untrustworthy to both candidates and clients
So if you want to be a paper-pusher or transactional recruiter,
you don't need to understand real job needs. However, if you want to
be a top recruiter, or just be in the top half, your understanding
of real job needs is just as important as a good salesperson's need
to understand the product line he's selling.
When I was a young recruiter, about 25 years ago, it was very
clear to me that the primary reason my good candidates got rejected
was the lack of understanding of real job needs on the part of the
hiring manager and everyone on the hiring team. I also knew that I
had little influence with candidates or the members of the
interviewing team unless I really understood the actual requirements
of the job. Solving this problem was how performance profiles and
the Performance-based Hiring process came into being.
A performance profile is a summary of the
five to six key performance objectives of the position, not the
qualifications the person needs to have. For a plant manager, it
might be to implement a process improvement program increasing
capacity by 25% during the first year. For a person in a call
center, it might amount to showing up every day (100% attendance)
and processing 30 orders per day.
The key to preparing performance profiles is to get the hiring
manager to focus on what the person needs to do to be successful,
not on what the person must have in terms of skills and
Start preparing a performance profile by asking these questions
of your hiring manager client on your next assignment:
What does the person need to do to be considered successful in
this position? (Get specifics here, with details about the tasks.)
What's the primary skill the person needs to have, and how
will the person use this skill on the job?
What do the best people in this job do differently than the
average or below-average person?
What's a critical team effort for this person?
What's the biggest problem the person has to solve?
What's the biggest change or improvement the person needs to
Once you get this list, ask the manager to put the tasks in
priority order. Then ask, "If I could present a person to you who
could do all of these things, but didn't have the exact
qualifications as listed on the job descriptions, would you be open
to at least see the person?" You'll likely get a yes. What you've
done is shifted the hiring decision away from qualifications to real
job performance. You've also completed the first step in
implementing the Performance-based Hiring business process for
hiring top performers.
Getting the hiring manager and everyone on the hiring team to
agree to real job needs is a critical first step, but it's
only the first step in hiring top people. By shifting the decision
to performance, you've given each interviewer something tangible to
Without this, most interviewers use their gut, intuition, or
emotional biases to make important hiring decisions. These are the
primary causes of bad hiring decisions. Preparing a performance
profile also gives the recruiter the insight needed to better
understand real job needs. This will be critical when sourcing and
contacting top performers.
The second step in the Performance-based Hiring system
is a process called talent-centric sourcing. The concept behind this
is that top people don't look for new opportunities nor decide to
take one job over another using the same criteria as average
performers. When looking for a better job, top people are initially
more interested in the company, the culture, and the types of job
opportunities available in their area of expertise. Rarely are they
looking for a specific job, with a specific title. So, if your
primary sourcing strategy is to drive candidates to a boring online
job description, you're missing out on the best people.
If you want to see more top people, you need to offer them
options to engage with your company other than formally applying.
This might mean making it easy to talk to a recruiter or having an
"exploratory" conversation with a hiring manager. A talent hub is a
good interim step. These micro sites allow top people to just look
and gather information about a company and class of job before
committing. Sourcing top people is comparable to selling a custom
product to a discriminating buyer where there's plenty of
competition. Posting a boring, hard-to-find job, coupled with a
disrespectful application process, is not going to help.
The third step in the Performance-based Hiring process
is the use of an evidence-based interviewing process. As a
recruiter, I learned that the best type of interviewing question was
to ask candidates to give detailed descriptions of their major
accomplishments. I then would examine the trend line of these
accomplishments over time to see if the person was still growing, or
at least working at a high level of performance. I also used this
type of interview to find gaps in the person's background in
comparison to the real job needs.
As long as I could demonstrate that the job I was trying to fill
was at least 15% bigger than the person's current job or other
opportunities, I rarely had to compete on compensation. Of course,
without knowing the performance profile, it was not possible to
clearly define this gap.
The fourth step in Performance-based Hiring is the
effective use of recruiting, negotiating, and closing techniques to
increase the rate of offers being accepted on fair terms, to
minimize the chance of a competitive offer being accepted, and to
prevent counter-offers. The set-up for pulling this off starts with
the preparation of the performance profile and the performance-based
interview described above. If the interview is conducted properly
and the 15% gap is clearly defined, the candidate is almost ready to
accept your offer.
Now is the time for the hiring manager to get more involved in
the recruiting process. As long as the compensation package is
competitive, top people accept offers based on the challenge of the
job (the 15% gap), the long-term growth opportunity, and their
relationship with the hiring manager and the rest of the hiring
Top people want to work for leaders and mentors. They want to
work with other top performers. To establish this type of strong
relationship, the hiring manager needs to meet at least twice with
the candidate during the interviewing process, personally make the
offer at lunch or dinner, and then contact the candidate at least
twice after the offer is extended.
During these sessions, the hiring manager has to demonstrate
sincere interest in the candidate, describe the challenges involved
in the job, and provide examples of other people the manager has
helped to grow. Developing a similar relationship with someone else
on the team (a peer) helps as well. All of this will be invaluable
as the candidate compares other offers and turns in her resignation.
As a recruiter, your role is to facilitate all of this and ensure
that it happens. You want the candidate to see your new opportunity
as less risky and more challenging than all of the other
opportunities available or accepting a counter-offer.
You'll never have enough money in your budget to hire all of the
top people you would like. So start the recruiting process under the
assumption that you're going to have to convince the person that
your job is worth taking, even if the compensation is modest or
This means you'll need to sell on the challenge, the growth
opportunity, the hiring manager, and team. A process like
Performance-based Hiring can help you pull this off, but unless you
know the real job, you'll never get the chance.