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Employee quality directly determines a company’s ability to grow and thrive. That’s a heavy burden for recruiting and hiring managers. You have to locate, attract, and land the very best people – and that’s no easy task. Especially in today’s marketplace where great candidates want more than a paycheck. We talk a lot about recruiting “talent,” but what does that mean? And how do you know if a candidate has what it takes to succeed in your environment?

It’s simple, says renowned recruiting expert Lou Adler . You zero in demonstrated accomplishments instead of the traditional recruiting emphasis on skills and years of experience. You’re looking for the person who can get things done with results that matter. So you stop focusing on how much someone has done in the past and start asking, “How well did you do it?”

Adler calls it Performance-Based Hiring
This concept, developed by Adler based on his own extensive experience recruiting and hiring, is a holistic approach he describes as “an end-to-end, four-step process for hiring top talent.” The process is designed to assist corporate recruiters in making speedier and more successful hiring decisions. Adler says Performance-based Hiring delivers multiple benefits:

  • Time savings, thanks to a more effective candidate winnowing process
  • Stronger candidates to interview, resulting in higher on-the-job performance right from the start
  • Reduced risk of turnover, thanks to making the right match in the first place
  • Increased employee happiness, thanks to accurate expectations and a position that lives up to its promise

At the same time, Performance-based Hiring is designed to appeal to your most desirable candidates, helping them to self-select in your favor. Why?

Anyone you might describe as “top talent” is an achiever. They are personally driven to accomplish things. So you want to find those candidates who have a strong track record and then show them that your open position offers new vistas of opportunity to accomplish more. They can’t help but be interested, because you have what they want most, even if they have a perfectly OK job right now – the chance to stretch their wings even further, to grow professionally.

For top talent, that allure outweighs any mere offer of more money to do more of the same whatever-they’re-doing-now. For employers, this fact can minimize or even eliminate haggling over compensation.

Putting Performance-based Hiring into play
Adler says one of the most common barriers to traditional hiring processes is the system itself. “Recruiters believe that more than 65% of the problems associated with hiring top people are directly attributed to the hiring manager. Hiring managers believe that recruiters don’t understand real job needs and send them too many unqualified candidates. Both groups are right.”

The performance-based approach is a collaborative effort, with recruiting and hiring managers using the same playbook. There are four steps:

1. Write a performance-based job description.
Instead of a litany of required skills, experience, and other “qualifications,” explain what the person in this position does – the day to day work involved, the challenges this person is likely to face and key deliverables or other milestones they will have to accomplish. These are the key career opportunities that will tantalize ideal candidates and inspire them to apply. Or to really listen when you call to lure them away from their current position.

2. Use multi-channel sourcing.
No doubt you already do this, but Adler suggests the most valuable resources can be proactive networking, using advanced Boolean search terms in online postings, creating and using an employee referral program, and of course, creating recruiting messages that speak to prospects’ love of accomplishment. When you focus on what candidates have done rather than where they’ve been, you can appeal to a broader range of candidates, making it easier to diversify your workforce as well as find the most promising new hire for each position.

3. Interview with an eye on performance.
Ask questions about the candidate’s past accomplishments, especially projects they are particularly proud of, whether these things directly relate to the open position or not. You’re looking for thought processes and motivation. Why are they so proud of these achievements? Have they won awards, promotions, been asked to present at a professional gathering, or other “proofs” of performance?

As you converse with the candidate, also take note of any gaps in their training or experience that, if filled with new training and mentoring could help the candidate become even more valuable to your company and even happier in their employment with you.

Consider giving them a mini-assignment that allows them to demonstrate how they would tackle a project and succeed in your company. For example, it could be a hypothetical scenario representative of the kind of challenges they’ll be facing. Assign it prior to the interview, so they can present their findings or explain their recommendations in person.

4. Proactively recruit those who aren’t looking for a change.
Everyone recruiting/hiring professional knows that most of their top prospects are already employed. Some are open to a change but not really doing anything to make that happen. Most aren’t even thinking about a move. Lou Adler estimates that, together, these people represent between 75% and 95% of the candidate market. Clearly, you can’t afford to not reach them with your message of advanced opportunity at your business.

Right now you’re researching possible candidates and engaging in various forms of networking to meet them. With Performance-based Hiring, however, your conversations will sound a bit different. As soon as you make contact you have to dispel the assumption that you’re calling to offer more money for a lateral move. That’s exactly what your ideal candidate doesn’t want. Instead, intrigue them further by summarizing how your position will enable them to grow professionally, why your company is a great place to work, and why they will love being part of your team long-term.

Now they’re listening.

Is Performance-based Hiring right for your company?
Before you get ready to post that next “skills and experience wanted” job opening, consider what using the Performance-based approach might do for you instead. If Lou Adler is right – and his many fans certainly attest to his success – following the four steps in his process will connect you with more truly desirable candidates and enable you to land a high-achiever who will help your company accomplish more, every time.

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