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6 Steps for Creating an Expert Hiring System

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An expert system is a business process that simulates the judgment and behavior of a human who has expert knowledge and experience in a particular field.

I’ve been around for a lot of years in the hiring business and am still dumbfounded that companies still do these dumb things and expect to hire smart people:

  1. Companies must believe there’s a surplus of top people who are willing to take ill-defined lateral transfers and jump through hoops to get a job. Even if there were an excess of great people, it would be a terrible way to hire them. Yet this is how most hiring processes are designed.
  2. People actually believe those terrible ads by and that you can get “qualified” people in days. I guess they must be using a new dictionary.
  3. Companies spend a lot of money on improving the “candidate experience” when the best way to improve it would be to eliminate the apply button.

When I first started as a recruiter, I never used skills-based descriptions nor did I ever need more than 12-15 prospects to make one great hire. Over the years I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates, written a lot of books, conducted hundreds of training sessions and created an online learning platform – The Hiring Machine – to make it easy for anyone to stop doing these and related dumb things.

When I started, I didn’t know much about interviewing or recruiting other than the part about not using skills-based job descriptions. But I got better by benchmarking how the best hiring managers interviewed and recruited the best talent and how the best people found new jobs. Collectively, these methods were integrated into an end-to-end business process called Performance-based Hiring. It’s summarized in the image above and in the steps below.

At its core is the concept that a multi-dimensional problem like hiring top talent, can’t be solved with a bunch of one-dimensioal solutions duct-taped together in an ATS. If you try it out you’ll discover that the wisdom of a crowd of experts working as a team can overcome bias, reduce costs, improve speed to hire and improve quality of hire. That’s the very definition of an expert system.

The Six Critical Steps for Implementing an Expert Hiring System to Raise the Talent Bar

  1. Use a scarcity of talent strategy hiring model. Too many companies still design their ATS and hiring processes under the assumption there’s a surplus of talent. There isn’t.
  2. Clarify real job needs as performance objectives and career opportunities. You’ll never attract the best people if your company still posts jobs that list skills, experiences and competencies. Long ago, Gallup proved that clarifying expectations upfront was the key to assessing and motivating people.
  3. Implement a “small batch, high touch” sourcing and recruiting process that attracts the best. Good recruiters only need 15-20 prospects who are performance qualified (meaning they can do the work), possess the Achiever Pattern (top third of their peer group) AND would see the job as a career move. This is how you increase quality of hire, reduce cost per hire and improve speed to hire.
  4. Use the Performance-based Interview to increase assessment accuracy to 80-89%. By assessing performance and fit, our interview has been ranked “The Best” by the #1 labor attorney in the U.S. and Harvard’s leading professor who conducts research on determining the drivers of individual performance.
  5. Negotiate and close the offer at 100% acceptance rates and within budget. If the best people opt-out too soon or reject your offers, you’ll never hire the best people available. The key is to offer the best career trajectory, not the biggest compensation package.
  6. Use real time metrics that track Quality of Hiring at every step in the funnel. If you can’t measure quality of hiring you can’t improve it. This is the essential component of any feedback process control system. Here’s a video on how to measure quality of hire and how it can be tracked pre- and post-hire. These metrics need to be embedded into your ATS right away.

I was recently asked by the CEO of a midsize company what she had to do to ensure every hiring manager in her company made better hiring decisions. Instead of getting into all of the above, I told her to not approve another requisition until the hiring team defined the work the person needed to do rather than skills needed to do the work. Then she must not approve the decision to hire anyone until the interviewing team agreed (with minor variances) on the person’s ability and motivation to do the work and fit with the company’s culture (i.e., pace, resources, politics, values) and fit with the hiring manager’s style (micro manager to macro leader).

Bridging the gap between these two steps is what hiring great people on a consistent basis is all about, and why you can’t hire great people using an ATS, a job board and duct tape.