Amazon takes great pride in its bar-raiser program which gives the right to an experienced interviewer to override a hiring manager’s yay/nay decision. In some cases, this makes sense, especially if the hiring manager is too short-term focused rather than hiring someone for her or his future potential.
But in most cases, this is not the case, and when not, it reveals foundational flaws in Amazon’s hiring practice.
Since I spent my early career in manufacturing and supply chain optimization, I see the hiring process as very similar. In this comparison, you don’t need to be too insightful to recognize that when too many out-of-spec completed products are rejected at the end of a process you need to shut down the entire process and fix the problem before turning the line back on. Elon Musk called a similar problem “production hell” when the Tesla Model 3 was just launching. In fact, the Six Sigma movement of the 1980s and 1990s was developed around the same concept of correcting problems as early as possible in the process to minimize costs and maximize final product quality.
The same idea can be applied to a company’s sourcing and selection process based on the idea that too many rejections at the end of the process, including good candidates opting-out or rejecting offers and bar-raisers saying no, means there’s a problem somewhere upstream. Eliminating these upstream problems will reduce costs, increase recruiter productivity, save time, and shorten time-to-fill while raising the quality of the people being seen and hired.
This is a realistic outcome when hiring is seen as a continuous business process rather a sequence of independent steps. Here are a few ideas on how to get started.
Building an End-to-End Talent Bar-raising Hiring Process
Define the talent bar during the intake meeting. Ask the hiring manager what the person must do to be in the top-third. This podcast explains the process. The idea is to define the work as a series of performance objectives rather than a generic list of skills and “must have” competencies. Candidates who don’t meet this bar shouldn’t even be considered.
Measure the talent bar at the top of the funnel. On a recent high-volume hiring project, we reviewed dozens of candidates to establish the talent benchmark for the recruiting team. We also got the 20+ hiring managers to agree to conduct an exploratory phone screen with 100% of the candidates the recruiters subsequently recommended. We refereed any differences to ensure recruiters and hiring managers were aligned. This step was a game-changer since everyone who was invited onsite already raised the bar.
Train your hiring managers on how to recognize, assess and recruit top tier talent. This should be a prerequisite before a hiring manager can hire anyone. Have them buy this book, take this LinkedIn Learning course or participate in the Performance-based Hiring Challenge. Those who pass will not need a bar-raiser to override their decisions.
Determine if your HR Tech and your ATS might be the problem, not the solution. Weeding out high volumes of unqualified candidates in the hope that a few remain seems like an odd use of technology. Lever’s (an ATS) nurturing system or an Infusion-like CRM is a high touch model embedded into a high-tech system. Both are based on “high-touch” permission marketing principles.
Identify and recruit candidates who can raise the talent bar. This demo lesson describes how recruiters can proactively source people who are performance qualified, rather than skills qualified, and who are already bar-raisers. This opens the talent pool to more diverse and high potential talent who have a different mix of skills and experiences.
Implement an extraordinary candidate experience (ECX). Design your ECX based on how the best people find and accept jobs. Too often this is diluted by trying to play “nice” to everyone using some high-tech approach.
The hiring manager’s boss should be the logical bar raiser and recruiter. This is an essential component of an ECX. During the meeting this business leader needs to assess the candidate’s potential to handle bigger roles and, if so, describe the strategic importance of the role to get the candidate excited about the job and increase the chances the person will accept an offer.
Make sure you provide bar-raisers a 30% non-monetary increase. Closing quickly is not the goal. Convincing a bar-raising candidate that your open role is a career move is called recruiting. As a minimum this 30% needs to consist of some combination of a bigger job, a mix of more satisfying work, a job with more impact and faster long-term growth.
Raising the talent bar is a worthy and critical strategic goal for any company. However, it’s a great deal more logical and efficient to design a hiring process that targets people who can raise the talent bar at the beginning of the process rather than weeding them out at the end.