Current Articles

How to Hire People Who Can Hit the Ground Running

To access this article you must be a registered user/member of this site. Click the appropriate link below to continue.

… if you know what drives on-the-job success for people you know, why not use this same information to hire people you don’t know?

Back in the late 80s, my search firm started offering a one-year guarantee on every candidate that was hired through us. This forced us to work very hard at figuring out what drove on-the-job success. This was how the Performance-based Hiring process was developed, described in Hire With Your Head in 1997 and updated recently in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. Using Performance-based Hiring, our placement fallout rate was less than 5%, meaning 95% of the people who were hired through us stayed at least one year. Even better, over 50% of the 600 people we placed were promoted or took on bigger roles within 18 months.

In 1999, Gallup introduced its Q12 Employee Engagement Survey – defining the factors that drove job satisfaction and on-the-job performance. These were explained in the breakthrough book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Surprisingly, other than having a best friend at work, the findings closely paralleled what we discovered 10 years earlier.

The big point of this comparison is that if you know what drives on-the-job success for people you know, why not use this same information to hire people you don’t know? This gap has yet to be bridged. The PbH9 offers the foundation to start.

The Performance-based Hiring PbH9 Criteria for Hiring Top Performers

PbH 1. Define expected performance before you define the person. Ask the hiring manager what the person must do to be successful in the job, then find people who can do this work. This is called a performance-based job description. As part of this, avoid managers who overemphasize skills and experience.

PbH 2. Fit is as important as ability. It’s important to determine the external factors that support or drive satisfaction and performance. Typically, these are the hiring manager’s leadership style, the culture of the company, and the quality and depth of the resources available. If the person can’t perform in the actual environment, it doesn’t matter how talented the person is.

PbH 3. Motivation to do the work required is essential. If the person is not motivated to do the actual work, success is unlikely. You can determine this by asking the Most Important Interview Question of All Time three or four times to see a pattern of when and why the person went the extra mile.

PbH 4. Hire Achievers: aka those that can swim in the deep end of the pool. As Red Scott said long before Gallup, “hire smart or manage tough.” Hiring people who are light on skills and experience, but long on potential is a surefire way to maximize motivation and performance.

PbH 5. Look for adaptability rather than equivalence. Map the person’s most significant accomplishments to the size of the project and organizational role, the rate of change, the level of sophistication and the intensity of the organization. The best people are those who delivered comparable results in a variety of different, but comparable situations.

PbH 6. Don’t compromise on vision, thinking skills, problem-solving or decision-making. The problem-solving question involves a give-and-take discussion with the candidate that focuses on a real problem likely to be faced on the job. The assessment is based on the process the person uses to solve the problem, not the answer.

PbH 7. Look for the ability to leverage team skills (EQ). As part of the most significant accomplishment series of questions, ask the person to describe the teams they have worked on and how they’ve proactively helped others become better. You’ll uncover the quality of the person’s team skills by understanding who they’ve been assigned to work with and if their team role and exposure is growing.

PbH 8. Intervene when managers aren’t able to attract stronger people. Some managers can’t attract strong candidates. In this case, the company needs to intervene to ensure the best people are being hired, not just the most convenient. When interviewing managers, look for those who have a track record of hiring the best people and proactively helping them become even better.

PbH 9. Force candidates to decide based on long-term career growth reasons, not short-term compensation maximization. Too many companies fall into the trap of hiring people for the wrong reasons, e.g., more money, short-term pain relief and lateral transfers. Emphasizing what the person will be doing, what the person can learn and what the person could become if successful improves job satisfaction, increases on-the-job performance and reduces turnover.

The process used for developing and promoting people we know is well understood. As Gallup has scientifically shown, this results in dramatic improvements in both individual and managerial performance. There is no reason these same concepts can’t be applied when hiring people we don’t know. The PbH9 offers a simple path to bridge this gap.