Lou Adler’s Approach to Sourcing and Recruiting “A” Players

When trying to recruit the best talent to bring into your organization, some People Teams (yours?) use this method: open a job req and cast a wide net, crossing your fingers that some of the highest quality candidates will bite. You think: the bigger the net, the better.

But Lou Adler offers an alternative approach. Instead of casting a wide net, he encourages recruiters to find top talent by making the talent pool smaller, focusing on recruiting only the top 25% of candidates—the “A” players.

If you followed this path, consider how your recruiting would look—and let’s go one step further—consider how your organization would look as a whole.

Good news, this type of recruiting model is possible and it’s already been created! The approach is called Performance-based Hiring, and many forward-thinking talent companies like Airbnb and LinkedIn use it. In our latest Hiring Hacks webinar, The ROI of Making the Right Hires, Lou Adler, CEO and co-founder of The Adler Group, dives into this approach and the steps he takes to find “A” players.


Click here to watch the full webinar with Lou Adler, The ROI of Making the Right Hires.



Below, I share Lou’s insights into why the Performance-based Hiring Method will give you the top talent you so eagerly seek:

Become more targeted in how you source candidates

Sourcing and recruiting are two different activities that both need time and attention, but all too often, People Teams are spending a vast majority of their time trying to find talented individuals (sourcing) rather than making enough effort to actively recruit them. Lou asked the webinar audience, “Does the quality of people you attract represent the best in the field?” The unanimous answer was “no.”

Why is this the case for the majority of recruiters? Lou says that it’s because recruiters are failing to take the “less is more” approach. Instead, most recruiters want to attract hundreds of people so they can dissect the qualified from the unqualified.

But why do you need that many candidates to choose from? What if you only had, say, 20 to choose from?

It’s time to look for fewer—but bigger—fish!

Lou explains that instead of sourcing in bulk, try devoting more of your time to actually recruiting—recruiting the big fish. To get started, make sure that you’ve set a close partnership with the hiring manager. Start asking questions around what this candidate looks like and begin to understand the tasks they will need to carry out and the goals they will need to meet in the first six months on the job.

Understanding this will help you decipher those “A” players as well as see who has the potential to meet these requirements based on past experience and accomplishments.

How to find the “A" players

Now it’s time to go out and find those big fish.

Lou shares that the top 25% of potential candidates aren't actually the ones who are actively applying for jobs. To find the best of the best, you need to use the 40/40/20 sourcing plan, specifically:

  • 40% Networking
  • 40% Email / Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • 20% Advertising

Lou goes into detail about how to find these top players through LinkedIn Recruiter. Two ways to find your talent are through conducting boolean searches and creating a list of achiever terms. Examples of achiever terms would be the names of awards and honor societies such as Beta Gamma Sigma. Focus on these terms and then personally reach out to 75% of the people you find. Once you have your target pool (the 75%), that’s where your recruiting skills come in.

When it’s time to convince the prospect to consider a new career move, make sure to ask which types of projects they have been involved in at previous companies. Big projects go hand-in-hand with top performers—the best people get assigned to them. This is helpful information for any recruiter in deciding who should move onto the next interview.

Now, narrow your list of the 20 “A” players down until you end up with 4 or 5 of the most stand-out candidates. Present this list of candidates to your hiring manager. At this point you’re sure that these are the top performers, and you know the candidates are aligned with the job req, and, most importantly, you’ve spent more time interviewing quality rather than quantity. Ta-da!


Want to dive deeper into the benefits of Lou Alder’s Performance-based Hiring method? Click the button below to listen to the full webinar recording. In addition, learn how to calculate the cost of a good hire and the return it will bring to your company’s revenue.

The ROI of Making the Right Hires

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Casey Marshall is Partner Marketing Specialist at Greenhouse. She teams up with Greenhouse partners and customers to tell a story and share insights into ways companies can improve their recruiting. She loves that this job allows her to build relationships with thought leaders and showcase how innovative companies are changing their recruiting approach. Connect with Casey on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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