From Lou Adler: a 5-step plan for improving quality of hire

Women with baby at table with laptop

March 17, 2016

3 mins, 37 secs read time

Lou Adler, CEO and founder of The Adler Group, is recognized as one of the best recruiters in the world. His highly acclaimed Performance-based Hiring methodology has been successfully adopted by numerous companies such as Lincoln Financial, The Medicines Company, Airbnb, and PPG. Lou is also the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire with Your Head and The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired.

Almost 20 years ago I documented all of the problems I observed with the hiring process after researching the practices of multiple companies and industries. Based on this, I worked with an illustrator to draw the following cartoon:

If you look closely, you’ll discover that most of the problems described then still exist today, from “poor interviewers” to “long application process” to “bad systems.” This is all still happening even with the greater emphasis on developing stronger and more structured recruiting practices. So, the question is, why?

Here are the main reasons we’re still facing the same challenges with the hiring process as we did 20 years ago:

  • The talent strategy is wrong. You can’t design a hiring process under the assumption that there’s a surplus of talent, when there isn’t. In a surplus model, processes are designed to weed out the weak. On the flip side, in a scarcity model, you focus on attracting the best.
  • The law of averages can’t be ignored. Once everyone has the same sourcing and recruiting technologies, the playing field is leveled. We’re all equipped with the same tools. But, the difference in our ability to recruit and hire the best talent comes in how we’re using the technology. We need to ask ourselves if we’re really getting out of it all that we can. This is what will separate the winners and the losers.
  • ROI is more important than cost. Doing the wrong things more efficiently does not give better hiring results. The ROI of a great hire trumps cost savings due to efficiency improvement.

Given this state of affairs, here’s my 5-step plan for making sure a few years from now you can look back and honestly state you have improved your company’s hiring process:

My 5-step plan for improving quality of hire

  1. Banish skills- and experience-laden job descriptions. The best people are not interested in ill-defined lateral transfers. They don’t see it as a challenge, and we know that the best talent craves being challenged! By defining the work that needs to be done as a series of performance objectives, you’ll be able to attract stronger performers who are both competent and motivated to do the work.
  2. Make hiring managers responsible for quality of hire. If hiring is #1, hiring managers need to be held accountable for the results of their hiring decisions. Those that don’t do it well, frankly, shouldn’t be managers.
  3. Use common sense marketing—not compliance—to advertise your jobs. There is no law requiring you to post boring jobs that include every skill, competency, and behavior that goes into the job. Instead, tell compelling stories that describe what the person will do, learn, and become. This is how you will grab the attention of high-achievers who are looking for those unique qualities that make your job stand out from the rest.
  4. Use a consultative recruiting process—not a transactional one. Hiring a top person, whether active or passive, takes time—a few hours spread out over a few weeks. This is how the person learns that your job is not about the compensation, title, or location. It’s about a career opportunity.
  5. Measure quality of hire before and after the hire. Start with my Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard to measure the quality of the person’s accomplishments in comparison to the performance objectives of the job. Everything else needs to be tracked to maximize this overriding objective.

Hiring processes will never improve without the right strategy and the right metrics to track incoming quality of hire. Changing 20 years of lackluster hiring practices starts by focusing on the ROI of hiring great people rather than on the cost of acquiring them. Following the leader will not get you there. But being the leader will.