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How to Conduct a Pre-hire Performance Review and Increase Interviewing Accuracy

My new book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, has just been published, so the idea of banishing old thinking for new age hiring is fresh on my mind. First, let me set the record straight so there’s no misunderstanding about my position on this important topic:

  • I think traditional skills-infested job descriptions prevent companies from seeing the most talented people. So these need to be banished if a company wants to see and hire stronger people, including diversity candidates and returning military veterans who don’t fit the standard stereotypes.
  • I don’t like traditional behavioral interviews for a bunch of reasons. The big three: the answers can be faked, most managers only use them when they don’t want to hire someone, and they don’t take into account the real drivers of performance, i.e., the actual job, the hiring manager’s leadership and coaching style, and the company culture.

As an external recruiter I don’t get a vote on who gets hired, so working with hiring managers who use these tools is a problem for me. However, I can offset their impact by providing detailed factual evidence of competency. This is essential since just about all interviewers overvalue first impressions, conservative interviewers overvalue technical brilliance and heavy experience, executives overvalue their intuition, HR overvalues affability, and sales managers overvalue a good story.

Despite these common interviewing errors, conducting a pre-hire performance review rather than a traditional interview can flip the tables. Here’s how this works:

  1. Prepare a performance-based job description (aka performance profile) when opening a requisition. Every job has 5-6 things the new hire needs to do to be considered successful. To determine these, ask the hiring manager to define the tasks the new hire needs to accomplish using the primary skills listed on the job description and how success would be measured. By converting skills into actual work this way, “X years of design experience” becomes “complete the product requirements document with marketing in 90 days.” The top 5-6 of these represent the real performance requirements for the job. The objective of the pre-hire performance review now becomes determining if the person is competent and motivated to do the actual work as described, not how much experience the person has.
  2. Conduct a work-history review looking for the Achiever Pattern. While going through the person’s resume looking for basic fit, it’s also important to seek out the Achiever Pattern. This is concrete evidence the person is in the top quartile of his/her peer group. Evidence like this consists of formal recognition, significant upward progression, being assigned to participate in bigger projects with less experience than normal, coaching and training others, and participating in advanced company-sponsored educational programs, like a work-study fellowship. This type of non-biased information can counter interviewers who make hasty judgments, like “not aggressive enough,” “weak team skills,” and the all too common, “just wouldn’t fit.”
  3. Ask the Most Significant Accomplishment question to develop a trend line of performance over time. For each performance objective in the performance profile ask candidates to describe in detail their most comparable business accomplishment. This is the heart of the pre-hire performance review. Each of these discussions takes about 15-20 minutes, so it’s good to split them up among the hiring team. This forces each interviewer to assess the candidate on his/her performance in comparison to real job needs, not some internal bias or trick question.

A formal evidence-based debriefing is an essential part of the pre-hire performance review process. Part of this is understanding the circumstances underlying each of the candidate’s accomplishments. These situational fit factors (fit with the hiring manager’s leadership and coaching style, fit with the actual job, and fit with the company culture) drive motivation, job satisfaction and on-the job performance. Most hiring mistakes are caused by ignoring these critical factors. Measuring competency is easy, but few people voluntarily leave or are asked to leave due to lack of technical skills. It’s usually lack of interest in the job, conflict with the hiring manager, or a bad fit with the team or culture. A pre-hire performance review minimizes all of these problems.

For more insight on how to banish old thinking, sign up to attend Think Backward to Move Your Business Forward. In this non-traditional, mind-twisting webinar, I will demonstrate a simple technique to look at hiring from a unique perspective – that of the people you actually want to hire.

Key topics include the following:

  • “The basics of thinking backward” How to recruit top talent when top talent is scarce.
  • Why experienced is overrated, but performance isn’t: We promote people based on their performance, so why don’t we hire them the same way?
  • Putting your employer branding efforts on steroids: Capture your target prospect’s intrinsic motivator in the first line.
  • Going slow…as fast as you can: Creating a valuable and rewarding candidate relationship management system.

Claim a complimentary copy of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired when you attend ‘Think Backward’ on Thursday, February 14.Join the webinar

Lou Adler

About Lou Adler

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group -- a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring(sm). Adler is the author of the definitive guide for hiring top talent, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007) -- an Amazon top-10 best-seller, based on his 20 years as one of the top recruiters in the country. He is also the author for the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Hire Top Talent (2007). Adler holds an MBA from the University of California in Los Angeles and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University in New York.
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