Derek Sivers

Hire With Your Head - by Lou Adler

Hire With Your Head - by Lou Adler

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Great advice on hiring, but insanely repetitive. Maybe this was an editing mistake - that the exact same points are made over and over and over and over - often with the exact same words, sentences, even paragraphs. But those key points are great.

my notes

Most hiring processes are geared around the needs of the average candidate, not the best.
For the average candidate, a new job is a tactical move based on short-term criteria.
For the best, it’s a strategic move.

Top people aren’t going to apply for run-of-the-mill jobs that seem the same as everyone else’s.

When anyone on the interviewing team finds a candidate they think is hot, they go into immediate sales mode. They also stop listening and stop evaluating competency in a transparent attempt to excite the hot prospect on the merits of the job. This cheapens the job and drives many top people away.

Top people don’t look for jobs based on their skills and experience. They look for jobs based on the challenges and opportunities.

Define what people need to do with their skills and experiences.

Forget the clever questions. Instead, dig deeply into a person’s major accomplishments to observe trends of growth and patterns of behaviors.

Use the (first) interview to collect information, not to make a decision.

Hiring great people is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your own success.

Use standard search-engine techniques to allow top people to quickly find their open positions.

Your openings are prominently featured on the first page of your corporate website.

Make it fun and compelling.

Track the end-to-end yield of those initially viewing an ad to those actually applying.

Don’t differentiate on money, differentiate on opportunity.

Recruiting the best is not about selling or charming. It’s about providing big challenges and career opportunities and a little money thrown in.

Examine all aspects of your hiring process from the perspective of a top person who has little time to spare and multiple opportunities.

Core steps: defining the job, sourcing, interviewing, assessing, and recruiting.
Redesign each of these steps from the perspective of a top candidate, and then integrate them into a systematic business process.
While each step is relatively easy to solve, fixing all of them and making sure they stay fixed for all candidates is the secret to making the hiring of top talent a systematic business process.

A performance profile is what the person taking the job needs to do to be considered successful.

Describe the real job, not the person taking the job.

For most jobs, it takes from three weeks to three months after a candidate starts to determine true competency.

One of the biggest problems is that too much emphasis is placed on the interaction between the candidate and the interviewer, and too little on the candidate’s ability and motivation to do the job. This is the primary cause of hiring mistakes.

Interpersonal relationships and biases. This is how randomness enters the hiring process.
If you like a candidate, you tend to go into chat mode, ask easier questions, and look for information to confirm your initial impression.
If you don’t like someone, you put up a defense shield, ask tougher questions, and try to end the interview quickly.
You go out of your way to find information to prove your initial belief that the candidate is incompetent.

There is a natural tendency to overemphasize the “getting the job” skills when assessing a candidate, rather than the person’s ability to “do the job.”

Remaining objective, overcoming the natural tendency to judge people based on first impressions, personality, and a few select traits.
Overcoming this problem will eliminate 50 percent of all common hiring errors.
Understanding real job needs will eliminate most of the rest of them.

Wait 30 minutes before making any decision about a candidate’s ability to do the work.

To increase your objectivity during the interview, use the following six ideas:
1. Measure first impressions at the end of the interview. As
2. Disallow the yeslno decision unless the candidate is a complete dud. Make it a rule that you must suspend any decision for at least 30 minutes. During these 30 minutes, conduct a work-history review and get some details about the candidate’s major accomplishments
3. Delay the decision by redefining the purpose of the interview. Use the interview just to collect information, not to make a decision.
4. Ask the same questions to all candidates.
5. Demand evidence before you accept gut feelings. Facts, examples, and details must be provided to justify a ranking, good or bad.
6. Make a “no” harder to justify than a “yes.”

Interviewers need to train candidates to give complete information. If you leave it up to candidates to provide this information on their own, you’re measuring interviewing and presentation skills, not job competency.

Write compelling job descriptions that describe real job needs, not ads that emphasize skills and qualifications.

It should be so clearly written that your top candidate could show it to his circle of personal advisors and easily convince them this is a true career move.

Design every aspect of sourcing to attract top people (whether active or passive), which includes where you place the exciting job descriptions, how you design the career web site, how you get referrals, and when you make phone calls.

Organize the interview to assess competency and create opportunity at the same time. You do this by asking tougher questions, not by overselling or overtalking.

Top candidates must leave the interview knowing they have been assessed completely and properly. They must leave knowing the job offers a true career opportunity.

Making the job hard to earn but worthy of earning is how you hire top people.

First define superior performance. Performance is about results, not about skills and qualifications.

When Teddy Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, he purchased a used Brazilian merchant ship, the Nictheroy for $500,000, under the proviso that it must arrive under its own power within a very short time frame to a specific port. The contract didn’t have any of the normal technical specifications. Roosevelt knew that if the ship couldn’t travel the distance required by the date specified it was worthless.

Every job, from entry-level to CEO, has six to eight performance objectives that define job success. These objectives spell out what the person in the job must do to be considered successful,

Specific: Include the details of what needs to be done so that others understand it.
Measurable: It’s best if the objective is easy to measure by including amounts or percent changes.
Action-oriented: Action verbs build, improve, change, and help understanding.
Results: A definition that complements the measurable piece by clearly indicating what needs to happen.
Time-bound: Include a date or state how long it will take to start and complete.
Environment: Describe the company culture, pace, pressure, available resources, and politics.

Categories: effectively dealing with people, achieving objectives, organizing teams, solving problems, using technology, and making changes.
Creating these performance objectives starts by asking what the person taking the job needs to do to be successful, not what the person needs to have.

First, determine the top six to eight performance objectives in general terms, then get more specific. The hiring team needs to put the final performance objectives in priority order.
1. Define the majorobjectives. Determine what a person taking this job needs to do over the next 6 to 12 months to be considered successful. Most jobs have two to three major objectives
2. Develop subobjectives. For each major objective, determine the two or three things a successful person would need to do to achieve the major objective.
3. Ask questions to make sure you have all of the key obfectives.
4. Convert having to doing.
5. Convert technical skills into results.

Make the creation of these requirements a primary performance objective.

During the first interview, the president and the candidate (who ultimately got the job) spent two hours together developing a detailed operational plan for this new business.

Determine what the best performers already in the job do differently from everyone else, then look for these same abilities in the people you hire.
Also study the worst people, discover what they do that makes them poor performers, and then avoid these traits.

During the first _____ days, identify the key resources needs to accomplish this, evaluate actual status against existing plans, and revise and implement as necessary to achieve the planned goals.

One of our key technically oriented objectives is manage the [implementation, launch, design, development of] __________. Over the next _________ months, we must [complete, identify, plan, define resource needs] to ensure achieving planned results.

During the first ____ days, prepare a strategic plan outlining all the needs of the department to meet the company’s long-term objective of _________ From this, prepare a calendar-based monthly operating budget and implementation plan by _________ [date].

Your employee base needs to mimic your customer base.

Compensation is not the primary consideration. The opportunity and challenges inherent in the job are.

Top people want to work for leaders and mentors who can help them reach their goals.

Tie the actual job to some major company initiative

Great ads must meet three criteria:
1. Have a compelling title
2. Write copy that’s focused on what the candidate will learn, do, and become.
3. Describe the most critical skills in the context of how they’re used.

Call the best candidates within 24 hours.
If someone applies on your site, you’ll need to make sure your backend search engine automatically brings this person to the top of the list.

To be a leader of the company, what qualities do you look for?
A: You clearly want somebody who can articulate a vision. They have to have enormous energy and the incredible ability to energize others.
If you can’t energize others, you can’t be a leader. —Jack Welch

The best had four common characteristics that were observable in the initial interview:
(1) self-motivation—everyone who achieved any level of success worked hard;
(2) an ability to motivate others—inspiring others to work hard, including peers, superiors, as well as their own team;
(3) achievement of results that were comparable to what needed to be achieved; and
(4) an ability to solve comparable job problems in real time.

The best people consistently deliver more results than expected, and they do it on time, all the time. This separates the best from everyone else.

Don’t be seduced by affability and social assertiveness.

Another common error is to eliminate quiet people assuming there is a lack of energy.

“Of all of the things you’ve accomplished in your career, what stands out as most significant? Now could you go ahead and tell me all about it?”
Getting the correct answer to this question can tell you 65 percent to 75 percent of everything you need to make an accurate hiring decision.
The correct answer comes by fact-finding and getting complete details of the accomplishment.

What were the three or four big challenges you had to overcome?
What were the actual results obtained?
When did this take place and at what company?
How long did it take to complete the task?
What was the situation you faced when you took on the project?
Why were you chosen for this role?
Did you volunteer? Why?
What was your actual title?
Who were the people on the team?
What was your supervisor’s title?
What technical skills were needed to accomplish the task?
What skills were learned?
Describe the planning process, your role in it, and whether the plan was met.
Provide details of what went wrong and how you overcame them.
What was your actual role in this project?
Give me three examples of where you took the initiative. Why?
What were the biggest changes or improvements?
What was the toughest decision you had to make?
How did you make it?
Was it the right decision?
Would you make it differently if you could?
Describe the environment—the pace, the resources available, your boss, and the level of professionalism.
What was the biggest conflict you faced?
Who was it with and how did you resolve it?
Give me some examples of helping or coaching others.
Give me some examples of where you really had to influence or persuade others to change their opinion.
How did you personally grow or change as a result of this effort?
What did you like the most and least?
In retrospect, what would you do differently if you could?
What type of recognition did you receive for this project?
Was it appropriate in your mind? Why or why not?

The key to using the most significant accomplishment (MSA) question is to ask it multiple times to observe long-term trends for individual, team, and job-related accomplishments.

If you want to better understand a candidate’s thinking, planning, and job-specific problem-solving skills, just ask this question: “If you were to get this job, how would you go about solving _______ [describe a typical problem]?”

Don’t accept generalities like “Created a new market,” “Turned the department around,” and “Developed a new procedure.” Don’t hesitate to ask for clarifying information.

“Please draw an organization chart and tell me how you built and developed this team, and describe the group’s biggest accomplishment.”

Determine whether the candidate’s performance is on an upward trend, has flattened out, or is declining.

If you were to get the job what additional information would you need to know, and how would you go about accomplishing this objective?”

Eight steps provide a brief outline of the interviewing process:
1: Warm-up; do a quick overview and understand the candidate’s motivation for looking. Use the first 5 to 10 minutes to gain a quick sense of the candidate, overcome temporary nervousness, and find out why the person is looking for a job.
2: Wait 30 minutes and Measure the impact of first impressions at the end of the interview. Use the interview to collect information, not decide competency. Decide competency by carefully evaluating the candidate’s responses against real job needs. It’s best to do this at the end of the interview or during a group deliberation where everyone shares information.
3: Conduct a comprehensive work history review. Go through every job and find out what the person accomplished, what the person didn’t accomplish, the team the person worked with, why the person took the job, and any recognition they received. If you spend half of the opening interview on this, you’ll know what you need to do in the second half.
4: Ask about major individual accomplishments. This is the MSA question. During the work history review, ask about the highlights of major accomplishments, then select ones that best meet your job needs to learn more about.
5: Ask about a major team accomplishment. This is the modification to the MSA question with the focus on team leadership. Spend a great deal of time on this, using specific team fact-finding follow-up questions.
6: Ask a problem-solving question. During this visualization question, start a discussion about a realistic job problem, not some hypothetical situation.
7: Recruit and close. Don’t end the interview on a neutral note, but don’t give the farm away either. Done properly, the close can be a useful way to begin the recruiting process without overselling.
8: Measure first impressions again.

Most Significant Accomplishment Question In Chapter 7, you discover how to modify the MSA question.

“Give me examples of when your personality has hurt your performance.”
Don’t ignore this part. Continue probing.
Be concerned if you get a run-around or some vague response.

Some Fatal Flaws Great communicator, with lots of self-confidence, but the person’s management role doesn’t seem to be growing. You might have found a great individual contributor or a consultant-type person, but a weak manager. Vague, superficial, or short answers when explaining critical issues, especially gaps in employment and why the person changed jobs, or failed to get the recognition deserved. Inconsistent track record—flat, down, roller coaster—that is always blamed on external circumstances. Lots of drive and ambition, but maybe too assertive. This could relate to ego problems, immaturity, or an inability to work in cross-functional teams. Too fast of a track record. The person might have been promoted beyond his capability. Extremes in any behavior—too analytical, too assertive, too friendly, or too persuasive. Usually this leads to problems regarding lack of flexibility or balance. Lots of energy, great personality, but answers are too general. This is the classic—lots of sizzle, but little substance. Lots of excuses about why things didn’t happen, results weren’t achieved, or why recognition didn’t occur. A pattern of excuse making is the biggest clue that you’re hiring the wrong person. If you observe any of these signs, you must get proof to overcome the potential concern.

Conduct the reference check just like the interview by getting specific examples to prove a generality and then by fact-finding.

You must conduct a background check on every candidate including degree verification, employment history, credit review, driving record, and criminal background. The cost is low and the protection is high.

First, never make an offer until it’s accepted. Second, provide your candidate a compelling future vision that overwhelms the past.

30% PLUS Solution = Job Stretch + Job Growth + $$ Increase + Manager’s Total Involvement

You can’t tell a person how great a job is. The person needs to learn it on his own.

Challenging questions are another way to create interest by pushing the candidate away to see whether the candidate pushes back. This is how you put candidates in the back seat.
For example, “While I like your background, I’m concerned you don’t have enough experience in developing international accounting systems. Have I missed something? If not, can you describe something you’ve accomplished that you feel is most related to our needs?” This slight challenge increases the importance of this skill and requires the candidate to sell the interviewer. This approach, used judiciously throughout the interview, can increase a candidate’s interest in a job. If the concern is valid, it demonstrates areas where the candidate can learn and grow if she were to get the job.

Use the following as the last question at the end of the first interview.
It’s a must for all strong candidates:
“Although we’re seeing some other fine candidates, I’m very impressed with your background. What are your thoughts now about this position?”

I told the candidate the salary range (only a slightly higher percentage over his current package) and the next steps in the evaluation process.
This consisted of a meeting with two board members on the East Coast, a half-day session with an industrial psychologist in the Midwest, and then a dinner with the chairman.
This was before the medical and drug test, and a final meeting with the CEO.
The candidate was very interested, but when he agreed to continue this arduous process, I knew the deal was almost done.