Performance Based Job Descriptions and KPO’s with Lou Adler

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Performance Based Job Descriptions and KPO’s with Lou Adler

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (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.

Lou Adler and his team have created a free guide to teach job seekers the best methods to get back to work and continue their careers.

If you are a job seeker or an organization having a workforce reduction, then we highly encourage you to use this Free Complete Guide on the Best Strategies for Finding a New Job.

Transcription

Fletcher Wimbush:

Well, I’m really happy to have everybody here today. So Hire Talent Podcast is great recruiting and hiring advice for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. And today I am eternally blessed to have Lou Adler, a guy who I’ve looked up to my entire career when it comes to hiring and recruiting. I’m just so thankful that you’ve done this for us today, Lou.

Lou Adler:

Happy to be here.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Lou has written one of the most influential books in my life and a bestselling book, Hiring With Your Head. It was the first book that I was given as a new leader 12 years ago during the last recession as I took over a leadership role in a company. My boss gave me that book and said, “Read this, master it, and you’ll be successful.” And so I did. And we were very successful. We took the worst performing business unit in the nation out of a hundred and brought it to number one due to great hiring.

Fletcher Wimbush:

And the one book that also I think that is really relevant for today is that Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired. And I think it’s a book that so many Americans today are going to you really get a lot of value out of. And also later on, Lou has put together a really great e-learning course for folks that are looking to get back to work and it’s a whole guide on how to do that. And he’ll share that with us at the end on where you can find that as well.

Lou Adler:

Sure. Sounds good. Look forward to it. Thank you Fletcher for inviting me.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much. So one of the things in our last call, we had kind of an intro call, and got to know each other a little bit. And I was talking about your most significant achievement question, which I loved.

Fletcher Wimbush:

But you brought up a really good point about the performance-based job description, and that is something that is so critical. We do this with a lot of our clients, we have that conversation. I’d love for you to just explain what is that and why is it so powerful?

Lou Adler:

Let me go back 40 plus years to my first search assignment, which might be a story, might be the most relevant way of doing it. I’ll give you more current one. My first search assignment was for a plant manager in a automotive manufacturing company and it was in Southern California. I happened to know the president, my background has been in manufacturing and engineering, and finance and accounting, and cost accounting. So when I knew that this fellow was looking for a plant manager, no job description. He said, “Lou, I’m looking for a plant manager. Can you help me find one?”

Lou Adler:

So I didn’t say, “Tell me about the person.” I said, “Let’s find out what the person needs to do. So let’s just walk through the manufacturing plant.” And we walked through the manufacturing plant and I was comfortable in there, and I noticed that the supply chains were totally screwed up. I noticed the warehouse was laid out improperly. I noticed that labor performance was erratic. Some people were taking a break and some people were working. I noticed that the machinery was misaligned and inappropriate. And I noticed when they were doing chroming work, I said, “How can you do chroming? This unsanitary and unsafe.”

Lou Adler:

He said, “That’s why I need a plant manager. To fix all those problems.” So that became my first search assignment. Six things that in this plant, or seven things in his plant that needed to be fixed. And then said, “I’ll find someone who can fix those things.” So during the interview I just ask, “Hey, it’s a candidate, here’s what we need done. Have you ever done anything? Walk me through how you’ve fixed a plant like this.”

Lou Adler:

So that was in three or four weeks later we found a candidate who can do all that work, and he did it. And I’d never used a job description, listing skills, experiences, and competence since that day. So to me, defining the work a person needs to do is the most important thing you can do during the intake meeting, not the skills a person needs to have. The skills the person needs to have is not a job description, it’s a person description. So that’s the essence of a performance based job description. Defining success is a series of performance objectives.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah, that’s exactly it. Define what the measurable outcome is, right?

Lou Adler:

Well, you hope to get the best but… I’ll simplify it. Give me a couple of tasks, give me a couple of results, give me some actions a person needs to take, and during the interview you’ll fine tune them. But if you know the four or five big things a person needs to do in the sequence of time, “Hey, during the first 30 days, understand the problem. Next 30 days put a plan together to solve the problem. Next 30 days, marshal the resources and get the plan approved and then deliver the results.”

Lou Adler:

So it’s kind of like a sequence of steps you have to do, but if you get it roughly, you’re definitely better off than listing skills, competencies, and behaviors, which that’s just pure random luck if the person wants to even do the work.

Fletcher Wimbush:

And who knows if those even apply to the problem that you’re trying to solve, right?

Lou Adler:

Right.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Cool. So you said you had a recent encounter here.

Lou Adler:

Yeah, sure. More recently, I’m going to say it was probably a couple months ago before the crisis hit, I was working with a company that private investors, a private equity group that had put in $50 million into $150 million business. A year ago they hired a president for that company that was an abject failure. And one of the members of the private equity team knew me and we worked together before. He said, “Lou, would you put together a performance based job description, talking to the founders and talking to the investors and try to get everybody to collaborate and agree.”

Lou Adler:

So I met with everybody independently. The investors wanted bottom line performance. The founders wanted cultural fit and customer service and we created a document and a performance based objective that met everybody’s requirements but it was measurable, agreed upon. And they started looking for a CEO and then the healthcare crisis hit, but getting them all to agree to the job, they just had to understand what everybody wanted. They really didn’t have a difference of opinion, it was the sequencing and how the pieces linked together.

Lou Adler:

But as long as you define the job as five or six performance objectives, you can call them KPOs, key performance objectives or OKRs, objectives and key results, to find a task, to find the result, to find the action needs to be taken, you’re in the game. In this case it was learn everything in 30 to 60 days, understand customer service, understand the customer, the distribution channels, and then put a plan in place to return the company to profitability. But it was doing those in logical sequence where everybody’s needs were met. So it’s a critical step in the whole hiring process.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. And I like how you keep it really focused because obviously there’s a million things that you might need to do, but there’s just a couple of really, really important things that most people need to do in any particular job. And everything else can be kind of fluff in a sense. Like restock the kitchen or something or keep the plant clean.

Fletcher Wimbush:

I mean all of those ultimately relate back to the end goal if you don’t do those. But you’ve clearly defined that very specific couple of outcomes in the role and that makes focusing so much easier. It reminds me a lot of SMART plans. You’re familiar with SMART goals, right? These specific measurable, actionable, realistic and time bound, right?

Lou Adler:

Well let’s say this, I used to add an E to that and require managers put together SMARTe objectives. The E standing for environment. Without that context of the environment, I mean the pace, the culture, the hiring manager’s leadership style, the resources, how decisions are made, a SMART goal becomes pretty stupid. So you have to have the context behind it. But then I also realized a SMART goal, even with the E, regardless how smart it might be is too much over the top to start with.

Lou Adler:

I’ll take a task action result and then kind of make it smarter as you interview someone and surely during the onboarding process, make it as smart as possible. But you got to be careful with how you implement these things. You go too far overboard then they become too… the bridge is too far to cross. So I try to take a small ferry boat across and see if we can get to the other side.

Fletcher Wimbush:

That’s where taking the first kind of 30 days, let’s understand the environment, let’s understand the problem. The next maybe 90 days, it’s more about creating a plan. That’s where you can get a little more specific and then the remaining timeframe that you’ve set to do that, right, is-

Lou Adler:

No, I still want to understand what it takes to get across the river as the end goal, but how you get across the river can be a logical sequence, but you don’t have to be that specific. At least in the interviewing process. Obviously when you actually execute the plan and hire someone, you do need to be specific. But during the interviewing process, as long as you have the four or five rough goals, the end goal, what does a person need to do six months, a year and some of the logical critical steps, you have enough to hire someone and understand if they’re competent and capable.

Lou Adler:

And during the interview process, the finalists will clearly have worked together with the hiring manager and defining those in a much more detailed fashion. And then you’ll also understand if the candidate is competent and motivated to do that work. So it’s a good process of completing that during the interview process and fine tuning it. Rough tuning it in the interview process is a great way to ensure competency and interest. And clarifying expectations upfront.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah, yeah. So it’s all there. Yeah. That’s awesome. So that’s something that I think everybody needs to start with when you’re starting to hire for a new position. It doesn’t really matter what level position you can do this and create this performance based job description and that creates that really clear guidance that relates to the mission for that particular position.

Fletcher Wimbush:

So I think that’s amazing and I think it’s a great step that many of us overlook. We just start going, “I need to hire…” Like you said in your first story, “I just need to hire a plant manager.” And there hasn’t been a lot of thought to what the purpose or the outcome, the specific purposes and outcomes that were looking for that person to achieve. So yeah-

Lou Adler:

Well I think the thing that you did say, which is important is some people would say “This is all only for senior managers or heavy technical staff.” We actually helped In-N-Out Burger create an interview guide using the same methodology. Most people wouldn’t remember, but in the nineties In-N-Out Burger only had about 70 or 80 stores. They then expanded to 300 on the West Coast and into Portland and into Washington and Oregon and Arizona.

Lou Adler:

We work with them very closely on developing an interview guide from hiring people to, the hourly folks who took the burgers and made the fries. So we just studied what is a good person in that job do. Responsible, committed, timely, understood their role, took pride in their work. We also helped the YMCA hire a 100,000 camp counselors who were 16 and 17-year-olds. So if you understand what the best people do, you can still develop performance objectives for any job from entry level to chairman of the board.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Yeah. And obviously In-N-Out is the poster child of ultimate success and hiring. I mean, if anybody’s been to an In-N-Out you know the level of service and the quality of food is all driven by those amazing people who work there and get the job done. [crosstalk 00:11:26].

Lou Adler:

And if you went there in the pre-nineties, they were only good looking college gals and guys. When we put our thing in, they’ve really changed the look and feel of the people. It’s not just the rockstar appearance friendly people. They’re now truly customer service committed and just remarkable people. So totally different. And I take great pride in that. But it was 20, 25 years ago that I was involved with it.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah, that’s a good point you make. It really removes a lot of the bias out of hiring and it allows you to focus on the things that matter the most, ultimately. So that’s a great point you make.

Fletcher Wimbush:

So how do you turn that into a job advertisement? A job description and a job advertisement tend to be typically a little bit different, no?

Lou Adler:

Well, as far as I’m concerned, job postings should be banned and resumes in their current form should be banned. I don’t write job postings, I call them… Well, my postings tend to only describe, “Hey, we’re looking for someone who can accomplish these tasks. If you’ve done something similar to this, send me a resume with a short writeup of something you’ve done.” So as far as I’m concerned, a job posting is a black coal that just is a time waster.

Lou Adler:

People who make money because they sell postings, they do not work. At best 1%. And I’ve actually audited, talked to companies who actually manage this and generally speaking, you add 10 [ATS’s 00:13:00] up for the last five years. 1% of the 300 million people who have applied to a posting got a job. It’s a waste of money. So 99% of the effort is wasted to eliminate people who shouldn’t have applied.

Lou Adler:

So my job postings are creative. They tell stories, they’ve got compelling titles, they talk about the mission, why this job’s important. And they ask candidates, “Hey, if you’re interested in that, tell us what you’ve done. I don’t care about your skills and experience. What I care about if you’ve accomplished something like that. So just tell me what you’ve accomplished.” And I tell that to job seekers. Don’t send resumes. Summarize the work you’ve done. Don’t apply. Send a video and a quick summary of work you’ve done to the hiring manager. I mean it’s a-

Fletcher Wimbush:

I like the video. In this modern age, and we’ve all learned how to use Zoom these days. You can hop on, you can sit here and I can tell you about the things that I’ve accomplished related to what you’re asking of me in this job. And I can address those head on and get to the top of the pile and make that first impression. So I love this video concept quite a bit, for video [crosstalk 00:14:03].

Lou Adler:

Well, video is not the concept. Well, yes, that’s the delivery mechanism.

Fletcher Wimbush:

The delivery mechanism.

Lou Adler:

[crosstalk 00:14:08] is the accomplishment. So you can talk about everything. I don’t care how friendly or good looking you are, it’s what you’ve done that matters. And if you can explain that to somebody in two or three minutes, you’re in the game. And don’t apply for the job. It’s a waste of money. Waste of time and effort.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Yeah. In this current era, obviously 30 plus million people have lost their jobs and it’s going to be probably a long road for many folks and a lot of organizations are facing tough decisions here.

Fletcher Wimbush:

If you’re an organization facing a workforce reduction or a layoff, and what is your number one suggestion to them? What they could be doing to improve that experience or to prevent that. What can companies be doing when they’re facing those decisions these days?

Lou Adler:

Well, my advice to companies who, if they’re ever going to hire anybody again is throw away what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years. That’s a waste of money. Save your money, get on the phone and talk to people. But only talk to people who are semifinalists. Semifinalist is someone who can do the work, which is critical, then recognized formally for doing the work. Sign a bigger team, big project, award or something. And you can find 10 to 15 using LinkedIn Recruiter instantly.

Lou Adler:

And build a pipeline of those people and build a network of people who know those people. And that’s what I would be doing in the next three to six months if I was companies. And a lot of our clients are doing that. So that’s what we advocate. The other advocate is throw away your job descriptions, put a workforce plan together and build pipelines of talent. And always conduct phone screens before you ever meet someone in person.

Lou Adler:

And just ask one question, “Tell me about the biggest thing you’ve ever done.” Biggest thing you’ve ever done in your whole life. And then next question is, “Hey, we need this done. What have you done that’s related to that?” And if they’ve done something that’s both on those answers are comparable, bring them in, invite them in, and you have a semifinalist. You’ll save a heck of a lot of time. You’ll spend more time with fewer people, but you’ll hire better people.

Lou Adler:

You’ll get them hired instantly if you build a pipeline over the next 30, 90 days, you’ll be able to hire these people in a week or two. And they’ll be better people and the cost will be a heck of a lot less. So that’s what my advice to companies is, anybody who’s doing hiring. Is that’s the advice.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Invest in building relationships. So I mean, there’s numbers like, 35 to 40% of all of the best hires come from referrals. So people who know people who already work in your organization or maybe their customers or vendors, right. And referrals don’t happen without a relationship.

Fletcher Wimbush:

And if you’re going to hold relationships using tools, like you mentioned LinkedIn, LinkedIn Recruiter, you can go out and begin building those relationships and they take time. Nobody gets married on a first date. So I love that. You start building that network and start investing time in top performers and getting to know them and letting them get to know you, right?

Lou Adler:

Yeah. Well, I basically say convert strangers into acquaintances before they become job candidates. So that’s kind of the quick summary of that idea, is get to know these people. It’s a little bit harder for a job seeker to do that and I assume you’re going to ask me questions about what advice I would give to job seekers, but it’s kind of reverse engineer that same component. I won’t preempt what you’re doing because that might not be on your [crosstalk 00:17:39].

Fletcher Wimbush:

No, that’s a great segue. If you’re a job seeker, how do you go about targeting and finding your dream job, especially when there’s going to be a lot competition?

Lou Adler:

Well, two things. Let me kind of give the networking piece first and then I’ll give the backdoor piece. I was talking with a group, I think they were a Israeli tech group last week. I know it was last week and I believe they’re Israeli, but I’m not positive of either of those things, but pretty close. I get pretty forgetful now. They came up with a product to allow people to build deep networks. And I was just reviewing it with them and I said in my mind what a network is.

Lou Adler:

Networking is not meeting a hundred people whom you don’t know and try to hustle a job. Networking is talking to three or four or five people who can vouch for your performance and ask them to introduce you to three or four people they know and then you meet all those people. So now you’re up to five plus three is 15 so you’ve got about 15 to 20 people. Then meet the second degree who now your new connections and have them introduce you to three or four people. So now you’ve got 50 or 60 people if you just do that two times. And just want to meet them.

Lou Adler:

Those people will within the next 30 to 60 days, know of jobs that you’re perfect to handle. But you’ve got to start with your known people who can vouch for your performance. In parallel to that, is put this video you just said together of the best work you’ve ever done in your whole life and it could be… and summarize it in a couple paragraphs and put it in a video. That’s what you’re going to use to engage with these other people and why they should meet you and just meet you and stay aware of opportunities if they hear them.

Lou Adler:

So that’s kind of the build a network approach by convert strangers into acquaintances who eventually can get you into some job. The other one is this, if you use a job posting as a lead, a marketing lead, “Oh, this company is looking for engineers to do A, B, and C,” don’t apply. Because you’ll not get a job. It’s one in a hundred, it’s not worth it. It’s a waste of time.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Black hole.

Lou Adler:

Yeah, just a black hole. It’s worse than a black hole. It’s a death star, let’s call it. Which is I think the black hole squared or quintupled. Then, there’s a tool that I’m going to look for. I got to find it here and I’ll try to look for it when you ask me a question, so if I avert my eyes. There’s a way, and I know you probably know how to do this Fletcher, but most job seekers don’t. Recruiters certainly do is, you can X-ray LinkedIn’s public site. Or there’s somebody put a free tool for recruiters, it’s called LinkedIn Recruiter Geek.

Lou Adler:

And I’ll find it there because she sent it to me yesterday. And if you’re a job seeker, you can just… And I told a candidate last week. I was up in Ventura, which is North of LA. I said, “You want to be in operations, don’t apply to a job. X-ray LinkedIn’s site. Find directors and vice presidents in that department in the logistics and send them your little video and your little summary. And you’ll find 15 names, do it three or four times. You’ll get two or three interviews.” That’s the back door.

Lou Adler:

People say it’s real hard to find names on LinkedIn. Nah, it’s a piece of cake if you know how to do it. If you’re a recruiter and your recruiter can do it, because that’s what we do but job seekers don’t know how to do it. So I’m going to see if I can find that link and put it in the chat area and you can kind of know I have it here. So I’m going to see if I can…

Fletcher Wimbush:

And we’ll put that on the posting for this as well so people can go back to that in the future as well. But yeah, I mean it’s pretty much as simple as that. I mean you identify a job ad that you found anywhere on Indeed or ZipRecruiter of LinkedIn. LinkedIn actually sometimes has the actual job poster on there. A lot of times I might be a recruiter, but occasionally it is the hiring manager. So that’s a pretty easy way to do it.

Lou Adler:

No, I’m sorry, I would not advise that. Never apply to a post. My rule is, even if they posted it there, I don’t care. [crosstalk 00:21:43].

Fletcher Wimbush:

I’m not saying a post. I’m saying a lot of times the person who posted the ad, their name is attached on LinkedIn, which is a nice feature of LinkedIn. You can say, “Hey, here’s the hiring manager.” As opposed to applying, you can just now make a connection with them on LinkedIn and send that video.

Lou Adler:

I would go to that person’s boss. I do not, if they have their name on there, it’s open a black hole. That’s just my opinion. I don’t do anything that’s easy. If it’s easy, everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to go around the back.

Fletcher Wimbush:

For smaller companies, a lot of times it is the boss. But yeah, the larger companies, a lot of times you have an in-house recruiter or you have a third party recruiter and you can easily, again, reverse engineer, figure out who those decision makers are, who that person, who your direct report would be.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Because that’s the person that’s ultimately going to be making the decision in a lot of cases and the person that you need to impress the most. So if you can identify the GM of that manufacturing facility and you’re applying for the operations manager job, you can pretty quickly org chart and get right to that GM and put your-

Lou Adler:

Person will say, “Hey, this person looks pretty good. Talk to him.” So all of a sudden if you get to the boss’s boss, you’re in the game.

Fletcher Wimbush:

One or two minute video, talking about directly the issues that they’re having and how you can solve them is going to make a pretty impactful statement and it takes no time at all with your cell phone. So, okay. So before we wrap it up, I see you threw the link in there. It’s recruitmentgeek.com/tools/linkedin and we’ll again post that on our site.

Fletcher Wimbush:

And then I just wanted to give you an opportunity to share how people can get in touch with you if they’re interested in creating performance-based job descriptions or overhauling their whole recruitment practice, as well as share the URL and the link to where job seekers can go and get training and coaching through your online portal there on how to strategically get a job.

Lou Adler:

Two things. Number one, I appreciate that opportunity. Just send an email to info@performancebasedhiring and you’ll get more insight. Info@performancebased hiring and you’ll put that link in there. I’m going to put another link here in the chat area. Let me just make sure I have it for you though. We created a… I think I did put it here. Sorry guys. I’m looking at my list of without my glasses on, it’s even much harder. So I’m actually very impressed that I can actually read these words.

Lou Adler:

So we created a course for job seekers. It’s a free course. It’s on our learning platform and all our training is a combination, at least most of the things we do. We train recruiters and hiring managers on how to hire people using our performance based hiring methodology. We created a course for job seekers on how to prep for and ace the interview. And my book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired actually combines information for hiring managers, interviewers, recruiters and job seekers.

Lou Adler:

The job seeker part was very hard to write because I had to tell the job seekers is most of the time you’re not going to get interviewed accurately. So you have to proactively take matters into your own hands to make sure the person who’s interviewing you is interviewing you correctly, not by how tall you are, where you went to school, your language or you’re old or young or all this other stuff.

Lou Adler:

So that’s really what the job seeker course does. It’s how I prep 2000 candidates. There’s never been a candidate who I didn’t prep before they went into an interview. However, the one criteria they had to be able to do the work. So my idea was as long as they could do the work, I didn’t care how good an interviewer where they were. I had to clean their interviewing act up. But you still had to be a good interview to get the job. So the course is really effective for that standpoint.

Fletcher Wimbush:

So, as a job interviewer, if I can get the hiring manager to explain to me what the couple of key problems that the company is facing and how I might be able to help them solve that, then I can link my past experience in helping other companies solve that problem directly to their issue. And that they may not even realize that the problems that they’re trying to solve, what they were, right?

Lou Adler:

Hopefully they would. If they don’t, they’re not going to matter. My interviewing big tip is if you were the hiring manager, I just say, “Hey Fletcher, can you give me a quick overview of some of the problems and challenges this person’s going to take or handle when they get on the job? I’d like to give you some examples of work that I’ve done that are most relevant.”

Lou Adler:

That will number, one says, “Ooh, this is a pretty interesting candidate. Pretty forceful question, but a logical question.” And it kind of makes the hiring manager or the interviewer say, “Hm. That’s a good question. Let me think about that.” But it changes the whole dynamic of the interview to be a focus on what’s the job really about and can this person do it and can I work with you? So it really is a great technique to do it. Unfortunately you’ll find some managers say, “I don’t know.”

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Don’t take that job, right? [crosstalk 00:26:49]. Or help them figure it out at least.

Lou Adler:

Right. Help them figure it out, right.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah, exactly. Okay. So you can get more information about that at hiring.tips/jobseeker. And I highly recommend that. And if you’re a company having workforce reduction, I would share that with those folks to just let them know you care about them and you’re trying to give them some resources as well.

Fletcher Wimbush:

And Lou, it’s been a great, great pleasure. I know you got to go, so thank you very much and I look forward to maybe be able to take you out to lunch someday.

Lou Adler:

Got a deal. Thank you Fletcher. Thanks everyone.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Thanks, you too. Bye bye.

Lou Adler:

Bye bye.

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