I spoke to Lou Adler, the CEO and founder of Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems – a consulting and training firm helping companies around the world improve quality of hire. In our conversation, Lou talks about what prevents companies from hiring the best talent, the factors that predict a quality hire, why you should never apply for a job, how he’s built his LinkedIn audience and his best career advice.
Lou is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007), The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench Media, 2013) and the Lynda.com Performance-based Hiring video training program (2016). Adler is one of the top bloggers on LinkedIn’s Influencer program writing about the latest trends in hiring, employment, and recruiting. His articles, quotes and research can now be found in Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, Bloomberg, SHRM and The Wall Street Journal. The company’s new mobile ready learning platform – The Hiring Machinesm – provides instant access to all of the tools needed to find and hire outstanding talent.
Dan Schawbel: How has the recruiting landscape changed over the past decade and what does the future look like (especially with artificial intelligence)?
Lou Adler: While the tools and techniques have changed remarkably, as far as end results go nothing has changed. Companies still are not seeing or hiring the best talent. All AI will do is allow companies to be more efficient doing the wrong process. When the emphasis is on building bigger pools of active candidates and then weeding out the weaker ones, the likelihood of success is remote. This is true for a number of reasons.
- Active candidates for more senior and management roles represent far less than 20% of the total talent pool.
- Skills and experiences are weak predictors of success and worse filters. The best people have a different mix of experiences than are listed on the typical job description so they inadvertently get excluded from consideration.
- The best people – whether active or passive – are not interested in even considering the ill-defined lateral transfers described in the typical job descriptions.
- The hiring process today is not designed to attract the best people; they’re designed to weed out the weak ones. In a talent scarcity situation, this approach will not work, and being more efficient at it will not improve results.
- The only good people interested in lateral transfers are those who want to work gigs. I contend that’s why most new jobs are filled this way.
The future of AI in hiring is uncertain. Hiring is a multi-dimensional problem and if skills and experiences are used as the dominant criteria for selection, AI will have limited value. When potential, fit and the rate of change of growth are added into the AI equation things will get better. However, for this to work hiring managers will either have to either adapt to this new way of assessment or be removed from the hiring decision.
Schawbel: Based on your experience, and research, what skills are the most in-demand today and what sources should job seekers turn to develop those skills?
Adler: I’m not knowledgeable about specific skills, but I can say that having a track record of success at different companies with different people is a good predictor of success doing comparable work. This is true for any job! I’ve put a list together based on 40 years of interviewing people and tracking their performance that summarizes the best and worst predictors of job success. This is shown in the table below. What I’ve discovered is that while some skills are required to do the work, often this is much different than what’s listed on the job description, which is the mix of skills that are important and how they’re used on the job. That’s why I always ask hiring managers to describe the work the person being hired will be doing with the skill.
Schawbel: If you were a job seeker today, how would you go about your search and what would you avoid?
Adler: I would never apply to a job, that’s for sure. I’d use the backdoor to find someone in the company who could vouch for my performance, and have him/her introduce me to the hiring manager. I did this recently to try and get a consulting contract with a major tech firm. The generic advice is to use job postings as leads, but not apply. This is a common sales tactic and it should be used by any savvy job seeker. This is one way to differentiate yourself. Working a gig is another way to prove yourself.
Schawbel: You’ve build a considerable audience using LinkedIn as a platform. Why do you think the site is valuable, what impact has it had on your career and what do you think makes for an engaging post?
Adler: The site is valuable because it’s a network of 500 million people. Too many users think it’s a database of 500 million people and a job board with a few hundred thousand job postings. The value of this is that a person’s second degree connections are invaluable sources of sales leads and job leads. These are called weak connections. We all know that talking with acquaintances is much easier than talking with strangers. This is the difference between a warm call and a cold call. Getting a referral to a potential client or a potential new boss results in a higher probability of getting the meeting and that the meeting will go well.
Schawbel: What are your top three pieces of career advice?
- Don’t apply to job postings. Instead you must find someone using LinkedIn who will refer you to the hiring manager. Use the job posting as a lead only. Unless you’re a perfect fit for the job, the chances of getting an interview are 50:1 against you and 4:1 that you’ll get an offer since at least four other people will be interviewed. That’s 200:1 odds for getting a job via the job posting route. It’s better to spend your time more effectively getting referrals especially when your career depends on getting the right job.
- Use forced-choice questions during the interview. The likelihood a job candidate will be asked the right questions is rare. So it’s up to the candidate to proactively ensure he/she is being assessed properly. The best forced-choice question goes something like, “Would you mind telling me about some of the big challenges in the job? Based on these I’d like to give you some examples of comparable challenges I’ve handled in the past.”
- Once on the job, never make excuses. Do whatever is necessary to achieve the results expected of you. Even if the deliverables are not perfect, make sure you get everything done on time. You’ll know you’re successful when you’re invited back on the team for a similar project or assigned stretch jobs.