The Podcast for Employers Who Are Hiring At Scale
Are you involved in the hiring of dozens or even hundreds of employees a year? If so, you'll know that the typical sourcing tools, tactics, and strategies just don't scale. This podcast features news, tips, case studies, and interviews with the world's leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high-volume hiring.
Performance-based job descriptions lead to employers hiring the quality they want without costing them to quantity they need. The reasons may surprise you.
Lou is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a consulting and training firm helping companies implement "Win-Win Hiring" programs using his Performance-based Hiring℠ system for finding and hiring exceptional talent. More than 40 thousand recruiters and hiring managers have attended his ground-breaking workshops over the past 30+ years.
Lou is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head and The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. He has been featured on Fox News and his articles and posts can be found on Inc. Magazine, BusinessInsider, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.
Prior to his executive search experience, Lou held executive level operations and financial management positions at the Allen Group and at Rockwell International's automotive and consumer electronics groups. He holds an MBA from UCLA and a BS Engineering from Clarkson University.
In today's podcast, Lou will share his methodical and, for some, out-of-the-box approach to hiring the world's best candidates for the world's best opportunities, whether those roles are with b-to-b companies with no consumer brand or with employers with incredibly strong consumer brands. In short, instead of focusing on the education or experience that the candidate has achieved, Lou favors a performance-based approach where candidates are selected based on their proven ability to do the work.
Welcome To the High Volume Hiring Podcast. I'm Stephen Rothberg, the founder of Job Search, site College recruiter. We believe that every student in recent grad deserves a great career. This podcast features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world's leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high volume hiring. Thanks for joining us. Hey, this is Steven Rothberg and today's guest, I am thrilled is Lou Adler of the Performance Based Hiring Learning Systems author, speaker, general thought leader, all round. Good guy who isn't ever afraid to, to share his wisdom. And we're gonna get about 20 minutes of that today, I hope. Lou, welcome to the High Volume Hiring Podcast.
Hey, Steve, great to see you again, and delighted to be here. And I thank you for inviting me.
Yeah. And you know, for listeners who don't know much about you or what you do, tell them a little bit about Blue and, and the Adler Group.
Well, I'm a pretty old guy, so I start <laugh>. I didn't start in recruiting, but I started recruiting 44 years ago or so, 10 years prior to that. I was in engineering and manufacturing and finance and accounting, and was running a small manufacturing company. Hated my group president, mic or micromanager. And he and I clashed every day, quit four times in one year, and finally, I'm gonna screw it. I'm gonna become a recruiter. But when I became a recruiter, I could see that there was a lot of parallels to business processing. And over the years, that's really my focus is, Hey, you wanna hire a good person? What's not just A or B or C? It's A, B, C, D, and you gotta look at a lot of things to really make it happen. So that's the short story of how I got here. And I'm not sure of if it's, that's that's, that's the story and I'm gonna stick to it.
<Laugh>. Well, I I, I love the background too, because there are a load of recruiters out there, good, bad, ugly, whatever, that that's really have no experience on the other side of the table. You know, being that, being that hiring manager, being that business leader and, and folks like you who have been on the other side of the table are really able to understand better, I think empathize better with what you're asking of those hiring managers, of those talent acquisition leaders. So the first question that I have for you I, I was listening to a podcast that you were a guest on something like I think it was in maybe August or so the Recruitment Flex podcast. Shelly Billinghurst and Sege Bre are the hosts. And for the listeners who aren't familiar with that podcast, they should subscribe. It's awesome.
I listen to every episode. But you were sharing a story about a client that you had I think it was a, they had a 500 employee call center and the hiring manager was resisting the recommendations that you were making because I think in his mind, only 10% of his employees were failing in his judgment. And so he didn't wanna change his hiring process, but then he did, after you were able to show him that instead of focusing on the 10% that were failing, you could help him hire new people who were much more like the top third who were succeeding. So focusing on bringing in the top talent instead of not bringing in the, the worst talent. Can you elaborate on that? Like what
Happened? Sure. Well, actually it was 5,000 people over seven call centers and eight managers. Were in a room, huge insurance company. We already signed a very, very huge training project to train everybody on how to hire people. The VHR of this huge company was with me. We went to corporate headquarters and all the directors of these call centers obviously planned this ahead of time, so it was not insignificant. And they, as a person said, we don't want to do this. And this is after the contract was already signed. So, I mean, this was like the start of it. Now we're gonna organize it. And they said, we don't need hrs involvement cause we only make 10% mistakes. And this was like, and it was like two to 3000 people a year. So this was not an insignificant program. So I, I was stunned. The VHR was stunned, the director of training, everyone was stunned.
It was kind of pretty caustic situation and I didn't wanna lose the contract. It was pretty big deal. So I just quickly said, so you're telling me of the 90, they said, the only, only 10% were fired in the first year. I said, well, of the other 90%, are they all the same? Are they all equally as good And people, no, no, they're not equally as good. I said, well, I said, is the top third better than the bottom 30? He said, absolutely. I said, well, why don't we help you hire the top third then? And they just stunned silence. They said, oh God, this guy basically I screwed these higher. They didn't wanna do it and they're high mentally high fiving. But the reality of it was, and I said, okay, tell me, and this is really the issue. What did the top third do differently than the bottom third?
And then, so we spent a couple three hours and we, we were on a whiteboard. I said, I want you to write the names. And there were people around the country. So this is not just one call center, it was all around the country. I said, I want you to put the city in the call center and I want you to write names of people and tell me what the top third do differently than the bottom third. This last two hours. And it was pretty cool. I said, we'll find the people in the top third. I just wanna see if there's a commonality across the, across the United States. And it turned out the number one, it was attention to detail handling multiple calls being in a very, very structured environment. So a lot of things that these people did, but the most important one, the, and they didn't check this was a hundred percent attendance.
These people always showed up every, so it was a hundred percent attendance. I said, well, how do you validate that? And they didn't. And the bottom 10% didn't show up. I mean, it was like, just to be in the top 90 to not get fired, you just have to show up and if you're good. So I said, well first you gotta get the attendance right. That prevents mistakes. And then you gotta focus on these things that the best people do. And then we came up with an interview guy that allowed them to define the work showing this way. And then the a the advertising was different than that. I mean, we don't, we don't post job descriptions. We focus on marketing documents and we use job boards all the time. But we said, let's focus on what drives those people to be successful in this job. Don't put the skills down. It's not matter. They gotta be able to do the work. Let's get the people in and then we'll figure if they can do the work for a second. I mean, it was just interesting that, so our whole focus was on it mar the job board is a, is a marketing piece. Obviously you want the right kinds of things and you want to attract the focus on their intrinsic motivators. But that was the issue and we were fully successful.
Yeah. When a vendor basically follows the client around, or when an employee follows a manager around, it's a, it's a huge compliment to both right, because it's, it's really easy to kind of have a business divorce at that moment. But when you follow those around, it's, it's awesome. So the, the attendance is, is fascinating to me. And I'm wondering, do you, do you think that that was like a, a causation thing that, that if somebody attended a hundred percent of the time, then they would be in the top third? Or was that more of a correlation thing where they were in the top third and only people who were in the top third would also have high attendance? So, you know, like,
No, I wouldn't get into, I would, I think you're getting into the minutia there. I, I think the issue was is that to not get fired, you had to be in the top, the top 90%. And that was perfect attendance. But I think the idea of the perfect attendance, and I wouldn't get into the the knits and bits and pieces of it. I think it indicated they were very structured, they were very disciplined, they were responsible people. And I think that was it. So I think there were some behavioral aspects that indicated that. I think they still had, I mean, if they couldn't use a computer, they couldn't get on the phone, they couldn't communicate cuz there was some other productivity issues related to that. But I think the attendance probably, if you did the statistical analysis, it probably affected a lot of those other behavioral characteristics.
Sure. So, so people who just some days just didn't care enough to show up to work, were also going to be the people who, who weren't able to juggle the different calls and stay focused and follow the script and, and whatever. So it was, it was a good indicator. Well you mentioned a couple of things a minute ago that I definitely also want to dive into. And, and one was you mentioned a performance based job descriptions. For listeners who don't know what that is help them help them understand, because I think you've been preaching that for as long as you and I have known each other. Neither one of us wanna care to admit how long that is. Cuz it's probably longer than some of the people who have been alive who are listening to this. But what, what is a performance j based job description and, and why is it better than the more traditional approach of looking for, you know, credentials? Like where you went to college 20 years ago?
Lemme go back to my first search assignment and I indicated earlier I have a heavy background in manufacturing and financial planning and budgeting and all that kind of stuff. My first search assignment was for plant manage and automotive industry making automotive accessories. This was 44 years ago, something a long time ago. And I had been in industry 10 years prior to that. So and I knew the president of this company. He said he was looking for a client manager and he gave me a job description, skills, experience, engineering, background, school, this kind of background, exactly this industry experience. And I said to the president of the company, Mike, this is not a job description. This is a person description, a job description. It defines the work a person needs to do, not the skills a person needs to do the work. So he said, oh, good point.
So I said, what do you want this person to do over the course of year? What would this person need to do to be considered successful? Now this is for a plant manager, for an automotive manufacturing company. It's exactly the same question I asked the people in the call center, what do the best people do differently than an average person? So it was understanding the work itself. He said, well, the, in the president company, he says, I need someone to turn around the plant. So I said, fine, let's walk through the manufacturing plant. And I had no discomfort. I had been so many plants, very comfortable walk through the plant for an hour. And we found six or seven major problems with the plant. The way it was laid out, the way scrap was handled, the way scheduling was done. It was a host of things that indicated this plant was underperforming. I said, we'll find a person who can fix that.
We'll be back right after this break. Welcome back to the high volume hiring podcast.
Just last week, I'm working with a board in the agricultural industry. If you ever eat a almond, they're looking for CEO to run to spend a hundred million to expand almond growers in the world. And I'm sitting there on the board, what does the best person, what does a person in this role need to do to be successful? I always ask this question. I've been involved at over a thousand different search assignments from a call center, from marketing spots, engineering spots. And I always ask, what does a person need to do to be successful? And it's always six or seven key performance objectives that define the work, define the action a candidate has to take, build, change, grow some metric and some timeframe. And we look for people who can do that work. The reason that's important is the best candidates wanna understand the work.
They don't want to. No candidate gets excited about, oh yeah, you gotta have 10 years experience and skills. And this goes back to job boards. It's not job board is a marketing device. And this is way, I know you kinda think that I don't like job board. No, I don't like boring advertising. I like good advertising that appeals to somebody. You don't post the job description. Where's the law that says you gotta post a job description? It's like posting a market. The product specs, you know, I just bought my wife a and i a watch, it doesn't have any specs in there. This is what it does. All this kind of cool stuff. I mean, so so the idea is now the, the, the real, the heart of why you wanted to open a performance based job description is it eliminates bias. If a candidate can do that work, he or she deserves a job. I don't care if they're old or young, black or white, green or yellow, physically challenged or I don't care what their sexual preference is. If they can do that work, they deserve the job. I had the number one law attorney in the country from Litner Medicine said, this is the way you reduce bias and open a talent pool to more diverse candidates. I have never used a job description listing skills since 1978.
Yeah. And, you know, a as an owner of a job board, I can, I can completely vouch for that. When, when we get complaints from employers about their job posting ads not working whatever that means because inevitably the complaint is usually like the quality, the candidates isn't good. How do you know the quality isn't good because only 12 people applied. Well, is that quality or is that quantity? And a lot of times employers get, get those confused. They think they need a certain number of applications in order to be able to reach a quality candidate. But when we dig into it and look at their posting, inevitably, I mean at least nine times outta 10, what we see as a posting that lists a job title that uses internal jargon, sales ninja, you know, s e two for software engineer, second level, something along those lines that, that candidates have no reason to know what that means.
And then there might be two or three or four sentences about the job itself. You know, you're gonna be coding the next version of our software to do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then the rest of it is bullet points. And the bullet points will be bachelor's degree from this school, this school, this school, or you know, whatever, three to five years of experience. And when I look at that, if I'm a candidate and, and Lou put yourself in the shoes of a candidate here, does that excite you? If you're, if you're a good candidate, does that compel you to apply?
I was with Bose Corporation, this is 10 or 12 years ago and they were trying to hire marketing interns. They might have even used your board for all I
And I'm sitting there and I ask, and when we create these performance based job descriptions, I always ask, what's the employee value proposition? Why would a top person want this job? Why would and I, and I say, you gotta put that in the headline or the, it's gotta be the first line that someone, it's marketing. So in the room, the VP marketing was there with his team. I know it was the engineering people at account. So it was the whole company we were training. It was 10 or 15 years ago, I don't remember exactly. It's outta Boston. And I said, what's the dominant thing you're looking for in these marketing interns? And the VP marketing said, we need someone who's creative. And I said, okay, how do you create that in the job description? Tell me how you create it. There's a lot of job description.
It said, must be creative. This was the guy said, I said, oh, gimme a break. That's not creative. Let's be creative Is creative. I said, you guys should be embarrassed. <Laugh>. So the guy was embarrassed. There's no question. He, he looked at everybody and turned just, they said, must be creative. Yeah, that could be. Cause they weren't getting, and they're in Boston. They had a lot of cool schools there and they were hiring marketing parents. Cause that was the critical thing. About six weeks later, the VP marketing calls me and says, Lou, you shamed us. And we spent that evening together trying to come up with a more creative title. Cause I said, you gotta, the tagline is important marketing intern with some tagline of the first line. And this is what he said. And I remembered today, and I get chills every time I see it. He said, this work, we tried it two weeks ago and it was unbelievable. He said, marketing in turn, create white papers in any color you want,
<Laugh> to create white papers in any, I said, that is creative. I said, now you get, he said, it was just unbelievable you had something. So when I say talk bilingual talk, if you're talking to a software engineer, put something cool in there about software, talking to marketing person. Put something cool about marketing. Pair white papers in any color you want. We did the same thing for the flight nurse posting a job. All she did was change the title to say, flight nurse helping save lives every day as opposed to have 10 years experience and never put a, you don't need to put a skill, an experience, an academic back. You don't need any of that. Put the benefits of that. That's marketing 1 0 1. And I think that's what I say, job boards are useless. If you put you're, you're looking for the bottom half. I mean, if you put a job board, you're just looking for people who want a job. If you want to have a career, make an exciting career. So that to me is great advertising is a key to having success in job boards. I don't care if you're hiring one person or a thousand people.
Right. And this, and, and the same applies on your ats, right? Whether, whether it's a job board, whether it's your ats, whether it's some other kind of sourcing tool. I I love that. I mean, I, I just, just the, you know, the, the white paper in any color kind of gave me chills. And, and I wasn't clearly, I wasn't nearly as involved in, in, in that, in that project. But I can just imagine before they got on the phone with you and told you, Hey, here's what we discovered, here's what we came up with. They must have been sitting around in that room. And, and, you know, one idea leads to another as as as it should. And one person comes up with an idea, somebody else is like, I've got a better idea. Here's a better word, here's a better word. And suddenly everybody in the room is probably looking around with chills, like, we got it.
We just nailed this. We really got to the bottom of what is gonna cause those top candidates to be excited and to compel them to comply, to apply. That's something that, that, that at college recruiter, we see too often with employers where they, the job that they're hiring for is a really good job and they have a pretty good idea of who the candidate should be. But the marketing is poor. They just, they, they, they don't write ad copy well enough to get those good candidates to apply and also to dissuade, to discourage the candidates who aren't gonna be good. You don't want them applying. It's a waste of their time and it's, and it's a waste of yours. So last question be before unfortunately, we, we have to leave off you, you've alluded to it a couple of times in the conversation and you know, just in terms of like using job boards as, as sourcing tools, interesting because now I better understand where you're coming from.
It's, it's not so much the job board, the functionality, the technology, the industry itself. I think, correct me if I'm wrong, Lou, I think what where you are coming from is that employers are using job boards poorly. They're not writing compelling marketing ads. And maybe the job boards should be doing a better job of encouraging showing the employers what ads work, what ads don't work, and maybe using data to prove that. Like what, what would you say to those who are using job boards, whether they should use them or not, how best to use them. What's, what are your words of advice
For from a system level standpoint? You're trying to attract people. You're not trying to weed people out. So if your strategy is we want to attract the best rather than weed out the week. So you have to have the right talent strategy in my mind, Hey, you wanna hire a good person and if the demand for that talent is greater than the supply, you have to attract people, not weed them out. So if you think that philosophy is, Hey, we wanna attract people, I don't even know that and I did this well I got kicked out of a room with LinkedIn. You notice I'm no longer on any LinkedIn events, even though I have a class. I got kicked out. But about six years ago I was with everybody in LinkedIn and they would coming up with a new, their new job board, I said, no, make it hard to apply.
Don't make it easy to apply and promise everybody who applies, you'll talk to 'em. They didn't want to, they don't make money. By having fewer people apply. They make money by more job posting. So when you follow the money, it's, hey, no, we're gonna sell job posting, so that's fine. So I said, but if you're gonna use a job post, make it a story. Don't list skills. And again, I talked to the number one labor attorney in the country from lit res and number one guy been in front of the Supreme Court, he said, job postings don't have to be internal job descriptions. Your internal job description the job posting is a marketing device. Why? He said, I do not understand why companies post an internal job description. And that's my philosophy, is tell a story. You don't have to list a single skill.
Hey, or you use like this, use your experience with five years in accounting and manufacturing to develop a new cost accounting system, worldwide cost accounting system. So if you want tell a story, make it exciting, appeal to people and I have people say, Hey, you know, rather than just applying, send us a little story of something you've accomplished that's most comparable and we'll get you on a phone in 24 hours. So I kind of use it as a process, as a step in the process. Good people don't want to apply and that's not totally true. Some good people will apply, but because it's a black hole, I said, okay, so how do you get in the top of the list? I ask people to do something differently in the job posting and the truthfully, the ones that do something different and other ones I call up and talk to.
So if you look at job postings that I do, I remember I had one for a controller. This was kind of corny, but it actually worked. The controller ad said, and it was for an entertainment company in la I had done a lot of work there. So it said Oscar winning controller, that was the title, which is kind of corny, but it worked. And then it said, if you get this job, your boss will be talking about how you impacted their company next time they get their Oscar or Emmy award, whatever it was. I just tied it to that cause people wanted to be in the industry. But I always tell stories, I don't list skills or experiences and I know the job. So the story is always about, cuz hey, I understand what the work is. And if you don't understand the work is you can't tell a good story and you can't drive the impact. So you gotta know the job, you gotta know your client, you gotta know what appeals to people, and then you gotta put all that messaging together. Sorry for that long with answer.
No, no, that, that, that, that's awesome. And, and you know, you mentioned earlier about employee value proposition and I said that last question, but I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm gonna reneg on that and hey, as the host, it's my license. So really quick question for employees, because I think that that for those who don't have much experience or maybe those who just kind of have been doing same things the same way for the last, you know, 30, 40 years and are looking to improve, which is why they're listening to a podcast like this and, and, and other things maybe they're cons you know, gonna sign up with you to, to help them, whatever, but the, I've had occasionally employers that don't really know what an employee value proposition is. They read that they don't really know what it is or they don't really know how to get it.
And I talked to a client of ours a large employer a couple weeks ago when they said they were struggling with that, that, that how do we come up with with it, you know, something, sometimes things that are staring you in the face are hard to see. And what they did is that they went and they surveyed all of their employees in this particular area who were performing well. And the question they asked was, when you get up in the morning, what causes you to get out of bed and come into work? And they felt, and, and the answers that they got back were inevitably about, you know, the excitement of the work, feeling they're part of a team making a difference. And in, in like the nursing example, you, you, you gave a few minutes ago, is, is that in your mind the employee value proposition? And and if not, how do you, how do, how does an employer get there?
Well, I think you're right. In fact, I, so I'll take the first story of the call center. I said, why do good people want this job seemed like a pretty sucky job. I mean, you had to be there a hundred percent of the time, very structured. It was a very structured environment. I mean it was, I would say it was mil, it seemed militaristic to me. I said, why do good people like the job? And I said, I want you to put your best people down and I want you to call 'em and ask them. And it exactly what you did a survey is, Hey, take your best, but why do you like this job? And then create that. And it turned out it was a good salary, great benefits, the flex, the hours as you could start early and be home in time for kids for school.
So the advertising reinforced that. So this was an interesting story and we can end it with this one. This was, the headquarters was in southern California in San Fernando Valley. It doesn't matter, but people might be familiar with it. And then one of the recruiters on the company who said, Hey, I've gotta go over to ucla to hire people, which are usually is about 20 miles away. I said, you're gonna hire people to work in a call center for insurance from ucla. It doesn't mi the demographic at all. He said, what it is is they have to work in a call center for you to get their insurance license. And I said, are they, are they any good? They said, no, they're terrible <laugh>. He said, they just do it. They don't get fired, but they do it for you. Then we get 'em into sales position.
So they had to get their insurance license to sell insurance and that was their, their rookie year so to speak. So we created advertising for that group, Hey, get into a six figure salary in a year and a half. And the advertising we created for the people, Hey, here's a chance to stay at home and see your kids every day. And it was really, and didn't list the skills at all. It just kind of said, Hey, we created advertising based on the intrinsic motivators of the ideal candidate. And I think that's the issue. It doesn't have to be a repost of your job description. Think it as a marketing tool. And it's a one, it's one of three marketing or five marketing tools. You got your employer brand, you got your career site, you got the job posting, you got the email it sent out to people, and it's marketing. And I think that's, I think where people miss the mark is that, hey, a job board is marketing and if the only differentiator is your logo, you're gonna underperform.
Yep. Coca-Cola has made probably trillions of dollars over the years by focusing on the taste, the lifestyle, the, the feel, not by listing the ingredients on the back of the can.
That's exactly, I think that's a good summary,
<Laugh>. Yeah. This is this has been really fun. It's always a pleasure speaking with you and for the listeners who wanna find out more about you, the Adler group, your, your books, et cetera. How should they contact you? Well,
I think the easiest way is just go to hire with your head.com, hire with your head.com. We have a book club. You can buy my book. You don't have to, but you can join every other month or so. And I feel like it, I have a book club meeting and we review some of these topics in detail, how to define a job, how to interview a candidate, how to set the stage, how to write job postings, all of that stuff. So I would go there, hire with your head.com and you'll be able to find
Me. Awesome. Thanks so much Lou. Thank
You very much for inviting me, Steve. Thank you.
Thank you so much for joining us today on the High Volume Hiring podcast. I'm your host, Steven Rothberg of job search Psych College recruiter. Each year we help more than 7 million candidates find great new jobs. Our customers are primarily Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies and other employers who hire at scale and advertise their jobs with us. You can reach me at [email protected] chairs.
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