Avoid Creating a“Like Us” Culture with Performance Based Hiring


How to Leverage Performance-Based Hiring

In our recent blog article we explained why companies need to take a step back and consider whether they’re  heading down the road to mediocrity by hiring for cultural fit. The most successful firms are diverse ones that hire candidates who are best suited to succeed in their roles, rather than candidates who might have plenty of opinions on homebrew or keep colleagues entertained in the break room. Company success boils down to job performance, after all.

Which brings us to Lou Adler’s book, Hire with Your Head. It raised awareness of performance-based hiring (PBH) upon its publication in 2002. In fact, Adler’s ideas quickly became a revolutionary way to hire talent. It’s approach can help your organization on several levels, including the company culture you need to develop to ensure you’re not only getting the best candidates but are also fostering a broad range of ideas and leadership abilities to best serve your company.


So, Just What is Performance-Based Hiring?

Compared to traditional hiring methods, PBH is far more outcome-driven, with an emphasis on what achievements a candidate should accomplish and what deliverables a candidate should produce.

This matters to your organization’s culture, by bringing in a new dynamic.  When you evaluate a candidate based on their ability to perform similar tasks and projects versus how long it’s taken them to gain that skill, it allows for diverse candidates who come from less traditional backgrounds to self-select into your process. For example, a software engineer might have come out of a degree program and have a year of experience and not be as strong as a self-taught developer who has no degree.  In this case, the “pedigree” just didn’t prove valuable.

While it enhances your company culture, it also streamlines your ability as a recruiter (remember: you are always your own recruiter first!) in several important ways and becomes the basis for each step in the hiring process.


The PBH Factor Right From the Start

Let’s begin with the job description in a PBH job posting. It attracts people who best fit the role and its expectations. It doesn’t include arbitrary years of needed experience, but does include specific results that the person hired will be expected to achieve. For example, here’s how it compares to a typical job description:

Classic job description: Requirements: 2-5 years of software engineering experience using JavaScript, React, Node.js.

PBH job description: In this role you will oversee development of feature-rich, customer-facing, open-source software for a new social media concept. This product will revolutionize the way people communicate globally, so prepare to scale quickly and build a team of engineers from one to 12 within six months.

Notice the difference? Candidates will find themselves far more engaged and interested by a PBH posting, which helps with all of your recruiting metrics as well.


The PBH Approach Applies in the Interview Process

Next, once you have a call or bring a candidate in for a meeting, you can leverage the PBH job description to prompt the candidate to share similar projects, like this:

“Angelica, your resume is really impressive and we’re excited to consider you for our CTO role. One of the first projects you’d tackle is hiring. We need to scale up quickly, so you’d have the opportunity to build out a diverse team of engineers who will own the architecture, design, dev, QA and devops roles. We’d like to have a team of 12 in place in six months. How does your past work history relate to that performance objective?”

Through such questioning, you can continue to share additional performance objectives and gain enough insights to know if prior accomplishments in her career carry the same weight and complexity as the role requires. It’s hard to find a perfect match, but in most cases if you hire someone who performed well in a similar roles and who is in the top 20 percent of their peer group, they will fill skill gaps quickly.


“Just one more thing…”  How to Use Follow-up Questioning to Determine Future Performance, Not Cultural Fit

Remember Columbo? He was the master of the follow-up question. And, as he proved, the follow-up question is arguably the most important tool of any interviewer.

Once a candidate shares background into their work history, it’s critical to get beyond the high-level answer that most interviewees prefer, and ask key follow-up questions that generate more insight.

Here are several questions we find helpful:

  • How was that project assigned to you over your peers?

  • What was your team like in terms of experience?

  • What was the project status when you started? How did it look at the end?

  • What happened that you didn’t expect?

  • What was the biggest problem you solved?

  • What was the hardest decision you had to make during that project? What factors brought you to that conclusion?

  • Where did you exceed expectations? Where do you feel you could have done better?

  • What recognition did you receive?

These are the types of questions that give you a true sense of what a candidate offers, and what they’ll mean to your team in a  company culture that prioritizes performance over camaraderie. If a candidate is inclined to exaggerate their participation in a project, it will become obvious when they can’t answer specific and deeper questions about their role.


HireLabs Helps You Build a Vibrant Culture without Sacrificing Results

At HireLabs, we’ve incorporated the lessons learned from Adler’s revolutionary book since its publication 17 years ago. And we understand the importance of building a dynamic company culture that empowers employees and doesn’t ask new hires to simply fit a mold, but expects them to perform well in their position, bring results to their team, and play a role in the company’s ultimate success. To see how we can help you meet your performance and cultural goals, contact us today!


Authored by Stephanie McDonald, Senior Recruiter