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THE STEVE LEVY SERIES, Part 2. “Why Can’t We Land A Superstar?”

Posted on October 26, 2006
Filed Under Training | 7 Comments

By Steve Levy, Principal
outside– the– box Consulting
Talent Acquisition and Organizational Effectiveness Consulting

Part 2 of Three In A Series

Right off, I’ll admit that I’m a huge fan of Lou Adler: I like him personally and professionally. His concept of performance based hiring (what I refer to as 1X2X3 – one by two by three hiring) should be a staple in all recruiting organizations.

When Lou and I first sat down for a lunch chat at HR Tech in Philadelphia a few years back, it was clear that we were on the same page (it was here that I also became his sounding board and part time trainer to help him with his shoulder problems). Sure there are minor differences in how we implement our versions of performance based hiring, but the premise was the same people are hired to solve problems, not to demonstrate that they have 5-8 years of experience, a BA or equivalent, and excellent organizational skills. Let me distill this down “ if your job descriptions, ad copies, or recruiting spiels begin with, You will be responsible for, then you need to reengineer before you recruit.

The purpose of the job description in it’s traditional terms is to define compensation; jobs are typically graded according to the elements contained in the description. For instance, “years of experience” translates into level: Entry, Junior, Senior. In a market-based comp system, the job elements are used to compare what one company pays for a requirement to what your company pays (unless compensation is done without data wherein someone’s going to be surprised sooner or later). But the
job description is different from what from the problems that people will solve while do on the job.

What’s mildly humorous about my 1X2X3 is that outplacement firms (OPC) have used the concept of performance based accomplishments for decades“ humorous because so few folks “teaching” job search neither understand the nuances of the functions and verticals of their clients” right-sized capital (how sad a term) nor do they have experience in recruiting (which would really help them teach candidates how the processes work and how to better work with recruiters).

But they do bring something very critical to recruiting: How accomplishment statements are created. And the same model works for recruiters.

OPC counselors instruct their students to construct PAR (problem-action-result) and SIR (situation-involvement-result) statements that demonstrate accomplishments. In the PAR, the person describes the problem that they solved, typically end state as well as the beginning state; the actions taken to solve the problem, and the metric (or metrics) that describe the result. In the SIR model, used to describe an accomplishment that is group oriented, the situation is may be a rollout of a new product line; the involvement is, well, your involvement in the situation; and the result is the same as in the PAR model.

Now hold on to the model for a few paragraphs.

Here’s how the 1X2X3 works:

The 1/strong> represents the elemental requirements of the job, things like preferred years of experience (although you always ask the hiring manager if this is set in stone), specific functional or vertical expertise/experience, and basic skills (organizational, communications, etc.) and personality characteristics (obsessive/compulsive, narcissist, etc.). These present to the recruiter the basic palette of items to potentially look for in a candidate. What the typical job description won’t do is help you source and interview in a manner that results in hiring the right person to solve your problems. But it is information that can be used to view people’s experience and expertise in the special light that is provided by the 2.

I view a new person as having to satisfy the employer over two periods – the short term and the long term. In the short term “typically 90 days (also the onboarding period) “ there are invariably specific problems or situations that the person must solve or be involved in during this period (also, in many states, the at will period). During the longer term I use 12 months from the date of hire (it’s no coincidence that it coincides with the performance appraisal cycle) “there are often blue sky problems or situations that the hiring manager envisions the new hire being part of. Now comes the 3.

In step, we’re going to use the PAR/SIR models of outplacement. First, you ask the hiring manager what three specific problems or situations (it may be a combination and it may be more than three) the new hire will be working on during the first 90 days (the P/S). Identify the current state of the problem or situation, and the desired end state (meaning what would qualify as solving the problem or situation).

Second, ask the hiring manger for the actions or the specific involvement that the most successful person in the position might take to get to the desired end state (the A/I). Drill down for the actions or involvement the manager would consider to be especially creative.

Third, identify the metrics used to measure performance in both the beginning and end states “and yes, the metrics are the same in both states (the R).

Now comes that hard part “getting the hiring manager to do the same for the longer term period “12 months out from the date of hire. Frankly, this part I almost as hard as finding that needle-in-a-haystack candidate; this requires strategic thinking and planning on the part of the manager which seems to be a premium skill today. But it is so critical to the recruiting process: How many potential candidates ask about career development during interviews? What’s your typical response? “We have a world class career development program in which you’ll be assigned to a mentor and stretched to new heights. Replies the candidate, “That’s lovely, but what are some of the things I’ll be doing?” Doah! Fade to black.

What makes this step telling is that if the hiring manager can’t offer some longer term problems to be solved or situations in which the new hire might be involved, then I have to either question their abilities at strategic thinking and planning and/or question their boss in this same area. Maybe the hiring manager shouldn’t be a hiring manager “and hence, overseer of new hire performance planning and feedback. Just my two cents:

I guarantee that you will be dancing with the hiring manager during this process“ it’s almost like doing the hokey-pokey; – hopefully when you shake-it-all-around you’ll truly understand the job including the specific problems/situations that the new hire will see in both the short and longer term.

Now here’s why this approach is so important:

1. Knowing what specific problems/situations you have to sell, you can create a far more compelling message for your opportunity that transcends what most everyone else has to offer – this is a critical element to your employment brand. Can you imagine the response if you sell a job for both the things a person will work on immediately and if they’re successful, the things they might work on in the future? In effect, this will bring your brand and your job to life.
2. When you interview people, guess what questions you can now ask? Describe for me how you would move from the beginning state to the end state. As the person responds “or tries to “you’re drilling down”, – What specific actions might you take to take? What you’re accomplishing here is multifaceted: A person’s knowledge of the function, creative thinking, process-orientation, etc. Bottom-line: More effective interviewing as a result of a combined behavioral and cognitive approach.
3. The person starts the new job and doesn’t have to ask, “Okay, I know where the cafeteria and bathroom are, I know my benefits inside and out “so what am I going to do?” No problem “what the new hire will be doing has been a part of the recruiting process from Day 1. You get better onboarding!
4. With this approach, both the hiring manager and new hire know the short and longer term problems and situations “these are the new hire’s goals/objectives. At the end of the annual performance cycle, neither should either be in for a surprise “heck, they’ve known about performance from the first day. No. My manager has no idea what I’m working on – how can they assess my performance? or “How did so-and-so not understand what I was saying?” This approach results in better performance planning and feedback.

This approach requires hard work and a tremendous relationship with the hiring manager. For you, it’s about becoming more knowledgeable about the nuances of the job.

    The four benefits one receives from talking about specific problems and situations, essentially a 400% ROI will actually result in better recruiting performance. And that’s the bottom-line

If you’d like, comment here with one of your current pain-in-the-arse jobs and let’s work to reengineer it. First three jobs win, one per poster.

Next up are specific ideas for better Brick-and-Mortar sourcing (or as I was told, some of the “old school” stuff that seems to be making a comeback).

Feel free to contact Steve Levy directly


7 Responses to “THE STEVE LEVY SERIES, Part 2. “Why Can’t We Land A Superstar?””

  1. Bill Vick on October 26th, 2006 11:19 am

    Who else but el Dave could take a complex process seem crystal clear and simple like this? Nice post dealing with a process that needs to be understood by all the players on both side of the hiring equation.


  2. Bill Vick on October 26th, 2006 11:20 am

    Sorry guys – I was carried away in my enthusiasm for Dave. The article was Stev Levy’s…



  3. Chief Executive Restaurant Recruiter on October 26th, 2006 11:59 am

    Great article. Some real gold in there. Nice job Steve.

    Restaurant Recruiter | Restaurant Jobs | Restaurant Recruiters Blog

  4. Dave on October 26th, 2006 5:23 pm

    bill you can rave about my post the day before too \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\.0

  5. Steve on October 27th, 2006 7:26 am

    Bill – YOU can call me by any name you choose…but as all recruiters say, “Just call me.”

  6. Internet Blog Tag - I’m It. » Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter on December 20th, 2006 3:39 pm

    […] Steve Levy – an old school recruiter with a great sarcastic wit. I love talking to Steve he is funny as heck. […]

  7. Recruiting on March 11th, 2007 10:35 pm


    Some portions of this article sounds interesting. May be you have some links where I could read more about this topic?…