Book Review: Hiring and Getting Hired

Hiring and Getting Hired: A Performance-Based Hiring Handbook by Lou Adler

Don’t let the WordArt-inspired cover design fool you! Even though it’s not offering a full solution to the top-of-funnel problem, it’s taking a worthy crack at it and several other key challenges in the process, which makes it one of the best recruiting books out there.

I came across the book since Grammarly is using it, and another all-time favorite of mine, Who: The A Method for Hiring, as the basis for our hiring manager and interviewer training. The two books have a lot in common at the principles level, but offer different tactics to support them. H&GH stands out b/c it paints a more holistic and detailed picture of the entire process, compared to Who.

The Good

There are several distinctions and frameworks that I found to be particularly useful in H&GH:

  • “Talent Scarcity” vs. “Talent Surplus” recruiting strategies: Incorrectly diagnosing the market you’re operating in leads to a recruiting process that’s unlikely to yield the outcome that you’re aiming for.
  • Before Day 1 / Day 1 / Year 1 / Beyond Year 1 decision-making criteria: There’s a big disconnect between what seems to matter for both candidates and companies before accepting a job, and what truly impacts their performance after accepting the job. The more you can orient your selling and evaluation process towards the Year 1 and beyond criteria — the better.
  • The Performance Profile: is H&GH’s version of Who’s “Scorecard” describing the job in terms of outcomes rather than a set of skills and responsibilities. This is then used for both designing an evaluation process that’s outcome-focused and crafting a job description that’s selling “year 1 and beyond” criteria.
  • Segmenting the talent market: Super passives, explorers, tiptoers, searchers, networkers, hunters & posters — are all in different stages of engagement and progress in their career change process and need to be approached and interacted with differently.
  • The 20/20/60 Sourcing Plan: 20% focused on compelling and visible postings, 20% focused on name generation and targeted emails, 60% focused on direct calling, networking and obtaining pre-qualified referrals.
  • On-site: PSQ, MSA and SMARTe: Asking a performance profile-based problem-solving question (PSQ), following up with a most-significant-accomplishment question (MSA) tackling a similar challenge in a past job, and utilizing fact-finding around the specific task, measurement, actions, results, time-frame and the environment (SMARTe) to get a full picture.
  • Closing: utilizing the candidate career decision matrix: a great tool to bring “year 1 and beyond” criteria into the decision-making process.

The Could-be-better

There were a handful of ideas and concepts that didn’t sit well with me and could potentially be improved.

  • The Hiring Formula: is on the one hand complex and on the other hand not too actionable. I wonder if a “formula” is the right analogy here and if there are better evaluation buckets that are worth considering.
  • Gap around “How?”: this may be tied to the Hiring Formula. There’s a lot of good advice in the book on how to evaluate candidates for a pattern of achievement throughout their careers and how to assess whether they’ll be able to accomplish the “What?” (results) of the role. The slightly more intangible conversation on the “How?” (“will they be able to do it in ways that are aligned with our company values and culture?”) received very few pages in the book, though this aspect of a candidate’s fit is hugely important.
  • The order of chapters: Framing → On-site → Performance Profile → Sourcing → Closing, seems out of order. A sequence that follows the recruiting process made more sense to me: Framing → Performance Profile → Sourcing → On-site → Closing.
  • Reducing On-site bias: there’s actually quite a bit of discussion in the book around ways to reduce bias in the recruiting process. The appendix discussing the legal compliance implications of using performance-profile-based job descriptions is fantastic. But there seems to be a big gap around discussing bias as it pertains to the Problem Solving Question, on two separate dimensions: the first is around designing a PSQ experience that is as much “in-real-life context” as possible, taking into account the fact that the ability to solve a particular problem “out-of-context” and “in-context” varies greatly. The second is around developing explicit criteria for consistently assessing the quality of different answers, given that there’s no single right answer.

In Sum

While not error/gaps-free (which is an entirely unrealistic expectation), Hiring and Getting Hired is one of the best recruiting books that I’ve read to date, and I’d highly recommend it for recruiters, hiring managers, candidates and everyone else who’s curious.