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Lou Adler

Lou Adler is the president of The Adler Group, a training and consulting firm helping companies find and hire top talent using Performance-based Hiring(sm). He is the Amazon best-seller author of Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007) and the new Nightingale-Conant audio program Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Hire Top Talent (2007). Adler is a noted recruiting industry expert, national speaker, and columnist for a number of major recruiting Internet sites including SHRM,, and Adler's early career included executive and financial management positions with The Allen Group and Rockwell International. He holds an MBA from UCLA and a B.S. in Engineering from Clarkson University, New York.

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How to Improve Your Recruiting Batting Average 25 Points

by Jun 11, 2014, 12:49 am ET

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 12.43.42 PMI’ve been missing from these pages for awhile, but I asked if I could return and request the help of some real recruiters. I heard some of the best hang out here at ERE.

Here’s the idea. I’m working with a  bunch of people and companies putting together a comprehensive batting average for recruiters that combines all the critical factors, metrics, and competencies into one useful statistic. This will become known as the RBA — the Recruiter’s Batting Average.

Please look this first list over, suggest other factors that should be included, why some shouldn’t be considered, and which ones you think should be weighted more heavily than others. keep reading…

Why You Can’t Hire High Achievers

by Apr 25, 2013, 6:45 am ET

hiring poll.jpgIf a manager is concerned about hiring a high achiever, you need to be concerned about the manager!

We just ran a quick poll (see question and results in graphic) to determine if hiring managers would trade off experience for potential if they didn’t have to compromise performance or results. Two-thirds agreed. How would you answer the question, and how would your hiring managers? If you’re not on the same page, you’re working a lot harder than necessary. keep reading…

Why ‘Source of Hire’ Should Drive a Company’s Talent Acquisition Strategy

by Apr 12, 2013, 12:56 am ET

Source and Sequence Hidden Job Market R3I decided to ask 1,582 U.S. company employees how they go their last job. I gave them four choices:

  1. Internal move or promotion
  2. Some type of proactive networking activity, or referred by someone within the company
  3. Contacted by a recruiter or hiring manager who found their resume or LinkedIn profile
  4. Responded to a job posting

I also asked if they were actively looking for a job at the time, or not. The results of this survey are shown in the graphic. Here’s a link to the survey itself if you’d like to take it and/or pass it on, and the preliminary analysis. Even though the data is not perfect, here are some obvious conclusions: keep reading…

7 Ideas for Becoming a More Effective Recruiter

by Mar 27, 2013, 5:59 am ET

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 12.54.00 PMWe just updated our Recruiter Circle of Excellence Competency Model to take into account the expected surge in hiring in Q2 and Q3. There was also an interesting story by the co-founder of Meebo who concluded that most recruiters are pretty bad. Her big points: recruiters are afraid to pick up the phone and call, they don’t know the job so they sell smoke and mirrors, and most just post boring jobs or search through LinkedIn. It was a pretty scathing summary. This approach might work when you’re trying to hire the 15% of fully-employed who are looking, but totally useless when trying to hire the 85% of candidates who are passive, even the bad ones!

So as part of updating the competency model to take this 85% into account, I decided to revisit my old virtual mentor, Stephen Covey, for some inspiration. You might find the results interesting. keep reading…

Why We Should Banish Job Descriptions and Resumes

by Mar 6, 2013, 1:16 am ET

As most of you know, I think the continued use of traditional skills-infested job descriptions prevents companies from hiring the best talent available. By default they wind up hiring the best person who applies. That’s the same reason I’m against the indiscriminate use of assessment tests. While these tests are good confirming indicators of on-the-job performance, they’re poor predictors of it (square the correlation coefficient to get a sense of any test’s predictive value). Worse, they filter out everyone who isn’t willing to apply without first talking with someone about the worthiness of the position. keep reading…

Ban Job Descriptions and Hire Better People

by Feb 13, 2013, 1:37 am ET

For the past 30 years I’ve been on a kick to ban traditional skills- and experience-based job descriptions. The prime reason: they’re anti-talent and anti-diversity, aside from being terrible predictors of future success.

Some naysayers use the legal angle as their excuse for maintaining the status quo. keep reading…

Recruiters Must Demand Their Hiring Managers Prepare performance-based Job Descriptions

by Jan 23, 2013, 12:33 am ET

Since we promote people based on their performance, why don’t we hire them the same way?

Amazon willing, my next book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, will be available as an eBook on January 31. The book is written for everyone involved in hiring: recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates. This story, and many others like it, inspired me to write the book and articles on ERE, and elsewhere. The technique described as part of the intake meeting helped my win the hearts of my clients and make more placements than I could ever have imagined. It might help you the same way. keep reading…

My Exclusive ERE Top 10 List for Becoming a Outstanding Recruiter in 2013

by Jan 4, 2013, 12:03 am ET

I was talking with a bunch of corporate recruiters and talent leaders in San Jose last month about the future of corporate recruiting. At the end of the session one of the corporate recruiting managers asked me for a specific list of things her recruiting team could do to better compete with external search firms. Here’s what I came up with, in David Letterman-like order: keep reading…

Use Anti-DISC to Become a Better Person and Make Better Assessments

by Dec 6, 2012, 12:09 am ET

Warning: do not use this slick all-purpose assessments for screening out people. However, it’s useful for becoming a better interviewer and screening in people.

DISC and all its variants (Calipers, Myers-Briggs, Predictive Index, etc.) should never be used to pre-screen people. At best, and if they’re not faked, these “tests” only predict preferences, certainly not competencies. At worst, they prevent diversity by eliminating the chance to see and hire people who can achieve great results but use a style different than the expected. (Note: Use these types of style indicators after you’ve narrowed the selection to 3-4 people who you’ve determined can meet the performance objectives required for success.)

Despite this predictive limitation — although it will be argued by those who use or sell them — the DISC style preferences are quite helpful for understanding how people communicate, make business and hiring decisions, and interact on-the-job.

To determine your dominate DISC style, look at the descriptions of the four styles in the graphic and select the one that best describes you. Then to validate this, answer these two questions: keep reading…

Take a Tour of the Factory and Call Me in the Morning

by Nov 16, 2012, 12:01 am ET

As many of you know, I’ve been asked to participate in LinkedIn’s Influential Business Leaders Forum as spokesperson for career management and recruiting passive candidates. This article is a version of one of my first posts on LinkedIn. It caused a big reaction among the recruiters, candidates, and hiring managers who read it.

Between the lines it describes one of my prime tenets of good recruiting: the critical need to control every step in the process and the conversation. This covers many dimensions including how candidates make career decisions, how hiring managers assess and recruit candidates, and how the hiring team makes their evaluation.

Whether you’re a third-party recruiter seeking more business or a corporate recruiter tired of having your best candidates misjudged, I think you’ll find the approach used in this true story useful on your next assignment.

Here’s how it goes. keep reading…

The Cost of Quality of Hire Is Free

by Nov 1, 2012, 5:34 am ET

Deming, around 1980, in Japan

I was training a group of hiring managers in New York City a few weeks ago on the fine points of Performance-based Hiring. The conversation quickly focused to quality of hire: how to both measure and maximize it. One of the sales directors in the room was quite frustrated with his recruiting team, and suggested the way he controlled quality of hire was by rejecting 9 of 10 candidates their recruiters presented. The rest of the hiring managers then chimed by saying how disappointed they were with the quality of the candidates sent by their recruiters.

They attributed the primary cause to their recruiters’ lack of understanding of real job requirements. I suggested the problem was more likely a quality-control issue: using inspection at the end of the process to control quality of hire, rather than defining and controlling it at the beginning. keep reading…

Should You Replace the Incumbent?

by Oct 19, 2012, 3:13 am ET

I was talking to an old client of mine the other day. He was the CEO of a fast-growing manufacturing company in the 1990s, and now he’s on the board of seven mid-sized companies in southern California. My firm placed about 10 people on his management team in the company’s heyday. While I don’t do much real executive search anymore, he asked me if I had the script we used then to convert traditional skills-based job descriptions into performance profiles — aka performance-based job descriptions.

Many of his companies now need to replace some of their senior executives and he wanted to make sure their CEOs totally understood where the incumbents were falling short, and why they need to hire a new person. He believed this type of weak vs. strong performance comparison would get the hiring executives to move more quickly.

Following is roughly how the discussion went for a CFO position. You can use the same approach to better understand how work should be defined for any type of job, and if the current office holder is performing adequately.  keep reading…

7 Ways to Minimize Perception-driven Hiring Mistakes

by Oct 4, 2012, 5:06 am ET

If you like someone when you first meet, you maximize their positives and minimize their negatives. If you don’t like someone, you maximize their weaknesses, and minimize their positives.

Now consider how many great candidates didn’t get the jobs they deserve because someone on the hiring team made a superficial judgment in the first minute, and then spent the rest of the interview seeking evidence to prove it.

In the last 30 years I’ve been involved in over 750 different separate hiring decisions. After the first 50 or so, I realized I had to personally intervene to prevent flawed hiring decisions based on emotions, perceptions, and biases. I did this for many reasons. The big two: I didn’t like doing searches over again and I didn’t like good people not getting the jobs they deserved for some dumb reason.

The solution to the problem started with everyone on the hiring team having a clear understanding of real job requirements. When an interviewer doesn’t know what it takes to be successful in the job, the person substitutes his or her own superficial, subjective, intuitive or biased criteria. For proof, consider managers that like to hire people who went to the “right” schools, have the “right” experience, are too brilliant for what’s required for success, and are just like them in how they look, talk, and act. For further proof, consider all of the people you’ve presented to your hiring managers, who possessed world-class talent, but didn’t pass through this filter.

Overcoming this defect in human nature starts by defining the job based on what the new hire needs to accomplish in order to be successful, rather than what the person must have in terms of skills, experience, looks, intelligence, background, and communication skills. For the past 20 years, I’ve been calling these achievement-oriented job descriptions performance profiles. A performance profile defines the actual work in terms of performance objectives, e.g., build a team of accountants, design a circuit, make quota in six months, etc. Most jobs have 5-6 tasks like this that represent the bulk of the job. The interviewer then needs to determine if the person can accomplish the tasks. If so, it’s then obvious the person has the appropriate amount of skills and experiences to successfully handle the work, regardless of how they seem in the first one to two minutes.

However preparing a performance profile is not enough to eliminate perceptions, biases, and emotions from affecting the decision. Here are some other things that can help increase objectivity:

Some Things You Can Do to Minimize Perception-driven Hiring Mistakes keep reading…

The Recruiting Funnel

by Sep 24, 2012, 2:44 pm ET

I recently wrote an article for ERE describing my 20/20/60 sourcing plan. This plan represents the idea that a blend of sourcing programs should be used to ensure your company is hiring the best people possible; i.e., a combination of both active and passive. The recruiting funnel offers a graphical means to describe the difference between these two approaches.

There are two assumptions behind this funnel concept. First, if the demand for talent is greater than the supply, you’ll need to emphasize passive candidate recruiting and sourcing. This is referred to as a talent scarcity strategy. This is represented by all of the steps, or layers, shown in the funnel graphic.

In a talent surplus situation, the assumption is that there are plenty of good people in the talent pool: the top level in the funnel. Assuming the assumption is correct, all you need to do then is force everyone who’s interested in the job to formally apply and become official candidates. This is represented by the “Active Path,” — the shortcut handle on the left. Once in this pool, the objective is to screen out the weak with the hope that a few good people remain to become finalists and ultimately great hires.

Recognize that for this active, or surplus model, to yield top performers, a number of conditions need to exist: keep reading…

The 20/20/60 Sourcing Plan

by Sep 7, 2012, 12:17 am ET

I was holding a confab last week with a few recruiting directors from some global companies discussing the future of sourcing and recruiting. The emphasis was how to get better results from LinkedIn Recruiter. Their contention was that more could be done, but their recruiters were balking. The discussion started with a few questions. Imagine you were there at the meeting. How would you respond to these points?

  1. Do you want to increase your emphasis on hiring passive candidates?
  2. Are you in a talent scarcity situation where the demand for talent is greater than the supply?
  3. Do you want to raise the talent level of your total current workforce, sustain it, or lower it?

All said they want to accelerate their passive recruiting efforts; they all thought they were in a talent scarcity situation for most critical positions; and, of course, they all said they wanted to raise their talent level. I suggested that to begin achieving these three results they needed to implement a 20/20/60 sourcing plan. This means that no more than 20% of their sourcing resources and efforts should be spent on job postings, about 20% on name generation and targeted emails, and 60% on networking.

This 20/20/60 sourcing plan maps closely to the job-hunting status of LinkedIn members. This is shown in the pie chart summarizing the results of a survey we conducted with LinkedIn last year. Based on more than 4,500 fully-employed members, 17% categorized themselves as active (Searchers, Networkers, and Hunters), 15% Tiptoers (only telling very close former associates), and 68% passive (Explorers were open to receiving calls from a recruiter to discuss a possible career move). To source and recruit the best of these people you can’t just post traditional job descriptions, send boring emails, or make dozens of phones call a day, and expect to attract and hire many good people.

Implementing a well-designed talent scarcity approach to hiring top talent requires that each part of the 20/20/60 plan be optimized to attract the best people in each job-hunting category. This then needs to be combined with rigorous performance-based selection standards and exceptional recruiting skills, to raise a company’s overall talent bar. I contended that without this type of overt and proactive approach it was very difficult to even sustain the current talent levels, since short-term needs dominated long-term decision-making.

The Essence of a 20/20/60 Sourcing Plan keep reading…

The Single Most Important Recruiting Technique Since My 1-Question Interview

by Aug 24, 2012, 5:48 am ET

After 30 years of recruiting outstanding senior staff, mid-level managers, and company executives, I can now state unequivocally that the single most important step in the passive candidate recruiting process is the 30-minute exploratory interview. Here’s why:  keep reading…

To Recruiters, Hiring Managers and Candidates: Violate These Laws of Human Nature at Your Peril

by Aug 10, 2012, 1:28 am ET

Here are some basic truths about people regarding hiring and getting hired:

  1. There are very few people who have an economic need to look for another job, are willing to take a lateral transfer, and are high achievers. Yet most companies spend most of their time and resources looking for these kinds of people. For proof, look at any 20 job postings on Dice,, LinkedIn, or and see who they’re trying to attract.
  2. The military has a tough screening process for selecting officers. But once selected — and with no experience — they are given some serious training and responsibilities far in excess of their current ability and asked to deliver extraordinary results. Most of them succeed. Yet these same people when they leave the military aren’t given a fair chance because they don’t have the “right” experience. keep reading…

Recruiting is Not Selling — It’s Getting the Candidate to Sell You

by Jul 26, 2012, 12:01 am ET

(Note: this is an excerpt from my upcoming new book — The Essentials of Hiring and Getting Hired. It will be geared to recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates. I’ll have it available at ERE’s Spring Expo 2013, April 15-17 in San Diego!)

One of my fundamental rules of recruiting is to stay the buyer from the moment of first contact to final close. To do this you must get the candidate to sell you, rather you selling the candidate.

If a candidate has an economic or career need for your job, it’s pretty easy to stay the buyer. Needy candidates are always in sales mode, trying to convince you they’re worthy. However, any high-demand candidate who has multiple suitors is a different person entirely. In this case, managers and recruiters typically switch roles and go into sales mode, using hyperbole and PR-speak in an attempt to convince the hot prospect of the worthiness of your offer. Even if the person doesn’t opt out, in ends up in a bidding war if you decide to make the person an offer. Staying the buyer not only prevents the problem, but also increases assessment accuracy, and the probability of closing on fair and equitable terms.

Here’s how this “staying-the-buyer” process works. keep reading…

Stop Doing Searches Over Again

by Jul 12, 2012, 12:42 am ET

I have three big recruiting rules I suggest every external and corporate recruiter follow if they want to make more placements with better candidates.

Adler’s first rule of recruiting: don’t do searches over again. Once is enough. If you’ve presented a slate of 3-4 strong candidates for the position one of them should get hired. If not, you have a problem. Here’s a recent ERE article describing how to minimize this problem.

Adler’s second rule of recruiting: if you present more than 3-4 candidates to a hiring manager on any search and one of them doesn’t get hired: STOP! Don’t send any more candidates to be interviewed. Something’s wrong. Figure out what it is and correct it before you waste your time on a fool’s errand.

Adler third rule of recruiting: when you first meet a person, wait 30 minutes before making any yes or no decision. If you and your hiring managers put your emotions in the parking lot for these first 30 minutes, you’ll cut the number of times you need to follow rules one and two by 50%.

Over the past 12 years I’ve written over a thousand articles, multiple books, and spoke at hundreds of conferences and training sessions on this and related topics. Here are the top five things that are the typical reasons for “too many candidates before one is hired” syndrome:  keep reading…

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Hiring Pyramid According to Adler

by Jun 28, 2012, 5:39 am ET

Just about all of us are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow was a mid-20th century psychologist who studied the behavior of high-performing individuals. In a 1943 paper, he suggested that people make fundamental and predictable decisions based on different behavioral needs. These needs range from primitive; e.g., requiring water or food to being completely fulfilled. He separated these states into five distinct levels and referred to them collectively as a hierarchy of needs. According to Maslow, a person couldn’t move to a higher level unless the needs of the lower level were satisfied first.

While this is interesting stuff, the point of this article is to suggest that both people and companies have similar underlying needs, and when these are at cross purposes, hiring top people is inefficient, ineffective, and problematic.

A very simplified business version of Maslow’s hierarchy is shown in the diagram. The idea behind this is that when assessing a candidate’s motivation for work, it’s most likely one of three core needs: economic, social, or achievement. These are shown in the diagram. The problem is that while companies all want to hire those with the need to achieve, they only consider those who first have an economic need to apply, and second,  those among this group who the screeners believe also fit some idealistic and unspoken personality and first-impression standard. I’d suggest that this two-step, bottoms-up process, is at the root cause of why companies can’t hire enough top people. keep reading…