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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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Stop Doing Searches Over and Make Twice as Many Placements

by Jun 15, 2012, 1:42 am ET

From what I’ve seen over the past 15 years, working with recruiting teams around the world, it’s apparent that too much time is spent on doing searches over again. This is a huge productivity drain, with recruiters having do the same search over and over again. Worse, most recruiting leaders don’t even measure it, control it, or try to fix it. If you need to send more than 3-4 candidates to the hiring manager, and the manager can’t decide, and wants to see more candidates, you’ve experienced the problem first hand. Solving this problem will allow you to make 50-200% more placements per month. keep reading…

A Tale of Two Cities: The Merging of Sourcing and Recruiting

by May 31, 2012, 12:15 am ET

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.  – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Of course, Dickens was referring to sourcing and recruiting circa 2012. What Dickens was really saying is that with the emergence of LinkedIn and related networking tools, sourcing should not be split apart from the full-cycle recruiting process. The work involved in both now overlaps to such a degree that you can’t logically separate the two without compromising performance. Reading between the lines of his epic novel, here’s why Dickens believes this way. keep reading…

Do We Have a National Skills-gap Crisis? 6 Morsels of Food for Thought

by May 17, 2012, 5:52 am ET

This past week I was interviewed by a reporter from a major news magazine. He contacted me about a controversial article I had written on ERE addressing the lack of forward-thinking when it comes to companies developing talent acquisition strategies. In the article I suggested that follow-the-leader seemed to be the dominant strategy of choice used by most companies.

We then got around to talking about the skills gap in the U.S. workforce, whether it was real or imaginary, and if anything could be done about it. “Plenty” was my instant comment. Here’s what came next: keep reading…

How to Achieve the Recruiting Performance Trifecta of Quality, Cost, and Time

by May 4, 2012, 8:00 am ET

I’m going to contend that with new tools now available, “true” passive candidate recruiting can maximize quality, reduce time to fill to weeks, and minimize cost per hire. Top-tier third-party recruiters are already using all of these techniques, so they’re proven and doable. What is surprising is why their corporate counterparts have yet to step up to the plate and do likewise. Now’s the time.

Let me start with three basic points:

Point 1: active candidate recruiting leaves a lot to chance, primarily quality-of-hire and time-to-fill, primarily since hiring managers will procrastinate as long as possible to find their “ideal” candidate. This waiting time is random, unless the supply of top people is greater than the demand, or the manager becomes pressured to decide. Of course, the longer the wait the more the cost.

Point 2: The lack of a correct and agreed upon definition of pre-hire quality adds more randomness, time, wasted effort, and cost to the process. No one uses the job description for measuring quality and we’ve all had hiring managers confidently say “I’ll know the person when I see him.” This is a problem with passive candidate recruiting, too, but it’s more like playing the lottery when you’re only sourcing active candidates.

Point 3: passive candidate recruiting emphasizing direct networking techniques, i.e., calling pre-qualified referred prospects, reduces the time to find prospects to a few days.

How to Achieve the Recruiting Performance Trifecta

With this as background, here’s a basic passive candidate recruiting process that will maximize quality of hire, minimize time to fill, and reduce cost per hire: keep reading…

How to Build a Slate of Passive Candidates in 72 hours

by Apr 20, 2012, 5:22 am ET

A few weeks ago on these pages, I suggested that the ERE Expo wasn’t as progressive as it could be in bringing the most important trends to its recruiting audience. My concern was lack of focus on these areas:

  1. Limited (if any) discussion on the development of talent strategies, when the supply of top people is less than the demand. Everyone seemed more enamored with learning about ways to weed out the weak rather than attract, recruit, and hire the best.
  2. Too much on sourcing and not enough about recruiting and closing.
  3. Little on how to engage hiring managers fully in the process. This is odd since they make the decision on who to look for and who to hire.
  4. No emphasis on the unspoken 83% of the labor market who will not respond to your posting or apply online, regardless of how cool your Facebook page is. Of course, these are the passive candidates.

So in my own small way, I’ll use this opportunity to address the last three points above, by introducing “The Golden Rule of Passive Candidate Recruiting.” Using a high-tech, high-touch approach I believe it is now possible for a talented recruiter to build a slate 3-4 of top-notch passive candidates in as little as 72 hours from taking the assignment. keep reading…

The Caustic and Cynical Rumblings of a Old Man at ERE Expo 2012

by Apr 6, 2012, 5:45 am ET

Note from ERE’s CEO David Manaster: When I saw the latest from Lou yesterday, I was stunned. After all, this is not just anyone. This is Lou Adler. He’s been sharing his recruiting wisdom on for over a dozen years. Along with John & Kevin, I consider him to be one of the original authors who put ERE on the map.

Lou shared his thoughts about the latest ERE Expo, and there’s no way to dance around it — it’s harsh. But if we’re going to be trashed publicly, who better than family to do it?

We at ERE pour our hearts into the Expo. Countless meetings; speaker selection; logistics; reviewing attendee feedback. We’ve run 22 ERE Expos and educated thousands of recruiters since the first in 2001, which makes it one of the largest and longest running events serving our profession.

After so many events, it’s a perpetual challenge to keep the conference fresh and innovative. We do our best to incorporate new ideas (unlike Lou, I believe that Joel Spolsky’s discussion on what motivates technical talent this year was a prime example — watch it for yourself and decide). We also embrace new technologies — we were the first to incorporate mobile-based live polling during sessions, the first to embrace a Twitter backchannel for the event, and the first to incorporate live streaming so that those in our community who could not join us could still participate and learn something new.

But we’re not perfect, and I’m sure that some of Lou’s points will resonate. His thoughts on the Expo are below — we didn’t edit his opinions, and the title for the post is his as well. I hope that the attendees and community whom the event serves will use this opportunity to voice your thoughts on the event, and help us make a better ERE Expo for us all. – David


Last week, I attended by twelfth ERE Spring Expo in San Diego. As the elder statesman, aka, the Simon Powell of recruiting, I want to give you my frank feedback. The following highlights are not shared by all, but many of the other elders in attendance whole-heartedly agreed. (Note: I’ll be surprised if the management of ERE allows me to publish them all.) There are some recommendations on how to improve the ERE Expo at the end of this post.

Before I go too negative, left me make an overriding statement as the purpose of this posting: ERE is an important forum for the recruiting industry, and I think it has lost its way. It needs to recover quickly in order to fully represent this critical and important industry. I’m my opinion, once everyone has access to the same information, via LinkedIn and Facebook’s upcoming forays into the recruiting space, the quality of the recruiters doing the work will determine which companies hire the best talent. Right now I believe ERE is leaving this critical message unheard. Here’s why I’ve drawn this conclusion: keep reading…

Using the Two-Question Performance-based Interview for Recruiting, Part 3

by Mar 23, 2012, 5:32 am ET

In the first two parts of this series, the two-question performance-based interview was introduced. The first question involves asking candidates to describe some of their most significant business accomplishments in great detail. While it’s only one question, it is repeated multiple times to ensure the person can handle all of the critical performance aspects of the job, using a performance profile to define the work, rather than using a generic skills-based job description.

The second question involves asking candidates how they would handle one or two of the most critical job-related challenges defined in the performance profile. This is more of a give-and-take type discussion to get at thinking, planning, and the ability to visualize job-related problems.

These two questions in combination with the performance profile, and an in-depth review of the person’s resume looking for the achiever pattern indicating that the person is in the top half of the top half, is all that’s necessary to accurately assess a candidate across all job needs.

Using this information, the candidate can then be assessed using the following formula for hiring success, ranking the person on a 1-5 scale for each factor:

Hiring Success = (Talent + Management + Team (EQ) + Problem-solving)*Motivation2


Organizational Fit

While the Performance-based Hiring process is an easy way to assess a candidate, you still need to  recruit and close the candidate on equitable terms. On this score, most managers, and too many recruiters, think recruiting is selling. You get far better results if you make the candidate sell you. Here are three ways to do this using the two-question interview: keep reading…

The Formula for Hiring Success, Part 2

by Mar 8, 2012, 12:25 pm ET

Recap: in part one of this series, the two-question performance-based interview was introduced. The first question involves asking candidates to describe some of their most significant business accomplishments in great detail. While it’s only one question, it is repeated multiple times to ensure coverage of all aspects of exceptional performance. The key to accurately assessing the person using this question is the need to define exceptional performance in the form of a performance profile before the interview. Most job descriptions over-emphasize skills and experience requirements with a short list of vague responsibilities. Being reasonably specific with regard to expected outcomes is the key to using the two-question interview and making an accurate assessment.

The second question involves asking the candidate how he/she would go about completing one or two of the most critical performance objectives, including figuring out the problem, putting a plan together, and overcoming job-related challenges. This is more a give-and-take type discussion to get at thinking, planning, and the ability to visualize job-related problems.

The two questions in combination with the performance profile, and an in-depth review of the person’s resume looking for the achiever pattern indicating that the person is in the top-half of the top-half, is all that’s necessary to accurately assess a candidate across all job needs.

The following formula defining hiring success will help guide you through this process:

Hiring Success = [(Talent x Motivation2)+ Team Skills-EQ + Problem-solving Skills]/(Organizational and Cultural Fit)

keep reading…

The 2-Question Performance-based Interview, Part 1

by Feb 24, 2012, 2:17 am ET

Recruiters need to be able to quickly and accurately assess candidate competency. The obvious reason for this, though, is not the most important reason.

Of course, it’s important to ensure that the candidate is competent and motivated to do the work, and can fit within the culture and style of the organization, but this is a less important reason for being good at assessing talent than you might think. The more important reasons recruiters need to do this well are to defend their candidates from managers who make superficial or emotional decisions, and to demonstrate to their candidates that the job at hand represents a clear career move. keep reading…

How to Measure Cultural Fit Up, Down, and Sideways

by Feb 10, 2012, 5:06 am ET

Here’s a link to a Forbes magazine article that was pushed to me last month (January 27, 2012) by LinkedIn Today, highlighting why 46% of all new hires fail. The point of the article was to introduce a “radical” new approach to selection based on Mark Murphy’s new book Hiring for Attitude. The key point of the book and the article is that lack of proper attitude, not skills, is the primary contributor to weak performance. The author is only partially right.

For one thing the idea proposed is far from radical. There have been many other books over the past 10-15 years including the Amazon best-sellers Hire With Your Head (for full disclosure — this is mine) and Top Grading that espouse similar themes. For another, and far more important reason, he mistook cause for effect.

I absolutely agree that a bad attitude is an extremely common hiring problem, but the bad attitude was caused by a lack of job fit, not the other way around. Bad fit is a multi-headed monster, including a bad fit with the manager, the team, the job itself, the company’s culture, the company’s growth rate, and the underlying business environment. There are probably a few more “lack of …” factors that could have been cited, but these represent the 80/20 rule and the primary cause of a bad attitude.

Consider this: even highly motivated people with a track record of success can develop bad attitudes and become disruptive workers when they don’t work well with their boss, when the job promised is different than the one taken, or the resources needed to do the job right are not provided. In most cases, the person got the bad attitude as a result of these underlying root cause issues. So to solve this problem make sure the person you hire fits the situation from top to bottom. Now that’s radical. keep reading…

A Recruiter Competency Model for Passive Candidates

by Jan 26, 2012, 5:30 am ET

This article is part of my continuing series on passive candidate recruiting. The key principle underlying all of these articles is that you can’t recruit and hire passive candidates using the same workflow, nor the same recruiters, used for active candidates.

According to a recent survey we conducted with LinkedIn, 83% of fully-employed members on LinkedIn consider themselves passive when it comes to their job-hunting status. While this is a huge and important pool, most companies over-emphasize the 17% of candidates who are active. Then to make matters worse, when they do target passive candidates, they clumsily use their active candidate processes.

To assist talent leaders in understanding the differences between active and passive candidate recruiting, I’ve developed a recruiter competency model addressing the similarities, differences, and overlaps. Contact me directly if you’d like to learn more about this. It’s highlighted in the graphic showing the 12 most important competencies alongside a very rigorous 1-5 ranking system. For example, a 4-5 ranking requires outstanding performance, some type of significant recognition, and continuing accolades from the recruiter’s hiring manager clients.

Here’s a quick summary of each of the competencies and the differences between active and passive recruiting requirements: keep reading…

Lou’s Rules for Recruiting Passive Candidates

by Jan 5, 2012, 1:30 pm ET

A recent survey we conducted with LinkedIn clearly indicated the 83% of their fully employed members classified themselves as passive candidates. It seems to me that if you’re not an expert at recruiting this 83%, you’re missing the 800-pound gorilla.

To help here, I’m in the process of consolidating and summarizing all of the articles, webcasts, and recordings I’ve prepared in the past few years on passive candidate recruiting into some type of eBook format. Some of the stuff actually works, so this could be a pretty good handbook on how to use Performance-based Hiring to find, recruit, assess, and hire passive candidates. To get started I figured I’d put the Table of Contents together with a short description. This is shown below. keep reading…

Recruiting Passive Candidates 101

by Dec 19, 2011, 2:41 pm ET

This will be my shortest, and my last article for ERE. At least for 2011. Regardless of the timing and its length, it may very well be my most important article this year, at least if you want to hire top people who are not overtly looking for another job. It consists of a few pithy ideas you need to embrace if you want to be successful recruiting passive candidates.

Adler’s Holiday Missives 2011 on How to Recruit Passive Candidates

Bridge the Gap on First Contact. Recognize that for passive candidates “Criteria to Engage” is different that the “Criteria to Accept” an offer. On first contact passive candidates decide to engage based on “Day 1” criteria. This includes the job title, the company, the location, and the compensation. However, when deciding to accept an offer, top passive candidates use “Year 1 and Beyond” criteria. This includes the career opportunity, the importance of the work, the hiring manager and team, the compensation and total rewards package, work/life balance, and the company mission and culture. Being able to bridge this gap on first contact is the difference between hiring great people and wasting your time. keep reading…

Does Your Company’s Passive Talent Acquisition Strategy Need a Chiropractor?

by Dec 2, 2011, 5:57 am ET

Of late I’ve been making the contention that the strategies and tactics used to recruit active candidates is fundamentally different than the ones used for passive candidates. Until this foundational difference is resolved, companies will never be able to hire enough top talent to meet their needs, unless they have a big employer brand to hide their process inefficiencies.

Employer brands, however, have limited shelf lives in maturing markets. As an example, just compare Google today and its continuing series of product blunders to the Microsoft of 10-15 years ago. When a company’s business strategy changes due to changing market conditions, its talent acquisition strategies must immediately follow suit.

Quickly, here’s what I believe are at the root cause of most companies’ hiring challenges: keep reading…

A Recruiter Competency Model for Passive Candidates

by Nov 11, 2011, 5:27 am ET

You can’t recruit and hire passive candidates using the same workflow nor the same recruiters used for active candidates.

We conducted an in-depth survey with LinkedIn last year that indicated that 82% of their fully-employed members were unlikely to even consider switching jobs unless directly contacted by a recruiter or through an employee they’ve worked with closely in the past. This increased slightly to 83% in this year’s survey. This is shown on the graph, with the dark blue line representing the satisfaction level of those surveyed (4,550 fully-employed LinkedIn members) comparing their job seeking status and job requirements over time.

From a strategy standpoint, the idea is to find candidates either the moment they actively enter the job market, or before. But to do this, you need a different process for sourcing and recruiting the 83% who are not actively looking than used for those who are. This is what is meant by an “Early-bird Sourcing Strategy.”

The surveys also highlighted the fact that most companies spend most of their recruiting resources targeting the 17% who are actively looking. Making matters more challenging, while most passive candidates are open to a discussion with a recruiter, they would only consider a significant career move to switch jobs.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be hosting a few webcasts describing how to develop this type of early-bird sourcing program. Part of this will describe some of the workflow process changes required to support the strategy, and the specific competencies a recruiter needs to possess in order to implement it. These changes are not insignificant. keep reading…

Are You a Novice or Maven When it Comes to Social Media?

by Oct 28, 2011, 5:40 am ET

If you weren’t at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect last week in Las Vegas (Oct 17-19, 2011) you missed the recruiting event of the year. Since most of the work I do is with SMBs (small to medium size business), I was asked to lead a program on how to create a big brand without the big name. As part of this I introduced a new concept for how companies should benchmark their social media presence and effectiveness: the Social Media Pyramid. I know many of you will be vying for awards at the Spring 2012 ERE Expo, and social media will play a role in quite a few of the awards, so I thought I’d give you my guidelines for using the Social Media Pyramid as guide.

Most companies are using a hodgepodge of social media ideas, trying a little of this and a little of that, in the hope something works. Rather than proceed in such a haphazard manner, I’ve decided to give some structure to the process by creating five levels of social media effectiveness based on currently available technology. keep reading…

Why Virtual Talent Communities Represent the Future of Sourcing

by Oct 13, 2011, 2:47 pm ET

Nasa photo of "crystal ball" nebula

I’m going to go out on a very firm limb here and suggest that I’ve just seen the future of passive candidate recruiting and sourcing 2012-2015, and it’s amazing. Before I uncover this tasty morsel for all to see and properly digest, let me set the stage, the lighting, and get the orchestra warmed-up.  keep reading…

Recruiting According to Steve Jobs

by Sep 29, 2011, 5:01 am ET

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog I came across this quote attributed to Steve Jobs (this has been paraphrased for the ERE audience):

Screw the channel.

Manage the present for optimum performance.

Reinvent the future.

The equivalent for recruiting goes something like this:

Screw sourcing.

Maximize quality of hire.

Become a great recruiter.

The point: hiring great talent is not about great sourcing; it’s about great recruiting. And if you continue to chase the next sourcing silver bullet you’ll wind upexactly where you are today in 5-10 years from now. In fact, those of you who have followed the “chase-the-sourcing-silver-bullet” strategy have not improved quality of hire in the past 5-10 years. The only companies who have shattered this fundamental truth in the war for talent have been those who have a great employer brand. For everyone else, improving quality of hire requires great recruiters.

In a nutshell, here’s my secret formula for hiring great talent:

Great Hires = Good Sourcing plus Great Recruiting

If you follow this formula you’ll be seeing and hiring far better people. Here are some ideas on how to reinvent the future of recruiting: keep reading…

Measuring and Maximizing Quality of Hire

by Sep 16, 2011, 5:54 am ET

Measuring quality of hire (QoH) is somewhat elusive, but critical if a company wants to know if its sourcing, recruiting, assessment, and hiring programs are working properly. Without it, implementing a raising-the-talent-bar strategy become problematic. In this article I’d like to focus on some core issues involving QoH, and offer an idea on how to measure it both pre- and post-hire.

Let’s get started by first defining Quality of Hire (QoH). In an ERE article last year, I proposed this as a basic definition: how well a new person meets the performance needs of the job using the following 1-5 yardstick:

Level 1.0: Underperforms on all core performance requirements of the job.

Level 2.0: Reasonable match on most job needs, but needs extra management, direction, or coaching to meet the basic performance standards.

Level 2.5: Average performance. Meets basic requirements of the job with a normal degree of management coaching and direction.

Level 3.0: Solid performance. Meets significant performance requirements of the job on a consistent basis with minimal management direction and support.

Level 4.0: Consistently exceeds significant performance requirements of the job on measures of quality and/or quantity.

Level 5.0: Far exceeds significant performance requirements of the job on a consistent basis.

While typical interview and assessment tools can differentiate between above and below average performance, they don’t do too well in determining if someone is a Level 3, 4 or 5. Traditional job descriptions are part of the problem, not the solution, since they emphasize skills rather than performance. Generic competency models are similarly flawed, since they don’t adjust for the actual job requirements nor any unusual circumstances involved. Behavioral interviewing works to some degree by adding structure to the interview and reducing emotional bias, but is not specific enough in measuring variations in good performance. While these tools are adequate for separating the good from the bad, they’re far less effective for measuring QoH.

To more precisely measure pre-hire QoH, understand what drives performance and what causes underperformance. Assuming the person hired was appropriate on all traditional measures, a determination then needs to be made as to whether the person was hired for the right job, for the right manager, for the right company, and under the right circumstances. This type of multi-step approach offers a model for developing the means to measure pre-hire QoH. Here’s how:  keep reading…

Why Real Recruiters Rank LinkedIn #1

by Sep 1, 2011, 5:26 am ET

Let’s get real here. Anyone who thinks LinkedIn is in the doghouse when it comes to recruiting the best talent isn’t a real recruiter, or they don’t know the difference between active and passive candidates, or they think sourcing is recruiting. So I’m going to use this article (and this webcast) to set the record straight.

First, let me first define a real recruiter:

  1. They have excellent relations with the hiring manager and the hiring team. As part of this, 100% of their candidates they present are interviewed by the hiring manager, and none are bad.
  2. They understand what it takes to maximize quality of hire, and achieve it on every assignment.
  3. They thoroughly understand real job requirements and why the job is important to the company. As part of this they can convince their hiring managers that using traditional job descriptions minimizes the opportunity to hire top performers.
  4. They are subject matter experts when it comes to knowing the company, the industry, the compensation ranges for the positions they handle, and the competition.
  5. They prepare sourcing plans and programs based on how the best talent looks for work, especially passive candidates.
  6. They are comfortable picking up the phone and talking to real people and getting outstanding referrals.
  7. The best candidates consider these recruiters great career advisors and proactively refer other top people to them.
  8. They can accurately assess competency and job fit on multiple measures including how the hiring manager and the person will work together.
  9. They maximize their first contact to final close yield (candidate opt-out rate) by recruiting at every step in the process.
  10. They can close the deal by emphasizing the career growth opportunity, not the compensation.

Being a real recruiter is less important if cost per hire is more important than quality of hire, and your management team is comfortable with hiring average people. However, if you want to implement a raising-the-talent-bar strategy, or facing a situation where the supply of talent is less than the demand, you need a real recruiter to pull it off, and in most cases they’ll need to target passive candidates. (Here’s a “real recruiter” competency model we created, if you’d like to rank yourself or your teammates. You need to score at least 35 out of 50 points to be considered a “real recruiter.”)

From a “let’s get real recruiting” standpoint, LinkedIn has a major edge over its current rivals. This is important since 82% of the professional fully employed categorize themselves as passive candidates. With real recruiting in mind, here are my top reasons why LinkedIn has a significant edge over Facebook, Google+, and those newbies who think they offer a better solution. keep reading…