Use the PEI Process and Become a Better Recruiter in Four Hours

This is big. This is the first multi-multimedia article on the performance evaluation interview (PEI) process ever published on ERE, or maybe anywhere else for that matter. Even bigger is that I’m about to introduce the single best way for you to become a better recruiter before the day is over. The PEI process will soon become the most important tool in your recruiting arsenal. If you want to increase your influence with hiring managers and candidates alike, this will become the best Friday you’ve ever had. If you’re reading this before 11 a.m. PST on Friday, February 6, 2004, you can join us in a conference call to discuss how to use the PEI. There’s also a PEI kit you’ll want to download, as described below. What I’m about to present has been recently dubbed the performance evaluation interview (PEI) process. We’ve changed the format of the traditional behavioral interview by conducting a performance appraisal of the candidate’s past work, rather than asking a loosely connected series of questions. As you’ll soon see, the simplicity and impact of this concept will allow you to accomplish the following:

  1. Almost overnight increase your influence with hiring managers.
  2. Accurately assess candidate motivation and competency for any position with uncanny accuracy.
  3. Recruit top performers during the interview through the questioning process. This minimizes the need to pay unnecessary salary premiums.
  4. Increase your influence with candidates during the recruiting and negotiating process, and improve your competitive position against any other opportunity, including counteroffers.
  5. Minimize the emotional impact of first impressions, prejudices, halo effects and common hiring myths.
  6. Assess cultural fit, typical behaviors, and whatever competencies deemed necessary, while measuring actual performance, motivation, and potential.
  7. Begin the on-boarding and performance management process during the interview.
  8. Make your manager clients better managers.
  9. Defend your company’s hiring decisions by using the most legally sound interview available anywhere.
  10. Discover an interview process that takes no more than four hours to train any recruiter or manager to use. In fact, the tool has a built-in self-learning component that increases competency each time it’s used.

Whew! And that’s just a beginning ó only a small sampling of the benefits and impacts of the performance evaluation interview. You might want to download a copy of our PEI kit as you read the following brief description. The performance evaluation interview kit is comprised of these three documents: 1. Sample performance-based job profile for a project manager. This document clearly describes the performance requirements of the job. This is what the person needs to do to be considered successful, rather than what the person must have in the way of skills and experience. By establishing objective measurable criteria before the interview, you’ll be able to more accurately assess a candidate’s competency and motivation for the job. This also allows you to establish a firm legal basis for your hiring decision. Information in the performance-based job profile should also be included in your online job descriptions, to attract more discriminating non-active candidates. Better candidates always want to know about the challenges in the job before applying. 2. The performance evaluation interview. This is a pre-structured interview comprised of eight primary steps. These include the following:

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  • Step 1: Achieve a faster understanding of candidate motivation. It’s important to quickly determine whether the candidate is leaving a bad situation or looking for a better situation.
  • Step 2: Consciously recognize the impact of first impressions, and take appropriate countermeasures to increase objectivity and eliminate common hiring mistakes.
  • Step 3: Conduct a 10-minute work history review. Obtain the reasons for leaving, an explanation for all gaps, the impact made in each job, and any recognition received. Observe the trend line. Collectively, this provides a good framework for the balance of the interview.
  • Steps 4-6: Perform the performance appraisal part of the interview. Candidates are asked to describe what they planned to accomplish and how well they did against these plans. A few job-specific situational questions are also asked to assess thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Step 7: Begin the recruiting process by establishing competition and creating job stretch.
  • Step 8: Measure first impressions again. By measuring first impressions at the end of the interview, interviewers are able to quickly see how their biases affect their evaluations.

3. A multi-factor candidate assessment template. This form is used to summarize the assessment across ten basic success factors. This prevents interviewers from globalizing strengths or weaknesses, a common hiring mistake. Some of these factors include technical competence, job motivation, team skills, problem-solving ability, and potential. The form provides specific criteria to justify each ranking. For example, an interviewer ranking a candidate a level four on team skills (exceed expectations) would need to provide evidence that the person took the initiative to help other team members, proactively identified team problems, and could persuade and motivate others. This is the self-learning aspect of the PEI process. By providing specific guidance to rank the candidate on each factor, interviewers quickly learn what to look for and how to frame each question. Steps 4-6 in the structured interview form the core of the PEI process. Interviewers need to dig deep to find out what the candidate accomplished at each job, how they accomplished it, and how this compared to the plan. (See my article The Best Interview Question of All Time for more on this.) This is the performance appraisal part of the interview. This needs to be done for four or five different team and individual accomplishments over an extended period of time to develop a trend line of performance. When completed, candidate competency and motivation is clearly revealed. After the interview, the candidate’s performance is benchmarked against the performance-based job profile using the multi-factor assessment template. When this form is submitted as part of the candidate presentation, hiring managers tend to conduct more thorough interviews. At the beginning of this article I indicated that the PEI process had ten big-time benefits. Here’s the quick summary:

  • Points 1 and 2. Recruiters who know the job and are very accurate in their assessments of candidates are always welcomed as experts and partners with their hiring manager clients. The PEI process provides a quick means to make this happen.
  • Points 3 and 4. Recruiters who know the job and conduct in-depth interviews are instantly recognized by candidates as professionals. As a result, they quickly become advisors and are better able to explain why the job offers a strong career move. This mitigates the need for unnecessary salary premiums, eases the negotiation process, and positions the job as the best among competing alternatives, since it’s more accurately described.
  • Point 5. Reducing emotional biases must be directly addressed in the assessment process. This is the number one cause of hiring errors. This is incorporated into the PEI process by measuring the emotional impact of first impressions during the interview and by ensuring a balanced assessment of strengths and weaknesses across all ten core success traits.
  • Point 6. By digging deep into five or six accomplishments, interviewers observe how the candidate’s competencies, behaviors, and skills were used to achieve results. Traditional behavioral interviews treat each behavior independently, losing the direct link to the performance needs of the job. Considering behaviors, skills, and competencies as a subset of the accomplishment is more logically sound and increases the accuracy of the job match.
  • Point 7, 8, and 9. A performance profile provides a common measurement tool for all interviewers to better assess competency, motivation, and fit, rather than relying on intuition and gut feel. Since the performance profile describes the actual job, it can be used to begin the on-boarding process and as the basis for subsequent performance appraisals. Managers, recruiters, and new employees all perform at higher levels when job needs are clarified upfront. Using objective criteria and a structured interview process also provides the legal basis for defending the hiring decision. This is very important in today’s litigious environment.
  • Point 10. If you downloaded the PEI kit and took part in the conference call, you know it takes only a few hours to learn to use this process. It takes a few more hours of practice, but by day’s end you’ll be well on your way to using the tool and getting all of the benefits described above.

Here’s a factoid: 100% of the people who use the PEI process hire better people and become better managers or better recruiters. However, only 20% of the people invest the four hours necessary to learn the PEI process once they’ve been introduced to it. The rest go back to their old way of doing business. Many of the these people have already opted-out, so since you’ve read this far, there’s a great chance that you’ll be a far better recruiter or manager in just four hours. If you’re a recruiter, prepare a performance profile before you begin your next search assignment. Use the structured interview as a phone screen to get a sense of how it’s conducted. Then summarize your findings, using the multi-factor assessment template. Send this form with the candidate’s resume and tell your client you’re using a new means to assess competency, motivation, and job fit. If it’s a good candidate, the hiring manager will ask what you did differently. This is your first step in becoming a better recruiter and a true partner in the hiring process. Actually the first step is investing the four hours to learn the process. If you’re serious about becoming a better recruiter, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make. Note: If you’re reading this article before 11 a.m. PST on February 6, 2004, you now have a chance to attend a free online conference call with me to discuss the PEI process described in this article. The first fifty people who call 716-566-6016, pin 565136#, will be able to get their first hour in right away. Send an email to if you have any specific questions you’d like to ask about using the PEI kit. Some of these will be addressed during the call.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).