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.

Advertisements
Book Review: Hiring and Getting Hired

Let’s talk about burnout

Burnout is a hot button organizational topic, even outside the realm of the fast-paced tech startups of Silicon Valley. However, there are also a lot of misconceptions about it, what causes it and what to do about it. So this is my attempt to summarize the more useful and credible information I was able to find about this important topic.

Let’s start with a more accurate definition: burnout is a syndrome that results from applying ineffective coping strategies to dealing with stress. It’s most common mental and physical symptoms are exhaustion, cynicism and professional inefficacy. A recent study elaborates further:

  • Exhaustion is the feeling of not being able to offer any more of oneself at an emotional level
  • Cynicism represents a distant attitude towards work, those served by it, and colleagues
  • Inefficacy is the feeling of not performing tasks adequately or being incompetent at work.

To understand burnout, we need to start by understanding stress.

Stress is our physiological response to an environmental condition that we unconsciously perceive as a threat, often also referred to as the “Fight of Flight” response. Our sympathetic nervous system and our adrenal glands (by secreting cortisol hormone into the bloodstream) prepare out body to take action to respond to the threat:

While stress was evolutionarily designed as a survival mechanism, moderate levels of stress, often referred to as eustress, have a positive impact on performance:

Problems arise when the level of stress exceeds our physical and mental ability to deal with it. Experiencing this unsustainable level of distress for long periods of time eventually leads to burnout.

While burnout can be more clinically diagnosed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory Test, there are many leading indicators on the path for burnout. Herbert Freudenberger the psychologist who first identified burnout as a unique syndrome and gave it its name, identified a 12-stage process which, without effective intervention, eventually leads to full burnout syndrome:

Source: Scientific American

Once burnout reaches a clinical stage treatment requires clinical intervention. But often times burnout can be avoided by more gentle interventions prior to that. The interventions that can be applied once symptoms start manifesting themselves can easily be considered also as effective preventative strategies if turned into healthy habits:

  1. Make self-care your #1 priority, before work: eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, taking time off in meaningful chunks (several days) and investing in your closest social relationships. Consider adopting more of a segmentor approach to managing your work and non-work time.
  2. Proactively manage your workload: deliberately and ruthlessly prioritizing your work, which also includes learning how to renegotiate pre-existing commitments and learning how to say no the right way.
  3. Strengthen and reflect on your motivation for doing the work — do an Immunity To Change exercise and uncover the hidden commitments that lead you to overwork. Design safe experiments to start loosening the hold that these commitments have on your life. Motivation is driven by both meaning (the work that we do here matters to me) and impact (the work that I do here, matters to others) and there can be disconnects on both fronts. Build deliberate reflective spaces into your routine to identify what they are and work to resolve them.
  4. Invest in developing mindfulness and self-awareness — in the context of managing stress and burnout the benefits are two-fold: i) tactically, in situations that trigger the “fight or flight” response, identify the sensory triggers that tell you that you are in that state and take deliberate action to diffuse them, and avoid staying in that mode more than you absolutely have to. You’re essentially increasing your capacity to deal with stress effectively ii) More strategically, identify the symptoms that suggest that you’re on track for burnout sooner rather than later and take corrective action.
Let’s talk about burnout