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E144 | How To Hire With The Accidental Recruiter, Lou Adler

If you need help with your recruitment, then you need Lou Adler. At 75, he’s spent the last 50 years in the recruitment game. He knows how to play it. 

“My name is Lou Adler. [I’m here] to talk about hiring and business strategy and how to have a successful life, and how to hire great people and how not to screw up making important business decisions.”

Lou is CEO and founder of Performance-based Hiring, an end to end, four step business process for hiring top talent. Lou’s firm helps recruiters and hiring managers around the world source, interview and hire the strongest and most diverse talent. Lou is also the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (on its 4th edition). 

Lou was working for a Fortune 500 company in Southern California. He moved there from New York for the weather, but hated his boss. Sound familiar? 

Most people would leave, Lou decided to become a recruiter because he realised there’s no point hiring great people, if you’re just going to lose them because they aren’t a fit with the manager. 

Now he has a business that teaches firms how to do recruitment using his high performance hiring methodology. From how to hire for fit, the ultimate question you should use in your recruitment process, and why you should hire for cultural fit, rather than just skills. Don’t miss this latest episode of Mind Your F**king Business Podcast. 

On today’s podcast:

  • Why we still get hiring wrong
  • The 3 buckets of hiring
  • Lou’s greatest success
  • 2 questions to ask during the interview
  • Approach hiring like it’s a capital investment
  • Hire for fit


The Hiring Strategy with Lou Adler

If you need help with your recruitment, then you need Lou Adler. At 75, he’s spent the last 50 years in the game. He knows how to play it. 

“My name is Lou Adler. [I’m here] to talk about hiring and business strategy and how to have a successful life, and how to hire great people and how not to screw up making important business decisions.”

So why do people still get recruitment so wrong?

“40 years ago there was talk that the war for talent was going to be won because we have the internet, we have job boards, companies were bringing in-house recruiters in and we can hire people quickly.”

That war still hasn’t been won. Despite having all these tools at our disposal, job satisfaction hasn’t improved. Employee engagement hasn’t increased. All that’s happened is it’s just easier to change jobs. 

“The real reason is we have too short term focus as opposed to a long term focus. We hire for the start date, not for the actual work and the career opportunity it could present.”

We think hiring is an easy solution and we can do it transactionally. But, says Lou, it’s a hard solution that we need to do strategically. 

The 3 buckets of hiring

There are 3 buckets of hiring, says Lou: 

  1. Entry level. High volume, low level positions i.e. call centres, transactional sales. The goal is to hire at scale. 
  2. Critical hires. Mid level managers, important technical people who have two to three years of experience. The best of these people are already employed.
  3. Strategic hires. Your vice presidents, your senior leaders, people who will have a strategic impact on the company. 

“A lot of people use the wrong strategy, or use the wrong process based on a different strategic hiring need. And when you mix and match those and think you’re going to get there properly, you just won’t get there.”

His biggest success

Lou is incredibly proud of Performance-based Hiring, the process that allows companies to hire outstanding people for the long term. 

“Our goal is to hire people, at least for the anniversary date, where a successful hire on the anniversary date after it’s been a year, the hiring manager says, ‘I’m so glad I hired that person’ and the employee says, ‘I’m so glad I took this job’.” 

But getting there is very difficult, especially when people hire for the start date, for a new title, for compensation, the location. None of which has anything to do with driving personal success or determining on the job performance. 

Therefore, to make a long term hiring decision, you need to approach hiring differently. 

The only 2 questions

The only two questions you need to ask when you’re recruiting are: 

  1. What have you done that’s most similar to this problem?
  2. If you were to get this job, how would you solve this problem?

You don’t need the candidate to give you the answer, just the steps they would take to solve the problem. 

“It’s the process of thinking through problems, solutions, and the ability to implement those kinds of solutions.”

This ensures the candidates can carry out the task at hand. 

But the real reason why people underperform isn’t anything to do with their ability, it’s to do with whether they fit the company. Whether they fit the hiring manager and their style. 

Employee engagement and satisfaction

What has Lou seen over his 50 years in the business? How has recruitment changed?

“Gallup does a lot of work on employee engagement and employee satisfaction. And you look at their engagement studies over the last 30-40 years, and it’s pretty dismal. A third of people are totally satisfied. A third are somewhat satisfied. A third are dissatisfied. And those numbers haven’t changed much over the years.”

Even with all the new tools and the billions of investment poured into finding a solution, the needle hasn’t moved.

Hire for fit 

Amazon has a ‘raising the bar committee’ where when they hire, the hiring manager doesn’t make the decision alone. They hire as a team. 

Lou has a similar approach called the Talent Scorecard. They conduct panel interviews and debrief everyone afterwards. The scorecard is helpful because everyone is tasked with looking for different things, so you can assess the candidate as a whole, better. 

“The formula for success is ability to do the work in relationship to fit, is what drives motivation. And because motivation is so important, we square that equal success.”

Ability is the hard and soft skills – i.e. how capable are you. Fit is what is your motivation to do the work? Can you fit in with the culture? Can you fit in with the team?

“Turns out hard skills are the easiest to measure, soft skills you can measure, but it’s a little bit harder. But the fit factors are most important. You can find someone who’s totally talented, but if you don’t like your boss, or you don’t like the structure, you’re going to be underperforming.”

The great manager

A great manager, says Lou, is someone who takes great pride in the success of the people they’ve hired, as opposed to their own individual achievements. 

When hiring, you have to think of managerial fit as well as cultural fit. 

“We look at what kind of manager this person is and what kind of leadership style does the candidate need. If we find a micromanager, we have to find somebody who can deal with that. If we find a manager whose hands off, we have to find a candidate who doesn’t need any direction.”

How do you find this out in a candidate? 

As well as asking them the two questions above, ask them what environment produces their best work. What’s the pace like, what the decision making is like. 

“It’s easy to determine when someone’s a good person. It’s not easy to determine if someone’s going to fit in and be successful over the course of the year and beyond.”

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