Notes on Lou Adler’s CX & Performance-Based Hiring

From Lou Adler’s presentation at the Aug. 2015 UX Advantage conference. Lou’s advice is great for someone looking to hire OR be hired.  A version of this presentation is on, link here.

Top traits of top people

  1. Consistent, high-quality results
  2. Great organizer
  3. Proactive team builder
  4. Demonstrates Leadership = Vision plus Execution
  5. Problem-solving & resolution
  6. Flexible – deals with change
  7. Get’s it done – no excuses!
  8. Exceeds expectations
  9. Self-motivated & self-directed

5 pillars of a good applicant search

  1. Strategy
  2. Job (most important)
  3. Recruiter
  4. Manager (second most important)
  5. Process

Strategy for top talent

  • There’s a scarcity of good candidates
  • Only 10% of the potential employee pool is actively looking
  • Lou has a scarcity model:

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 1.25.10 PM

  • Hiring managers must reach out and nurture relationships, not rely totally on recruitment
  • Network, network, network. You may not really enjoy it, but it’s key to finding the best folks
  • Emphasize the “do” and “become” in your job process, whether hiring or looking for work
  • The best candidates are looking for career moves, not ill-defined lateral jobs. Position your job as a career move

So why do people take jobs?

  • Criteria to get initial engagement: title, compensation, location
  • Criteria to get candidates to accept a position: career opportunity, job impact, hiring manager-team relationship, right work/life balance, company culture & mission

So how do we position our job opening?

  • Establish it as a career opportunity, a chance to grow new skills, a chance to take a role that will have clear impact on the company, coworkers and customers
  • Take money off the table at first. Establish what the job actually entails and how high an applicant’s interest is—getting into compensation too early can force decisions without all the facts

How do we reach the best candidates? 

  • Write person descriptions rather than job descriptions
    • Describe the work to be done, not the job
    • Describe specific goals, i.e. grow sales by 10%, launch a new product line, build a team in 90 days, etc
    • Define desired outcomes–skills will follow
    • Seek performance-qualified, not skills-qualified, candidates
  • “Must have” skills lists are demeaning and reductionist
  • Hire folks who deliver results, not who have certain skills
    • Ask candidates why they’ll be motivated to do the work
  • The best candidate may have the least experience, since they quickly jumped up the ladder
  • Make sure your recruiters are selling a vision of performance and future growth, not skills
  • Tell stories about the company, culture and potential experience for the new hire
  • Capture the intrinsic motivator (which is rarely income when you are looking at top talent)
  • Emphasize doing, learning, and becoming
  • Sell the discussion and interaction between you, not the job description
  • It’s your responsibility to run a high-quality interview process for both participants—they need to learn about you as much as you need to learn about them

So what key question should you ask in interviews? (should last about 15 min)

  • Can you tell me about your most significant accomplishment?


  •  One of our biggest projects is ____. Can you tell me about something you’ve done that’s most comparable?


  • Can you tell me about a situation in which you went the extra mile?

During your discussion, make sure you:

  • Note which personal traits stand out
  • Evaluate the candidate on performance, not presentation
  • Look for stretch gaps in employment history
  • Find out all the pertinent facts
  • Establish a candidate’s historic trend of performance

Closing the deal

  • Emphasize 4 or 5 key objectives for this hire. Offer the job without discussing salary and ask the candidate why they want the job, what they hope to accomplish, what they hope the company will do for them
  • If you’re in alignment, negotiate salary

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