Top performers rise to the surface

I don’t believe that job interviews work. They are outdated and a waste of time.

Why do I say this?

Good communicators can talk their way into a position and then perform poorly.

Poor communicators (who could have been great at the job) don’t speak well in the interview and get passed on.

Interviews don’t accurately demonstrate who will perform well on the job.

If I want to see how good you will be at the job, I need to give you a specific task that will measure your ability to do that task well.

Without an example of the quality of someone’s work, we take a gamble that the person can back up the talk that they have been preaching to get themselves a job.

For example, when I ran BrainGain I built teams of commission only recruiters and BD reps. I didn’t want to pay monthly salaries and it seemed like an experiment worth running.

The people who became my top performers? Never the people who I expected…

Given that it was a commission only, I was a lot more lenient in my hiring process. Normally when I hire for companies I’m usually very strict in who I let through the door. I scrutinize everyone.

But because it was commission only I thought, “I have nothing to lose by giving people a shot so let’s hire everyone!”

I didn’t care who you were, generally speaking I would give you a job. I did take phone call interviews with every person I brought on board, but I didn’t grill people like I normally would.

I hired about 10 Business Development Reps and 5 Headhunters.

Within 2 weeks about half of the BD reps were non-responsive not doing any work. Same with 2 of the headhunters. In both categories I was getting lackluster results from the majority of the freelancers.

However, the ones who DID perform well went ABOVE AND BEYOND!

We had one girl who translated all of my marketing documents and emails into Italian so she could pitch companies in Italy.

We had another candidate who started emailing taking sales calls in Spanish, because she knew I didn’t speak fluently enough.

Both of them were able to line up companies within a month. Both of them consistently lined up deals for me.

Same thing happened with our recruiters. Some recruiters are what I like to call “resume sourcers” – they only find resumes so that they can say “I sent you x people this month.”

The TRUE performers are the ones who find the RIGHT FIT. The ones who find you candidates that are legitimately interested.

Out of the 5 recruiters, one of them had this mindset. Consistently sent me good quality people who went on to interview with other companies.

I offered him a monthly retainer, and then he offered to help build a team of recruiters for me.

The funniest part? If you would have asked me to pick these people out of the batch when I initially spoke to them on the phone there is NO WAY I would have expected these to be the people who performed well.

Many of the people whom I had high expectations for flopped and gave up quickly. Others who were shy and timid on the phone became monsters in the output they would give me.

It made me realize that you really don’t know how someone will perform until you give them the job.

People came out of their shell on the job. Showed me sides of their personality I didn’t expect. I gave them the opportunity to surprise me, and it yielded great results.

It’s also a great way to make firing easier. Certain people just can’t deliver results and naturally fall by the wayside. Others deliver some results but not enough to sustain, so they drop off too. Then all you’re left with are the people who are doing the good work.

Moreover, performance based work is a very good indicator of isolating top performers. The people who can deliver results are usually willing to work on commission, whereas the “salary collectors” aren’t as willing to tie their results to their salary.

My underlying point is that it’s not usually who you expect. Some people can talk their way into a job and then perform poorly. Others who would have been great at the job get weeded out because they couldn’t properly communicate their abilities.

This is why, I believe, the only job interview should be to actually work. Do some sort of project. Contribute something so that people can get a feel for your work.

You can tell a lot about someone from a small project. How they think about problems, how they use reasoning, how detail oriented they are, their sense of design – you can usually get a feel for their strengths.

Once again though – they have to follow through and actually do it. A proposal isn’t the same thing as a finished experiment. Writing out the steps and action plan for a proposal is not the same thing as doing it and putting your techniques to the test.

We’re in the age of the contract based freelancer – embrace it. Commit to working with a company for a smaller amount of time to demonstrate skills that will earn you a longer term role.

Employers? Stop thinking of every hire as a permanent decision. Realize that talent arises and passes as needed. Hire people with a short-term mindset, and allow the top performers to rise to the surface – then go hire the top performers.

It’s never been easier to pluck people off the shelf for 3-6 month projects to install systems that yield benefits for the next 3-5 years. Open your mind to the freelance economy and enjoy it’s fruits.

This is also an analogy for life – be open to everyone, be free from judging others. Give everyone an opportunity to show you who they are, and let the most interesting people naturally rise to the surface, while the crappy ones fall by the wayside. Don’t accidentally rule people out who could have otherwise been incredible additions to your life.

Give everyone an opportunity. Step back and watch as the majority fall and the beautiful float, it’s the law of nature! 


Also published on Medium.

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