Long ago (in the 1980s), I discovered that I could attract stronger candidates and generate additional referrals when I described some of the challenges in the job and how they impacted the business strategy as part of an exploratory conversation. In fact, to get most of these prospects to talk to me all I had to do was just ask them if they’d be open to discuss an opportunity if it represented a potential career move. Few said no when phrased this way.

It’s what people DO with what they HAVE that matters, not what they HAVE.

To assess these candidates I asked them to describe their major accomplishments most comparable to the challenges in the role. The job represented a career move if the new role offered some reasonable mix of stretch, satisfaction, impact and consistent growth. This approach soon became known as Performance-based Hiring and the jobs themselves performance profiles or performance-based job descriptions.

This approach had a dual benefit. First, it gave hiring managers what they wanted: candidates who could excel doing the work. Second, it gave the strongest candidates, especially those who weren’t actively looking, something they wanted: a better career path than the one they were currently on.

Now here’s the really big and important extra benefit: there were no surprises about the job expectations when the candidates started.

Even better, their performance over the first year was pretty much as predicted.

The conclusion to all of this is that past performance doing comparable work in comparable situations is the best predictor of future performance. Achieving this big benefit required only one key additional step when writing job descriptions: include the major expectations in the job description and highlight these at the top of the posting!


It’s pretty much a given, at least according to Gallup, that clarifying expectations up front is the key to driving job satisfaction, engagement and performance. Given this universal truth, what seems odd to me is that it’s not universally done before a person is hired.

Closing this gap, in my opinion, is the key to solving just about every hiring problem imaginable.

In today’s competitive business environment, attracting top talent and maximizing employee engagement and performance are paramount for organizational success. A key strategy that has proven effective in achieving these goals is the development and utilization of performance-based job descriptions for job postings and interviewing. This approach not only refines recruitment efforts but also enhances ongoing performance management and employee development.

But somehow this commonsense idea gets lost in the turmoil of trying to use some blend of statistics, skills and new age thinking to predict performance. What’s also lost is an emphasis on weeding out the weakest candidates, rather than focusing on attracting the strongest ones. Performance-based Hiring solves both of these problems.

Using Performance-based Job Descriptions to Close the Hiring Gap

Performance-based job descriptions are detailed outlines of the expected outcomes and impact a role is supposed to generate rather than merely listing required tasks and responsibilities. This shift helps attract candidates who are not only capable of fulfilling the role but are also motivated by the prospect of achieving specific goals.

Gallup’s research underscores the importance of aligning role expectations with employee capabilities to enhance engagement and performance. By setting clear expectations from the outset, companies can significantly reduce ambiguity, which often leads to job dissatisfaction and underperformance.

Furthermore, using performance-based criteria during the hiring process allows employers to assess candidates more effectively. This method proves more predictive of future job performance than traditional approaches that focus solely on the depth of skills, experience and qualifications.

Post-Hire: Onboarding and Performance Management

Once a candidate is hired, performance-based job descriptions continue to play a crucial role. During onboarding, these descriptions can help new employees understand their roles and the specific contributions they are expected to make. This clarity helps in setting the right tone from the beginning of their tenure, ensuring that they integrate into their new roles with a clear direction and purpose.

For ongoing performance management, these job descriptions provide a foundation for continuous feedback and development. Managers can use the defined outcomes and goals from the job description as benchmarks for evaluating employee performance and guiding developmental discussions. This aligns with Gallup’s findings that effective performance management systems, which are clear and goal-oriented, significantly enhance employee engagement and productivity.

Moreover, such clarity in role expectations and success metrics facilitates more meaningful interactions between employees and managers. It supports a culture of accountability and growth, where employees understand how their efforts contribute to the company’s larger goals and are motivated to achieve them.

Hiring Stronger People Starts by Defining Outstanding Success

Adopting performance-based job descriptions is not just a strategic enhancement but the core component of the Performance-based Hiring process when opening new job requisitions. This approach transforms hiring results by seamlessly integrating the pre-hire process with onboarding and performance management post-hire.

This methodology is instrumental in attracting a broader and more diverse group of candidates who are performance-qualified, even if they possess a different mix of skills and experiences than those typically outlined in conventional, skills-laden job descriptions. By emphasizing what candidates can accomplish rather than just what they have done, companies open the door to a wider range of talents and perspectives, enriching their workforce and fostering a more inclusive environment.

Creating a culture of DOING rather than HAVING starts by asking this simple question when opening every job requisition, “What does the person need to do over the first year to be considered an outstanding success?”


To see the difference for yourself, contact our team at Performance-based Hiring with a URL to one of your open job descriptions. We’ll use our AI-model to convert it into a performance-based job description and send you the output. There’s no obligation.