On my first search assignment for a plant manager for an automotive products company the President of the group handed me an almost traditional job description. The almost part was that it was hand-written. The traditional part was that it was filled with the standard jargon listing skills, experience, academic requirements and the omnipresent “must have” competency, “be results driven.”

This happened in January 1978.

This is not a job description, it’s a person description.

As I reviewed the job description and not knowing any better, I said to the president that this was not a job description it was a person description. A job is about things the person needs to do, not a description of what the person needs to have.

He agreed and then threw the job description into the wastebasket. It was handwritten after all.

I then asked, “What does the person in this job need to do to be successful over the next 1-2 years?

He said, “Turn-around an underperforming plant.” We then walked through the plant and found six big things that needed to be overhauled to improve bottom-line performance by 15-20 pre-tax margin points. These included cost reductions, process efficiency improvements, new inventory techniques, upgraded vendor management programs and major labor performance changes.

A person was hired for this role about 5 weeks later who would never have been seen using the original skills- and experience-laden job description but who had successfully led comparable plant improvement programs. He handled this one successfully, too.

Since 1978 I have been involved in over 1,200 different search projects and started each one with the same question, “What does the person need to do to be successful in the first 1-2 years?” The answer is always 6-8 performance objectives that define the tasks that needs to be done and how they need to be done. I call these performance-based job descriptions. (FYI, you can now ask our new Performance-based Hiring Coach bot to help create a draft performance-based job description or just ask ChatGPT to help get you started with this prompt: Please prepare a performance-based job description using Performance-based Hiring techniques for a (describe the job in some detail) given these challenges _____. Or you can upload your current job description and ask it to convert it into a performance-based job description.)

After preparing a few hundred of these types of job descriptions it was clear that the process opened up the talent pool to some very talented diverse and high-potential people but who had a mix of different skills and experiences than listed on the original job description. Here’s what ChatGPT thought of the idea especially its impact on improving performance and raising quality of hire.

The graphic below summarizes the before (red) and after (blue) impact of using Performance-based Hiring in over one thousand different situations filling professional staff and management positions as well as helping the YMCA hire 125,000 camp counselors one summer. The point: it doesn’t matter what the job is. It can always be defined as a series of outcomes, aka, performance objectives.


Since Performance-based Hiring is a non-traditional hiring process, and due to the impact it can have on improving diversity hiring while improving on-the-job satisfaction and performance, it was important to reach out to some different labor law firms to get their insight as to the validity of this process. Here’s the full whitepaper for the most recent validation study conducted for the 4th edition of Hire with Your Head (Wiley, 2021). Here’s Littler’s super abbreviated response:

Having advised employers for over 35 years, having defended employers in proceedings before the EEOC and OFCCP, and having represented employers in state and federal court lawsuits, I have learned that one key to both avoiding litigation and enhancing business operations is to properly define and document job duties. Whether you call this documentation a “job description” or a “performance profile” or a “performance-based job description” does not matter, but the contents of such documentation matters greatly. As discussed below, creating performance profiles as described in Hire with Your Head will not only assist employers in making better hiring decisions, but can also help employers to avoid claims of discrimination, to better attract and retain a diverse workforce, and to comply with the legal obligation to reasonably accommodate the disabled.

The point of this is that is the “D” in DEI has nothing to do with discrimination. It has to do with improving post-hire job performance, increasing objectivity, and making better hiring decisions. By defining work as a series of performance objectives and only hiring people who can provide examples of doing comparable work you not only reduce bias and increase interviewing accuracy but, most important, attract a group of very talented people who would never have been considered before.

Given this result, maybe the “D” stands for Diversity.