Long ago a CEO for a mid-sized company asked me how much experience a person needed to have to be the VP Operations for his company. My glib response then was, “Enough to do the job. It’s what people do with what they have, not what they have that matters. Some people need more experience to do the same job and others need less.”

Today, I’d say, “It depends.”

The point, then and now, is that experience in an absolute sense is overrated. What’s more important is the job itself and if the candidate is competent and motivated to do this work given the underlying circumstances. For example, working for a struggling company in a turn-around situation is a lot different than working for a moderately growing profitable company doing essentially the same work. Just as important is the recognition that some people learn faster and/or are excited by a big challenge versus others who are less motivated but more experienced.

This is a complex problem, yet in most cases companies still rely on the depth of experience and skills to select candidates. However, when people are assessed based on their past performance doing comparable work it’s possible to attract and hire fully competent and highly motivated people who have a different mix of skills and experiences. ChatGPT can help make this switch.

But first some history. 

On my first search assignment for a plant manager in 1978 I asked the president of an automotive parts manufacturing company what the person in the role needed to do be successful. The answer was six key performance objectives (KPOs) that focused on improving manufacturing processes, inventory management and machine maintenance.

Since then and through last week I have been involved in more than one thousand different hiring projects that all start with these same two questions:

“What does the person need to do over the course of the first year to be considered successful?

“Why would a top person want the job if it weren’t for the compensation package?”

The answer to the first question is always 6-8 key performance objectives (KPOs) that define the task, the action required, some metric or deliverable, and the timeframe. The answer to the second question needs to be specific and customized to highlight the person’s intrinsic motivator, e.g, Use your (super skill) to accomplish (important company project). (Here are some other examples.)

Now back to today with some supporting evidence. 

In 1997, Gallup introduced their Q12 describing what the world’s greatest managers did differently. Number one was clarifying expectations upfront. Google’s Project Oxygen in 2012 reinforced this idea based on its study of its strongest managers. More recently, John Doerr is his book, Measure What Matters, demonstrated that by clarifying job requirements as OKRs (objectives and key results) managers could dramatically improve team and individual performance.

Yet despite all of the evidence of what it takes to improve performance and increase post-hire job satisfaction companies still rely on outdated thinking on how to write job descriptions emphasizing skills, experience and competencies surrounded by generic company boilerplate. Many HR leaders cite legal compliance as the reason for avoiding the change required, yet here’s what the number one labor attorney in the U.S. recently said about using a performance-based approach for hiring:

By creating compelling job descriptions that are focused on key performance objectives, by using advanced marketing and networking concepts to find top people, by adopting evidence-based interviewing techniques, and by integrating recruiting into the interviewing process, companies can attract better candidates and make better hiring decisions.

You’ll be able to see the difference for yourself by asking ChatGPT these questions for one of your open jobs:

What are some of the key performance objectives for someone responsible for (include a good description of the job, like “leading the frontend design of a new mobile app for handling high-volume financial transactions”)?

What do the best people responsible for (the most important responsibility of the job) do differently than average people in the same role?

Why would a top person want a job responsible for (include a good description of the role) if it weren’t for the size of the compensation package?

To determine if a person is competent for the role just ask the person to describe their most comparable accomplishment for each of the KPOs. You can also describe your job as a worthy career move by emphasizing the non-monetary factors shown in this infographic. This is how you create a Win-Win Hiring opportunity by hiring for the first year anniversary date, not the start date.

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Use these factors to compare different job opportunities.

I find it odd that we hire and promote people we know based on their past performance doing comparable work and offer them worthy moves. When it comes to strangers though, we assess them based on the depth of their skills and experiences and how well they interview. Worse, we offer them ill-defined lateral transfers and are surprised when they underperform.

ChatGPT makes it easy to switch to a performance-based approach for hiring by offering everyone, strangers and acquaintances alike, true career opportunities.This is why ChatGPT can be transformational, at least when it comes to making better hiring decisions