Area Code Performance Reviewing

On the recruiting floor in our office, it‚Äôs not uncommon to ask someone how a candidate‚Äôs interview went and get back nothing but a series of three numbers; or, even more cryptic, a city name. As odd as it might sound to someone who is unfamiliar with our system, we aren‚Äôt throwing out arbitrary rankings or discussing the city the candidate came from‚Äîno, we‚Äôre giving clear and concise feedback on how we felt about the candidate. It‚Äôs what we call ‚Äúarea code hiring.‚Äù

Area code hiring consists of rating the candidates in three areas:

  1. First digit: on a scale of 1-9, how well can the candidate perform the job; do their abilities fulfill the job’s requirements?
  2. Second digit: this is a quick a dirty, yes/no call on the candidate‚Äî1 you hire, 0 you don‚Äôt
  3. Third digit: on a scale of 1-9, how well does the candidate fit in with the culture of the company

When you put the three together you get an area code—101 is about as bad as a candidate can be, and 919 is a superstar.

Why Do We Do This?

It’s an easy way of breaking out of the interview feedback loop. You know the one:

“Hey, Dave, how did you like that candidate.”

“Well, you know I liked them.”

‚ÄúCool, what did you like about them.‚Äù

“You know, I just… liked them.”

These three numbers give clear reasons why you find them a “likeable” candidate… or not. It’s a cool system that gets right to the point in just three numbers.

So What Does it Have to Do With Performance Reviews?

I like to think of a performance review like a re-evaluation interview. Rather than the stakes being a candidate filling a job, it‚Äôs letting an employee know if they‚Äôre doing a good job or should be put on an improvement plan. The major difference would be, the feedback after a performance review is going straight to the employee, not to a third party like a hiring manager. Either way, it‚Äôs still a manager and a subordinate sitting across a table from one another.

Because the situations are similar, it’s easy for a manager to go into a performance feedback loop where they know they have a gut feeling about how the employee is performing, but they can’t put their finger on why. That’s why I suggest using the handy dandy number system of area code hiring, but for your performance reviews as well. It would look something like this:

  1. First digit: on a scale of 1-9, how well has the employee performed the technical aspects of their job; have they hit their goals
  2. Second digit: is the employee a successful worker, yes or no
  3. Third digit: on a scale of 1-9, how engaged is the employee; are they involved around the office, buying into the culture, etc.

Giving an employee an area code gives them an easy way to see how you as their manager views them. From there, they can ask specific questions about how they might improve their area code ranking and they can give you feedback‚Äîheck, they can even give you area code feedback on how you‚Äôre doing as an employer!

This system offers a quick, guided way to offer real feedback that you can back up. With the end of the year peeping out from just behind the corner and performance feedback season upon us, it might be time to consider a ### system.

Want more info on area codes and using them during your hiring process? Check out our thought leadership article, Area Code Hiring: A Tool To Make Better Hiring Decisions, and consider its uses throughout all your company‚Äôs feedback processes.

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