Growing Great Companies


Spotting High Potential Employees

What’s the true value of a top performing employee? According to HR expert, Dr. John Sullivan, top performers out produce their peers by 25 to as much as 1,000 percent!

The differences between high performing employees and the rest of the pack are immense. They’re harder working, more innovative, and produce better results. They possess better communication skills, better planning and organizing ability, greater capability to adapt, and greater ability to learn.

So how do you these spot high achievers? Here’s your first tip—don’t rely on traditional hiring techniques. Resumes don’t tell the whole story. And the functional interviews most companies rely on typically highlight knowledge rather than results.

Want to find the best employees more often? Add these steps to your hiring process:

  1. Identify the key behavioral traits of your current top performers.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the common characteristics of each trait.
  3. Use behavioral interview questions to determine whether candidates possess the desired traits.

Behavioral interview questions are designed to uncover specific examples when a candidate demonstrated a trait you’re seeking. Past performance is widely viewed as the best indicator of future behavior, so a candidate who has already exhibited the traits you seek is most likely to exhibit those traits again.

The Traits of Success

In every company and in every job, key performance traits for top performers will vary. But as a start, here are several behavioral traits that are typically linked to superior performance. To help with your hiring process, I’ve included a few sample behavioral interview questions you can use to evaluate each trait.

Success Trait #1: Initiative

Most top performing employees are “take charge” kinds of people. They don’t wait to be told want to do; they look for problems and opportunities and assume responsbility for them. To determine if a candidate will show initiative in your firm, ask targeted questions that force the candidate to provide specific examples of where he or she demonstrated initiative in previous jobs. Listen for examples such as completing more work than what’s required or expected, taking risks that resulted in success, and making an effort toward continuous improvement. Below are a few sample questions that will help you uncover characteristics of initiative.

  • Tell me about a time when you took initiative and went above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Tell me about a time when you created a new process or program that was considered risky. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when you encountered obstacles while pursuing an important professional goal. Did you reach the goal? How?

Success Trait #2: Personal Effectiveness

Personal effectiveness encompasses everything from how a potential employee interacts with others, to how strong a sense of confidence and professionalism they display. You should be looking to find out if the candidate is confrontational, has a positive self-image, and can focus clearly on goals and objectives. Some sample questions to help you determine how effective a candidate is on a personal level are:

  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • What are your top three personal and business goals? How do you measure your success in terms of reaching those goals?
  • Have you ever been displeased with your own performance? When, why, and what did you do about it?
  • Describe a specific goal you set for yourself and how successful you were in meeting it.

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