Uncover these 6 characteristics to hire top talent

Hiring top performers should be the goal of every company and each individual involved in the hiring process, from the CEO down. Regardless of where a candidate is in their job search, every company should look for six specific characteristics when hiring top talent at any level.

This includes someone who is polished, takes ownership, is a team player, creates impact, exemplifies rigor, and demonstrates grit. These traits apply to entry-level professionals all the way up to senior executives.

Below you will find interview ideas that you can use to help identify these characteristics in a potential new hire.

For polish:

  1. Check out how they handle themselves when you interject or interrupt them in the conversation.
  2. Do they send a thank you note shortly after the conversation?

The goal is having them seem calm and confident when they might otherwise be flustered or thrown off their game. Gratitude following an interview indicates humility and a sense of professional standards that will translate into their work.

For ownership:

  1. Ask them to talk about a time they experienced what they perceived to be an injustice.

Regardless of their answer, empathize with the unfairness. Reply with something like, “Are you kidding? That is crazy. What a jerk.” True owners will respond with something like this, “Yeah, but I recognized it wasn’t worth my time to complain about it.” They will not vent or complain.

For teamwork:

  1. Ask them what the hardest part is for them when working on a team.
  2. Have them talk about a time when they worked on a difficult team. What were they tasked with and what was their overall experience? Could they understand and empathize where the other people on the team were coming from? Talk about the situation from their perspective.
  3. Ask “when are you the happiest and most productive when working with others?”

The goal is to measure their emotional intelligence (EQ) and ability to empathize. Can they acknowledge and understand the experiences of those around them?

For impact:

  1. Have them talk about a time they had a measurable impact on a job or an organization.
  2. Have them talk about a person or organization that they admire and why do they think they have made an important impact?

The key is to find signs that the candidate understands the big picture, their ability to identify and understand the importance of making trade-offs, and how to set priorities.

For rigor:

  1. Have them talk about a time they used data to make a major decision.

Look for details about the complexity of the data and their thinking process.

For grit:

  1. Ask them to talk about a time that they wanted something so badly that they were unstoppable in pursuing it. What obstacles did they overcome to get there?

Try to nail down how long that person can stick it out. How long are they going to beat their head against a problem?

The makeup of a strong interview needs to be specifically designed to drill deep into skill sets, actual accomplishments, culture fit, and leadership potential.

Ask STAR questions during the interview

Great interview questions focus on specific examples of the candidate’s unique contributions, actions, decisions, and impact. Ideally, you want to:

  • Probe: Give me an example…
  • Dig: Who, what, where, when, why and how on every accomplishment or project
  • Differentiate: We vs. I, good vs. great, exposure vs. expertise, participant vs. owner/leader, 20-yard line vs. 80-yard line

What you are looking for are past projects and accomplishments that seem to have enough weight and depth that you can apply STAR questions to — “STAR” stands for situation, task, actions, and results.

Here are some questions you might think about using:

  • What is the background of what you were working on?
  • What tasks were you given?
  • What actions did you take?
  • What results did you measure?

When it comes to soft skills and culture fit, there is one question you should ask regardless of the position you are recruiting for: Do you consider yourself lucky?

This question will help you determine if this person is someone who embodies the phrase “fortune favors the prepared.” It is the willingness to be ready and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Hopefully these questions will help lead you to making a better hiring decision. A bad hire can wreak havoc on a company; it is quite expensive to replace that person and undo the potential negative impact on the company’s culture.

Vaco prides itself on our ability to work closely with our clients to identify, recruit, and deliver top talent who can make measurable and positive impacts on the organizations they join.

If there is anything we can do to help you in your hiring journey, please let us know. We are here and always ready to help new and existing clients achieve their business goals.

Wishing you nothing but the best!

Chris “Spinman” Spintzyk


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