7 Steps to Hiring Rockstar Employees: How to Overcome the 7 Problems Employers Face Today

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If you keep hiring the wrong people, maybe it’s you and your hiring process. While employers face hiring problems, you’ll have to be that much more intelligent about hiring if you are a growing company.



Problems Employers Face Today

There are at least seven problems many employers face today. They are:


  1. Too Few Applicants (Read my 10 Tips for Fast Hiring)
  2. Your Job Ads Aren’t Interesting Enough to the Right People
  3. Your Applicant Screening Tools Are Inadequate
  4. Low Performers Fool You During Interview Process
  5. Interviewees Do Not Reveal Their Negatives
  6. Verification of Employment History and References are Poorly Done
  7. You Don’t Assess Finalists for “Job Fit” to Quadruple Your Odds of Hiring Effectively


In this article, I will address how to overcome some of these issues and hire rockstar employees. For my complete process, schedule a call with me to discuss what elements are missing or improved in your hiring process.



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In today’s tight job market, you Always Need to Be Hiring


My best clients are always looking for great candidates. And, they attract rockstar candidates because they’ve done a great job at creating a culture with high employee engagement and accountability, and they install systems to accommodate growth. They also have suitable job ads that sell their company to prospective employees.


If your job ads are poorly developed, you’ll attract the wrong people. Fix that! Better job ads attract the right people. Great employees need great employers – stable companies where a strong sense of purpose and values are shared, goal setting is standard, responsibility encouraged, and improvements rewarded.


Have you recently reduced your payroll by removing one or more “C” players from your team? When you did that, you said to yourself, “Never again will I make that mistake!”  Or, have you noticed that 100% of your problems come from 10% of your employees? These problem employees may have high conflict personalities or emotional/behavioral issues (Listen to Episode 76 of the Disruptive Successor podcast).



Well, Hiring Rockstar Employees is how you will do it.


In my experience, the ratio of A, B and C players seems to be about 20%, 70%, and 10%, respectively. That is – it’s likely that 20% of your employees that are so-called A-players are intelligent, decision-makers, able to overcome obstacles, passionate, trustworthy, consistently high performers, adaptable to new challenges (e.g., Covid), hard workers, resourceful, humble, and self-aware. Meanwhile, 70% are B-level players who need training and development to reach A-level potential. And typically, 10% are C-level players who need to be terminated and replaced.


Hiring the best people is essential in building high-performance teams. There are particular approaches to the interview process aimed at new hires and succession or promotion hires.


If you want to hire rockstar employees, you need more than an interviewing technique. Interviewers need to look at patterns that emerge over multiple interviews involving competency, experience, behavior, and personality.


Beyond the interviews themselves, have a clear vision of what your ideal candidate brings to the table before you sit them down in an interview. The goal is to make better hiring decisions and help you identify a candidate that fits your criteria.


Further, it’s about building a team of A-players, not just having one or two. Companies that have applied the proper techniques report sustainable growth and higher profits, and that’s always a good place to be.



Why Hiring Rockstar Employees is Important

Hiring is never easy, especially when you are under the gun and need to fill a position yesterday or when filling open positions is difficult because qualified employees are hard to find. When you’re desperate, it’s easy to overlook red flags, even when they’re staring you in the face.


Recruiters aren’t the best resource. Technology and algorithms don’t work. Resumes are overinflated, references can be deceiving, behavioral interviews manipulated, etc. And frequently, candidates flat-out lie to get the jobs.


That’s what you’re up against, and you’re not alone.



The 80/20 Rule Holds True


The bottom line is: most of your hires will disappoint you. The adage “80% of your success will come from 20% of your people” is valid. That means that the other 80% of your hires are sub-standard.


Maybe it’s time to change your approach.



Topgrading is One Solution


While working at GE, when Jack Welch was the CEO, Dr. Brad Smart founded Topgrading, an approach that has been honed over 40 years of working with companies of every size, in every industry, and all over the world. Topgrading is a proven system for improving an organization’s productivity, profitability, and progress by recruiting, hiring, and developing teams of top performers. It is as effective for hiring sales associates as leaders in the C-suite. Owner-operators, HR professionals, or department/division leaders can leverage it. All should achieve the same results.


Statistically, Topgrading professionals view success as reversing the odds of hiring success from 25% or less to 75% or greater. Companies that use Topgrading methods turn this metric on its head. They say that 80% of their hires and promotions are A-players – and that is where you want to be. Even with less than 50% success in hiring high-performers, you’re still way ahead of the curve since most companies can only claim 20 – 25% or less. However, if you perfect this approach, there are many gains to be made. If you apply and execute Topgrading methods thoroughly, you will see success well above 50%.



The Who Method is Another Solution

Geoff Smart developed The Who Method of Hiring while working with his father, Brad Smart, at GE. His book by the same title and set of tools are fantastic for improving your odds of hiring when interviewing candidates.


But like Topgrading, this complete set of tools is more than what most owners or HR managers can take on at their small yet growing businesses. So they do what they can:  improving upon what they currently do in their hiring process and possibly getting some pointers on assessments, interview techniques, and beyond.



Where To Start


First things first. You need to know what you want. If you’re going to hire A-players, you need to know what that means.


An A-player is a high-performer; that’s a given. They are in the top 10% of the talent in your target salary range. An A-player is more than 100% more productive than the average employee, generating more sales, profits, and output than B and C players.


But you need to be very clear on what you want. I recommend a Job Scorecard or Position Description tool that spells out the attributes, competencies, responsibilities, and metrics to be an A-player. Instead of the 80/20 rule, bump it up to 90/10. If you have one hundred candidates, you are only looking at the top ten. If you have ten applicants, you will choose one. Just being “good” is not “good enough.” You want the best. So, figure out how to get more applicants. Working on your marketing to attract better candidates is critical. Using SMART goals and attractive recruiting ads for your position is a must along with defining competencies, experience, culture, and team values fit is another must.



How to Recognize an A-Player

The hiring process is tricky. It’s part technical skill and part soft skills and culture, and if you miss the boat on one part, the other won’t make up for it. If the goal is to hire mostly A-players, you need to know what one looks like. You can shoot for 100% A-players, but realistically speaking, most companies only have about 25%. That means that only one in four people you hire is in that top range.


So, what’s the problem? Why is hiring well so difficult?



Hiring Well is Not Easy


Hiring is hard mostly because we’re human. We want to see the best in people (or at least, most of us do), and people will tell you all kinds of things if they think it’s going to land them the job.


Experts say 85 percent of resumes are full of lies! Big lies, small lies, white lies, and out-and-out untruths. People claim to have degrees, licenses, and certifications that don’t exist. They’ll pad out their references with stuff they know you can’t check. Some candidates will do and say just about anything to get what they want.


Overstating skills and strengths and hiding weaknesses – it’s possible because, half the time, the person lists a friend as their manager or includes a reference from someone they know will give them a positive review.


New hiring methods don’t help either. Savvy job seekers learn how to game the system so that their resume gets past the algorithms. Does automation help? Sure. It’s narrowing down your options, but when you consider that most of your applicants are probably lying about something, are you left with an A-player? Not likely.



A-Player vs. B or C-Players: What’s The Difference?


Recognizing an A-player over a lesser candidate isn’t all that easy. It takes experience, insight, and probably a few bad hires before developing this skill naturally. But, there are some apparent and notable differences.


After somewhere between 45 and 90 days on the job, you’ll probably know. But can you afford to take that bet?


An A-player at work is easy to spot. They accomplish more than any of their peers, they take ownership of far more than expected, and when faced with a barrier to success, they figure out how to get past it. They are super resourceful and always looking for ways to improve, even when it seems impossible.


But how do you spot an A-player in an interview? Is it even possible? You’ve got your work cut out by knowing that people will lie and that some are good at it. (Read our blog on Do you Know About Your Leadership Blind Spots?)


According to Topgrading founder Brad Smart an A-player is:


  • Intelligent, passionate, and driven to succeed
  • A consistently high performer who likes to be surrounded by other high performers
  • A hard worker
  • Highly adaptable and resourceful
  • Very business-savvy
  • Down-to-earth, humble, and grounded in reality
  • Trustworthy
  • An effective leader


Your task is to ferret out those qualities in the interview because they won’t suddenly surge to the surface on their own, which is where our hiring methods come in.


Our Hiring Rockstar Employees method gives you the tools to drill down to those qualities, separate the A’s from the B’s, the C’s, and all the rest – before you find out the hard way.


Need to know more? Reach out today, and set up a call. I’d love to show you how I can help.


Schedule a Call Here





How Hiring Rockstar Employees is Done

Below are seven of the most important steps you’ll take in your Hiring Rockstar Employees journey. If you follow only these steps, your hiring results will improve so that you’ll probably end up with +/- 25% high-performers.


While this is likely an upgrade from where you’re at right now, it’s still a far cry from 85% high performers, which is what you’ll see if you get serious about hiring rockstar employees.



First Step: The Position Description/Job Scorecard 


In many cases, new hires aren’t aware of every detail of the job they are about to take on nor the performance indicators by which they will be assessed. Since these metrics form the basis of performance reviews, it’s easy to see why this would matter. In most cases, however, such a document isn’t even created until after the position is filled.


What our method does is create a scorecard before the interview. When a candidate is hired, the candidate knows what is expected precisely, but just as critically, the interviewer can focus on hiring precisely for those metrics.



Second Step (optional): The Two-Job Career History Form


Job boards, recruiting automation, algorithms – they’re all made to screen applicants and help you narrow down your hiring choices. Unfortunately, they don’t improve your chances of hiring a high-performer, and you’ll still be stuck at 25%.


Topgrading generates a pre-screen snapshot of each candidate using the two-job career history form. Here’s what it is, in a nutshell, and you’ll see why it’s called the “Topgrading truth serum”:


  • Send all applicants a letter that says, “Thank you for your interest in the position. We want to continue the hiring process, and we request more information about your two most recent positions.” They are invited to click a link, which takes them to the next step.
  • The candidate is instructed to prepare for the final step in the hiring process by arranging reference calls with their managers. This is what Topgraders call the Topgrading Truth Serum. It scares away the bad candidates and invites good ones to be transparent about their strengths and shortcomings.
  • The applicant will also fill out a Career History Form for those two most recent jobs. This form asks many of the usual questions, but also asks things like salary history (in states where it’s legal), why they left these positions, and how their manager would rate their performance.


The pre-screen snapshot is then generated based on all the information you’ve gathered here. It’s a simply designed graph that hiring managers can flip through and pick out the best candidates easily. It’s a fantastic timesaver.


Note: If you do this step, you must insert the threat of reference check above into your process. Without it, candidates are more likely to lie. With it, candidates who know their resumes have lies, will simply drop out of the process.



Third Step: Email or Phone Screen Interviews


A simple email will often do the trick if you’re interested in and want to assure they have the required writing skills. Their reply will tell you a lot about their writing skills and email etiquette.


A telephone screen will assure they have the required verbal and communications skills.


Using both email and phone will give you insights into both written and verbal skills.


Typical questions you might ask during this interview might include:


  1.  What are your career goals?
  2.  What are you good at professionally? Please give me some examples.
  3.  What are you not good at or not interested in? Please give me some examples.
  4.  Who were your last 5 employers, and how will they each rate your performance when we talk with them (1 is low, 10 is high)? Why?


If you use the pre-screen snapshot it outputs a Phone Screen Guide pre-populated with all the information from the two-job career history. All the information you need is there, along with interview questions so you can keep the interview rolling along without having to flip between documents.


Average call times for various positions:


  • Retail clerk: 5 minutes
  • Call center worker: 15 minutes
  • Sales associate: 30 minutes
  • Mid-level manager: 45 minutes


If you identify a candidate you want to move forward with, proceed to the next step.



Fourth Step (optional): Preliminary Assessment of Candidates for Culture & Team Fit 


In this step, you’ll have each candidate take our assessment to identify employment and termination history, inconsistencies in any responses, self-admission of theft, illegal substance abuse, and attendance issues. Part Two of this assessment provides information on the four Attitude Scales (Integrity, Substance Abuse, Reliability and Work Ethic).


Interview questions in this assessment help to identify whether your candidates preliminarily fit your culture. You can ask interview questions like, “What’s the difference between stealing and taking company property that you pay for later?” or “When is it okay to get around rules?”



Fifth Step: The Tandem or 3x3x3 Interview 


Tandem interviewing implies two interviewers. “While you can improve your hiring success and hire up to 50% A-Players using this method with one interviewer, two interviewers ups your results to 85%,” says Brad Smart. In truth, one person can’t pick up on everything that’s going on in an interview. While the interviews will take significantly longer, the extra time is well worth it when you consider that almost all your hires will be high-performers, and hiring mistakes are minimized.


My 3x3x3 method is an alternative to this method. Interview people three times in 3 different settings and involve three unique interviewers making sure you’ve assessed their competency, experience, behavior patterns, and values. Suppose you are interviewing a customer service representative. By meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant, you’ll more readily see how they treat people. Suppose you are interviewing a field employee for your construction company. By inviting them to join you for a ride-along in the truck, you or your other employees can learn more about their job knowledge and teaming style.



Sixth Step: Assess Finalists for Job Fit Using a Predictive Tool


While algorithm-driven assessment tools are limited when used alone, in a comprehensive hiring process – our 7 Steps to Hiring Rockstars – they can quadruple your success rate in hiring. Using job matching, you can assess your initial or final candidates against a benchmark either created by members of your team or a database created from the assessments of hundreds of other companies and their top performers.


Predictive Index (PI) is a popular assessment tool with some of my clients where you can create your own benchmark for any position and access the benchmarks of other companies, but it’s a big investment, and it’s time-consuming to learn and master for most people. People Values, a strategic partner of mine, offers a very affordable solution using over 2000 job descriptions that can be customized.


Learn More Here: https://www.peoplevalues.com/goldhillgroup




Seventh Step: Candidate-Arranged Reference Calls


If you and your tandem interviewer or interview team find a candidate with whom you want to move forward, the next step is to ask the applicant to arrange reference calls with their former (or current) managers. You will have told them in Step Two that no calls would be made until they agree, that they will be responsible for arranging the calls, and that they won’t be asked to arrange a call with their current superior until an offer is made or accepted. The calls themselves are your opportunity to verify everything your candidate has told you.



Final Thoughts on Hiring:

While I wouldn’t recommend hiring every person the same way, following some or most of these steps will certainly improve your chances of hiring an A-Player. And, following them all, should quadruple your chances of success almost every time. My most successful clients believe who is on their team matters the most in their success. And, each of my clients do develop a process that works for them at that time, which is improved as they scale up and add more team members.