How to Identify A-Players in an Interview

Employment History

As I’ve noted previously, looking at someone’s employment history is useful, but it likely doesn’t distinguish the best from the rest, if only because it usually takes a manager and a good team to enable talent to shine. Most people don’t work solo anymore, and those who do probably aren’t looking for a job. So, the top people you are hoping to hire are going to have a stellar job history only if they had a quality manager and capable coworkers that also allowed the talent to do what it does best. Considering how rare that is, and the fact that most talented people leave jobs because they don’t have the right team, you are unlikely to identify stars using a standard resume or length of tenure at a company.

Personal Characteristics

One of the best combinations of characteristics I (and many others!) have encountered in candidates is a combination of confidence and humility. While it is important to hire people who are confident without being cocky, I find that most people can’t tell the difference between the two, but erroneously believe that they can. It really isn’t so much about attitude, but rather about what underlies it. The best indicator of people being cocky is that they portray themselves as fantastic, but can’t support it with actual facts/examples. By contrast, confident people generally have reasons for their belief in themselves, and can tell you why they think they can do something. The humility becomes evident when people can recognize the limitations of their abilities and the contributions of others to the success of their endeavors. These are people who can show serious gratitude for professional contacts and opportunities (ask about this!), and who can also discuss their accomplishments honestly without hyperbole.

The Questions They Ask

One of the most exciting parts of the interview is the questions that candidates ask you. It’s your turn in the hot seat, and you need to represent the company well (and honestly!). But, just as the interviewee learned a lot about your company from the questions you asked, it’s also your turn to learn about how they think from the questions they ask. Are they down-to-earth people? Are they ambitious? Are they thinking ahead to the value that they can contribute and how to get past any potential obstacles? All of these considerations will help you to see past the interview veneer and into the depth of who they are and how they can use their knowledge, skills, and experiences to help your company, grow, innovate, and profit.

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Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.

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Orin Davis

Orin Davis

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.