7 Tips for Hiring Top Players
When 80 percent of work is driven by 20 percent of employees, make sure you select the best

During the economic downturn, many construction business owners were forced to cut back their labor force in order to survive. This strategy may have worked in the short term as businesses cut costs and got used to operating with fewer people, but as the economy recovers, those same businesses are facing a labor shortage that is inhibiting their ability to grow revenue and profits.

If you find yourself in this position, it may be tempting to simply begin hiring. But making the right hires is far more important. You need people who will be with you for the long haul. You need employees who want to do a good job and build a long-term career, rather than simply collect a paycheck. You want top players—those colleagues who contribute significantly to the success of the organization.

The 80-20 Rule—loosely based on the research of early 1900s Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto—states that 80 percent of a result comes from 20 percent of a cause. In business, this principle is most often applied in a sales environment, but it is equally practical for a variety of industries. If your 20 percent is comprised of top players, then your job as a business owner becomes much easier, allowing you to fully focus on developing a growth strategy for your organization.

So, how do you find top players for your team? First, remember that attitude goes a long way. As the CEO of a large Atlanta-based recruitment firm phrased it, “In our experience, it is those with a can-do attitude that get the best results, as they adapt to whatever challenges are thrown at them and are often more resilient in the longer term.” So, when conducting your search for top players, don’t just look for skills and experience, but start by looking for someone with a great attitude.

Below are seven tips to help you find your own top players.

1. Think outside the box

Don’t just look in the same old places for new employees. Consider looking outside of your industry for people with the right attitude and a track record of success. You can always train for skills and product knowledge. This is particularly true in a sales environment where the skills are transferrable from one industry to another. Just make sure that you allow enough time and provide support to help them make the switch. Think of this time as an investment in your most important asset—one with huge return potential.

2. Give personality profiles

Use DISC or another similar personality profiling tool to make sure that you have a good fit for the role you are seeking to fill. Sales positions need higher scores in persuasive skills, administrative positions require a high level of compliance, etc. These profiles can also be used as a coaching tool to help with the development and training of your new hires to ensure that you are maximizing their potential.

3. Pre-screen by phone

Screen potential candidates with a 15- to 20-minute telephone interview. This can save both parties a lot of time and expense before a more formal interview is arranged. Try asking the following questions and listen carefully to the responses.

  • What are your most important career goals?
  • What are you really good at in the workplace?
  • What are you not interested in doing at work?
  • How will your last boss rate you on a scale of 1-10 when we talk to them?

4. Watch body language

Have another person interview with you and if possible, get them to ask the questions so that you can concentrate on listening to the answers. Pay close attention to the body language to ensure congruence with what is being said.

5. Get and check references

Insist on speaking to a former boss as a reference. Sometimes, merely the reference’s tone of voice can alert you to potential problems or highlight positive aspects of a candidate. Written references are usually brief and not overly helpful.

6. Institute a referral program

Put a program in place that rewards existing members of staff if they recommend someone for a position you are trying to fill. Offer a cash bonus to employees if a recommended candidate is hired and another bonus if the candidate is still with the company and performing well six months later. This may also help ensure that the new member of staff has a mentor during the initial six months.

7. Construct a one-page plan

Create a simple one-page plan that highlights the company’s achievements during the past year and the vision for the next three to five years. Top players are motivated as much by clear goals and aspirations as they are by salary and benefits. They want to be part of an organization that has a purpose.

Try some of these tips and see what works best for you. At a time when many businesses are trying to do more work with fewer people, it is more important than ever that your new hires are top players who have great attitudes, are motivated by achievement and are strong in areas where you are weak. These employees make your role as a business owner easier, allowing you to concentrate on setting the future strategy and grow both revenue and profits.