Finding and Hiring the “A Players” for Your Team


No matter how much the workplace changes in the future, the No. 1 challenge for companies will remain the same:  How to find and hire the best employees - the so-called “A Players” who can truly make a difference.  With the pace of change in business accelerating so rapidly due to technology and innovation, companies need employees who can quickly adapt to these changes and show resilience when changes cause setbacks.  But how many companies have changed how they find and hire employees, and are truly successful in finding and hiring the A Players?

I recently learned of a company which ten years ago had radically changed their hiring process, and has achieved dramatic success with hiring great employees.  Their “bible” for the change?  A book by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, Who - The A Method For Hiring.  Intrigued, I read the book, which promotes a structured approach to finding the right people and putting them in the right job.

The first step in the process is to recognize you need the structure.  Otherwise smart people struggle when it comes to hiring.  So they fall back on what the authors call “voodoo” hiring methods, which are implemented in wildly different ways by hiring managers, and just don’t work to accurately assess a candidate.  How many times have you sat through a 30-minute interview, and realized you had only a superficial feel for the person you were interviewing?  From the candidate’s perspective, how many times is he or she asked the same questions, and delivered the same rote answers?  There has to be a better way, and this book lays it out.

The structured process starts with the Scorecard, which asked the hiring manager to describe exactly what the manager wants the person to accomplish.  But the Scorecard is not a standard job description.  Instead, it sets forth a set of outcomes and competencies for a job well done.  To do it right requires a lot of thought, but it gives the hiring team, and the candidate, a clear picture of what the successful employee needs to be able to accomplish.

The next step in the process is sourcing.  The best people usually are not actively looking, so companies need a systematic way to source high-quality candidates before the company has jobs to fill.  The best method for finding great candidates is to ask for referrals from your personal and professional networks.  While it can be time consuming, companies find that is the single most effective way to find the A Players.  To do it effectively requires process and discipline.  One CEO cited in the book makes it a standard practice to ask new people he meets “Who are the most talented people you know that I should hire?”  Then he follows up by calling these names and staying in touch with the best candidates.  In addition, it is much easier to reach out to your network through LinkedIn and other social networks for referrals to talented employees they know.

The most intriguing part of the book was the interview process.  Research by the authors shows that traditional interviews simply don’t predict the future job performance of a candidate.  In response, the authors lay out a series of four interviews that build on each other through each step in the process, and provide the facts and data needed to accurately assess a candidate’s performance track record over their career.  Starting with the screening interview, and progressing to the “Who Interview” and then the “Focused Interview”, each step is designed to gather the right information about the candidate, without duplication, and allow that data to be assessed against the initial Scorecard that was developed for the job.  At that point, you will know the candidates well, and can assess whether you have identified the right person for the job.  But the job isn’t over.  The final step is the reference interview to actually call each reference and solicit meaningful information about the candidate.  With that set of facts and data, you greatly improve the odds of finding an A Player, and avoiding mistakes.

The workplace of the future is coming soon.  Successful companies which have thrived in changing and turbulent times know that finding and selecting the right talent makes a huge difference.  As the ratio of human workers to automated and AI resources shifts at an alarming pace, companies will need A Players who can adapt to those challenges. Who: The A Method For Hiring provides a set of tools that employers of all sizes and in all industries can use to recruit and retain the most talented people.


Cassie Peterson