Just last month Google’s senior vice president of people operations Laszlo Bock admitted to the New York Times that methods the company had long used to suss out which candidates were destined to be high achievers were totally worthless. High GPAs? Nope, they have no correlation with success. Skill with brain teasers? Completely useless for predicting performance.
If even the likes of Google struggles with it, spotting a high achiever before you actually hire her is obviously incredibly difficult. Google has switched to behavioral interviewing, i.e. "Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem," but recruiting expert and author Lou Adler recently offered another suggestion in a post on LinkedIn.
He calls it performance-based hiring and the process entails "using the first 20-30 minutes of the interview to look for the Achiever Pattern." What’s that? It has nothing to do with credentials. Instead, the hiring manager leans heavily on a candidates’ previous colleagues, letting them do the heavy lifting to sort the gold from the sand. "It all has to do with how others have recognized the candidate’s on-the-job performance," writes Adler.
So how can you tell if the person in front of you was previously marked out by others as a hot shot. Adler offers a dozen tells, including:
They’re put on important multifunctional teams. Managers assign their strongest staff members to critical team projects. Look for a consistent pattern, including teams growing in size, importance and impact over time.
The reason they change jobs is long-term career focused. For each job change, ask the person how they got their new job, why they changed jobs, and if these objectives were met. Changing and accepting jobs is one of the most important decisions a person can make. Make sure you hire people who have made them wisely.
They’ve established and achieved major goals. Rather than asking about a person's goals, ask first about the biggest goal they’ve already achieved. Then ask how they’re going about achieving their next one.
They’ve been rehired by a former manager. Top managers tend to rehire their best subordinates from previous companies.
They rehire their former subordinates. Ask more seasoned managers if they’ve ever hired someone they’ve worked with in the past. Top people follow other top people.
What tells do you use to spot a high achiever?