Hiring A-Players

Research and Best Practices

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Hiring A-Players

Looking to build an A-Player Team? Looking to join a team of A-Players? The following is a collection of unedited notes and quotes from research and philosophies on attracting, hiring, and retaining A-Players. The contents below was first shared internally as a resource document in our hiring and recruitment efforts. In the spirit of knowledge-sharing, we believe valuable information should be shared! We expect both employers and job-seekers to derive tremendous value from the curated notes. For those hiring, building an A-Player team is the difference between success and failure. For those looking to be hired, the information below will help you guage if you’re an A-Player, or secummbing to the illusory superiority bias. With that said, let’s start with the most important quesion:

Are you coachable?



Stop Trying to Motivate Your Employees

Kerry Goyette, TED x CosmoPark


Q: What is the correlation between “If I like a person, will they perform well?”

Q: What was the difference between top performers and low performers in their interview ratings, and who do you think got better ratings in their interviews?
A: The LOW performers.

BIAS: We often hire because they are like us. They are our mini-me version.



How To Master Recruiting

Mads Faurholt-Jorgensen, TED x Warwick


The most important thing for any CEO and leader to get good at: RECRUITING
It’s very hard to find any school, university course, or MasterClass on this topic.

Leadership comes down to two things:

  1. Setting the right (the best) team for your organization
  2. Help those people achieve the results that are going to make them successful in that particular role

Mads co-founded 20 companies. His thoughts…

I don’t consider myself as an entrepreneur or a CEO. I consider myself a recruiter. That’s it. My job, and my role, is to find the right people. If I select the right people, my life is really really simple. If I don’t select the right people, my life is very complicated.
Mads Faurholt-Jorgensen

We all know the costs when we get it wrong.

  • US Department of Labour: any particular bad hire is 30%
  • McKinsey: Difference between the average performance and top performance is 67% productivity and bottom-line profits.



  • We try to hire ourselves
  • We try to hire people who can do everything
  • We also like to hire people who are worse than ourselves
  • We make quick decisions
    In a couple of minutes, sometimes seconds, and we use the remaining time to confirm our bias.
  • We hire for single positions instead of hiring for team (fit)

As a CEO or leader, you don’t need to be the smartest person. You don’t need to know more about the subject than the people who work for you. As long as you can find and select the right people.



Three things to hire for:


  1. Will the person be able to do the job?
    Will they be successful and deliver the outcome that you want?
  2. Will the person fit our culture?
    Will they be able to fit into the culture you’ve built?
  3. Will we fit the person’s life?
    Will we be able to fit their lifestyle, family, career?



Three things you need to be good at:


  1. You have to be able to identify the right needs.
    What does the person have to be good at to succeed in this position?
    Needs-identification is where most people go wrong; identifying the right needs for the job.
    Be careful not to try and look for a person that’s good at everything.
  2. You want to have the right questions and the right tools to figure out the data for those needs.
    How do you answer the questions if the person fits those particular needs? For example:
    You want to hire someone that can build strong relationships. What questions should you ask? What tools do you need to assess?
  3. You want to have the right interpretation of the information.
    For example, you assess an answer and determine “does this person have drive or not?” is an interpretation question. Interpreting that correctly becomes very important, and oftentimes where people go wrong.

You are making tradeoffs between different things. For example, you are looking for someone with empathy. However, the person may have a hard time making decisions because they are too empathetic to others.



Three things to look for:

A person consists of three different things:

  1. 🫀 A Heart
    EQ, personality, and talents.
  2. 🧠 A Brain
    IQ, ability to learn and comprehend information and leverage that information.
  3. 🧰 A Toolbox
    Past experiences, education, work experience, etc.


Most companies start with #3:
The candidate’s experience. We start with: The Heart. Who do we look for in a person? We are true believers of: Hire for talent, train for skills  methodology.

The second thing we look at is whether they have the IQ to understand and leverage the information.

The third thing is we look at their resume.

Finally, we look for ways to test the above [three]. You can do interviews, questionnaires, and assessments. What you’re really looking for is, can they do the job? The best thing you can do is take the person, and have them do the job for a couple of days. You’d be surprised that people will come for a day, even a week, to do the job, regardless of how senior they are. That’s the best way for them to get a feel for the company.

Figure out how to test for the things that are important to you.

Most people say, “I hired wrong. Let me go try again.” Very few people say, “What did I interpret wrong? Did I ask the wrong questions? Did I use the wrong tools to get the information?

Keep your notes. Regardless of if you hired right or wrong, go back and look at your notes.



Talent 5.0
Recruitment to a New Level

Stefanie Stanislawski, TED x UniMannheim


My Purpose

  • Help companies internal business and external talent attraction
  • Recruitment process candidate friendly

Quick Facts

  • Only 13% of global employees are truly committed to their jobs.
  • Turn rate reaches up to 25% in certain industries
  • Most [organizations] are reactive vs being proactive and strategic regarding talent needs. This leads to rush decisions, leading to 1/3rd of hirings quitting after six months.




Personality Traits
A lot can be learned from paying attention to how people behave, speak, and write. Examples include:

  • Extroverts use lots of fun related words, like music and party.
  • People with lower emotional intelligence, use negative words like angry and stressed.
  • Narcissists love to talk about themselves, and use a lot of “I, me,” and “myself.”
  • Poor grammar shows a poor academic education.
  • Absence of typos shows perfectionism.
  • Emoticons can be a sign of friendliness if the document is informal, or immaturity if it is formal.
  • Long emails reflect energy.
  • Chaotic emails are a sign of creativity.
  • Instant responses show a sign of impulsivity.
  • No responses show a lack of interest.




Employee Disengagement
Is it possible to predict when someone’s becoming detached?
If so, how would it impact a company’s retention and recruitment strategy?
How can we help the employee?

Based on emails and chats, looking for keywords and trends based on past behaviour.

Authority challenge = Willingness to challenge authority. Conscientiousness = Linked to success. (Most) Important factor when it comes to employee retention.

Authority challenge: Willingness to challenge authority.
Conscientiousness: Linked to success. (Most) Important factor when it comes to employee retention.



The (uncomfortable) truth of HR and leadership development

Patrick Vermeren, TED x KMA


The truth will set you free.
But first, it will piss you off.
Ancient Wisdom

Bogus Models

A handful of bogus HR models

Model Description
Transactional Analysis We make our life script in our first three years of our lives.
Spiral Dynamics An alternative explanation for human evolution.
Top-down Performance Goals
GROW Model Based on John Whitmore’s GROW model.
Maslow’s Pyrramind of Needs
Communication Rule By Albert Mehrabian.
Situational Leadership By Ken Blanchard.
Grief Model Training based on the stages of grief (denial, anger, etc).
Myers-Briggs (MBTI) Myers-Briggs type indicator, or MBTI (based on the paranormal)
US National Research Council has calculated that if people take the test a second time after only four weeks, then the median of people having an entirely different personality type is a staggering 60%.
(sixteen types of personalities)
LIFO Another ‘population distribution’ theory, looking ‘dichotomous’ (six types of personalities).
Insights Discovery Based on the paranormal — in a parallel universe information is stored, through pre-existing psychological archetypes, we can get access to insights through a paranormal process.
Brain Dominance Instrument By Herrmann, four distinct thinking styles.
Enneagram Goes back several thousand years, made by a Sufi sect. We are three-brained beings, on Earth to serve the Moon.
(nine types of personalities)
Belbin Team Roles
Forced-Choice Questionnaires They often lead to entirely opposite selection advice, compared to normative tests.
Learning Styles People have four distinct learning styles. Some are more visual, others are more auditory, others are more kinesthetic. However, like all other primates, our visual sense is the most dominant in literally everyone, as extensive research has demonstrated.
Alpha Training You can be more creative by ‘pluggin into the universe’.
Equicoaching You can be better with people by getting feedback from a horse.
70:20:10 Model By Charles Jennings (Australian engineer).
Forced Rankings
Rank and Yank Fire the bottom 10%, yearly – by Jack Welch (Former CEO of GE.
Rank Order Tournament Theory Result: Less information sharing, more fraud, lowered group performance, the best people leaving first, and people perceiving the payment policy as highly unfair.
Organizational Constellations People in a room, and through a kind of paranormal or quantum process, they solve their problems.


Scoring People
In 1996, Kuger and DeNisi had conducted a meta-analysis demonstrating that giving people a score has a zero effect on performance. Only in the last decade, has some organizations started to abdond this practice.

Garbage in, garbage out.
Ancient Wisdom


Good Models

A handful of good HR models
It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that there exists good HR tools and frameworks.

Model Description
ProMES Productivity Measurement and Enhancement System, a meta-analysis that has demonstrated increasing productivity whilst people keeping their autonomy.
Team Goals
Learning Goals
Prosocial Goals
Fairness — Salary
Fairness —Voice Behaviour
Avoid Social Comparison
Recruitment & Selection tests
NEO-PI-R / Ocean Five-factor model (Personalty Dimensions).
Hexaco Six-factor model (Personalty Dimensions).
Situational Judgement Test
Work Samples Thoroughly review the candidate’s existing portfolio. Ask: Does the candidate’s work align with the type of work that will be required?

The best option we really have is science and reason.
Science is the only method we have invented to overcome our biases and thinking errors. It has allowed us to abandon practices like magic healing or witch burning, and it has given us many benefits like purified drinking water and lately, the internet.

We don’t have to be scientists ourselves but we can enjoy science.

  • Would you accept having surgery by a surgeon who never updates her skills?
  • Would you accept taking a drug that doesn’t help, but has a lot of side effects?
  • Would you accept it if an engineer lies about his degree as an engineer and builds an unstable bridge?
  • Would you dare to fly with somebody who has never been trained as a pilot and fly on this plane?

I think the answer is clear: no.

The damage of using pseudoscience:
If you don’t accept a flawed blood test, you should not accept a flawed personality test, and if you don’t accept bogus cancer therapy, you should not accept bogus coaching. If we don’t accept bad practices and lies in other fields of our lives, we should not accept them in HR.


Psychology is based on biology
We have good explanations like psychology based on biology:
Competition AND collaboration, Derogation of Competitors, Interpersonal Circumplex, In-Group >< Out-Group, Need For Autonomy, Male Risk-Taking, Peer Pressure, Free Riding, Fairness, and many more.



Why The Best Hire Might Not Have the Perfect Resume

Regina Hartley, TED


Two very distinct types of candidates.

The Silver Spoon
A person who clearly had advantages and was destined for success.
The Scrapper
A person who had to fight against tremendous odds to get to the same point.
A resume tells a story.
A series of odd jobs may indicate inconsistency, lack of focus, or unpredictability… or it may signal a committed struggle against obstacles. At the very least, the scrapper deserves an interview.

If your whole life has been engineered towards success, how will you handle the tough times?
Regina Hartley

Post Traumatic Growth
Conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress. And there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction. But during studies of dysfunction, data revealed an unexpected insight: That even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation.

Example resume:

  • Parents give him up for adoption
  • Doesn’t finish college
  • Job-hops quite a bit
  • Goes on a sojourn to India for a year
  • And to top it off, he has dyslexia

Would you hire this guy?
His name is Steve Jobs.


Successful people who have had trauma:
“They don’t think they are who they are in spite of adversity,
they know they are who they are because of adversity.”

Scrappers are propelled by the belief that the only person you have full control over is yourself.

When things don’t turn out well, Scrappers ask, “What can I do differently to create a better result?”



The Best Recruiter at Google

Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President, Talent Connect San Francisco 2014


Google created: A self-replicating Talent Machine

+3M applications per year, hire about 700. = 1/428 people who apply get a job.

How do you find, and how do you filter candidates?
How do you get an A-Player to take the risk of moving to a new company?

Set an incredibly high bar for talent and quality, and never, ever, ever, compromise.

Everyone in the company was focused on recruiting. Our top executives would spend one full day a week or more interviewing, assessing candidates, sourcing candidates, and recruiting candidates.
Laszlo Bock

How do you assess people?
Assess candidates objectively. Science FTW.

Fascinating research shows, even with the best of intentions, our brains conspire to cause us to make bad hiring decisions.


Unconscious Bias

  • Recordings of 20-30 minute interviews, by trained interviewers.
  • Turned off the sound and showed the interviews to ‘naive observers’.
  • Can you predict whether or not the person got hired?
  • They showed 30-min interviews, then 20, then less and less.
  • How long does a ‘naive observer’ need to be able to make the same assessment as a trained professional?

10 seconds
It takes about 10 seconds for an untrained person to watch an interview, and predict with high accuracy if the trained interviewer will make a hire. What does this information tell us?

  • We make decisions in ‘thin slices’ of information (in the first 10 seconds)
  • We spend the rest of the interview [candidate journey] trying to confirm or deny that hypothesis

Hiring Managers were not allowed to make the hire.

Conclusion: Interviews are not really reliable.
Very few companies look at the initial interview assessment and then go back to track what happens to performance over time, and do the interviews actually predict performance?

The Good News
Fortunately, there’s been over a hundred years of research on selection.

How do you solve the problem of bias in the interview process?
Have very clear criteria upfront.
This is not the garbage that goes in the job description.



Google’s Criteria

Four Criteria of a Google Interview

  1. General Cognitive Ability
    Not test scores, GPAs, or brain teasers
    The science shows, the #1 predictor of job performance is a job test.
    Alternatively: How well can somebody solve problems? How curious are they? How fast are they in picking new things up?
  2. Leadership
    We’re looking for ‘emergent leadership’
    We want somebody, who when they see a problem, and is part of a team…
    They step in. They help solve that problem. Just as importantly, once the problem is resolved, they step back out. They are willing to relinquish power.
  3. Googleyness
    Are you comfortable with ambiguity? We have a very ambiguous environment, doing lots of crazy things.
    Do you have intellectual humility? You’re able to say you were wrong, when presented with new data.
    Can you bring something new and different to our organization?
  4. Role-related Knowledge
    Do you have the skills and knowledge to do the job we’re hiring you for?

If you have the first three attributes, you’ll figure out the rest. You’re likely to come up with a new solution, that nobody else has seen.

Structured Interviews

Consistent and similar questions.


Hypothetical questions.
Describe a prior achievement. “Give me an example of an incredibly difficult problem you’ve solved.”



Five Key Things To Consider When Looking For The Right People

Jim Collins, JimCollins.com


Five basic elements, five basic criteria for being a right person on the bus.

  1. The person must share the core values.
  2. A right person on the bus is not somebody whom you need to manage.
  3. In key positions, do they have exceptional capability, defined as the following…
  4. The individual understands the difference between having a job and holding a responsibility.
  5. if it were a hiring decision all over again, given everything that you know, having worked with this person, would you [enthusiastically] still hire them?



1. Share Core Values

I’ve had people come to my laboratory and say, “Jim, how do we get people to share our core values?” My answer is always the same. “You don’t. You can’t.”

“If somebody doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong by the time they’re thirty, they probably never will.”
Harry Truman

The whole task is to find people who are already predisposed to your core values.

Those who do not have a predisposition to sharing the core values get ejected like a virus, escorted right out the door by the organizational antibodies.


2. Doesn’t Need To Be Managed

The moment you feel the need to manage somebody, or tightly manage them, you’ve probably made a hiring mistake.
Two types of people.

  1. You guide and you teach and you lead and you provide them knowledge and understanding, and you help them become better in their role. You don’t spend a lot of time compensating for the person.
  2. You spend a lot of time compensating for the person, wasting time managing the person into the right behaviours, takes a lot of energy and is draining to you and the system.



3. Exceptional Capability

In the seat that they hold, could they potentially be one of the best in the industry, or one of the best in the field in which your organization operates, in that particular seat?


4. Responsibilities > Having a Job

“Let me put it to you this way. If you were an air-traffic controller and you did a good job, you did all the right things, but the planes still crashed, would it matter?”

The truth is, you have a responsibility that goes far beyond just having a job: the responsibility to worry three steps ahead. The ability to get that distinction is one of the crucial dimensions of the right people on the bus.


5. Would you re-hire this person enthusiastically?

Ask yourself the following litmus test question: if it were a hiring decision all over again, given everything that you know, having worked with this person, would you still hire them?

Lastly, regarding the right people on the bus—you must be fair.

Ask yourself the following question: if you’re wondering about somebody, do you have a bus problem or do you have a seat problem?

It could be that you have a wonderful person on the bus, but you’ve made a managerial mistake and put that person in the wrong seat.

Question 1 should always be: Do I have the right person in the right seat, or perhaps do I have the right person, just in the wrong seat? When in doubt, be fair.

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