Hiring an “A-Player” : The Most Expensive Lesson a Small Business will Learn

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Hiring good people is hard and hiring great people is even harder. In small business, nothing matters more than getting the right person on the team. All of the advanced strategies in the world are nowhere near as important as hiring “A-players”. Larger businesses can sometimes afford “B-players”, but small business cannot afford to have anything less than the best.

As the owner of a staffing firm, I tell our team it is our mission to assist companies in hiring “A-players”. Over the years I have identified five key areas that help in identifying “A-players”. Remember, hiring mistakes will happen, but these will help reduce the margin of error in the future.

When looking for an “A-player”, I recommend rating the candidates after an interview within the following areas with a one to five rating system:

Honest & Integrity: When interviewing, pay attention to if the candidate admits mistakes or talks with a sense of candor, discretion and humbleness.

Maturity: Ask questions that give the candidate an opportunity to discuss how they handle stress and have managed struggles in the past. They should show a healthy approach to conflict, difficult periods and also successes. Checking with references will either help support or repudiate maturity on the job.

Influence: “A-players” have the ability to influence others, either negatively or positively. Be aware of their power to influence during the interview, paying close attention to the energy they have during the conversation. A candidate may dominate the conversation, or they may be calm and sell themselves as a great hire. The intuition of a hiring manager will prove invaluable in this area.

Ambition: The candidate should show an attitude of getting the job done without hesitation. No apprehension, driven by action and generally optimistic are the characteristics of an “A-player”. The candidate should display a desire to learn and help others around them thrive.

Previous Work History (MOST IMPORTANT): Ask questions about why the candidate left past positions and be attentive to the answers. A great deal can be learned about job preferences for management styles, responsibilities and daily work flow. The reality is most people don’t know what they want, and it is our job as hiring managers to assist them in finding the best fit.
According to my experience, it can take up to five hires to find one “A-player”. Don’t be afraid to terminate a bad fit quickly. It is best to end this relationship early and let the candidate find a better fit for them to succeed.

Finding “A-players” is a process that takes time and often a bit of luck. However, when the right fit is found the business will begin to flourish and the team will benefit. Be selective and intentional and do not settle for just an average employee. “A-players” should be the standard in every business, whether large or small, not the exception. With a team of “A-players” a company can surpass goals, achieve more, and triumph over competition.