How To Identify Top Performers Before The Hire


Everyone’s interview process is a bit different. Whether you conduct three rounds or just one, the purpose of every interview is to determine if a candidate is a good fit for your company. This can include their fit with the team or an overall company culture fit, but the goal is always to uncover how a candidate will perform once they are in the role.

While an extensive interview process can shrink this level of uncertainty, this can often be time consuming and may result in a lower retention rate as prospective candidates pursue other options. If you are looking to identify top performers but don’t have the staff or the time for multiple comprehensive interviews, check out our tips below. Identifying the top performers before the hire can be as easy as adjusting your interview questions to determine a candidate’s projected performance. 

Step #1: Update Your Interview Questions

The right questions are essential in holding a successful interview. However, often times these questions are either from a standardized template or may be the result of a quick Google search based on similar roles at other companies. As a result, these questions tend to provide specific information, but do not always give insight on long-term candidate performance  or how well they will fit into your team.

A simple way to start getting more relevant information from candidates is to create a set of interview questions that align with the company culture. If your company has core values, this is a great place to start. As an example, here at Zimmer, one of our core values is ownership. In interviews, we tailor questions to determine how much a candidate can take ownership of both their successes and their failures. This also helps us determine how a prospective hire will treat those same scenarios if they join our team.

Step #2: Identify Your Current Top Performers

The best way to find out if you are hiring your next high achiever is to assess your current team. Identify who always hits their goals or completes tasks effectively and efficiently and look for any common trends between employees. This gives you a benchmark for assessing candidates while also determining certain traits that you may not be able to find in interview questions.

You can also take this a step further by involving your current top performers in the interview process. If you are hiring for a consultative role, having a promising candidate come in for a shadow day is a great way to get them comfortable in the role. This also presents a fresh perspective from a current team member who may eventually be working alongside a prospective hire. If a shadow day doesn’t feel like the right fit, you can also ask a top performer to sit in on the interview. If you are particularly impressed with a candidate, a casual tour of the office is a great way of gauging how they introduce themselves and interact with different members of your team.

Step #3: Hire Based on Attitude

When conducting interviews, we can often identify the red flags more easily than we can identify the positive attributes of a top performer. Having current top performers as a reference point can give a measure of a candidate’s projected performance, but what about the teachable candidates who may be a great culture fit? These candidates may be looking at a steep learning curve when they join the team, but in this case the right attitude to succeed can be more powerful than a strong skill set on someone with the wrong attitude.

In order to measure attitude, we suggest keeping a list of attitudes of success and a list of attitudes of failure when assessing candidates. Whereas your top performers may not always have the same positive indicators, negative indicators of low performers tend to be consistent. By measuring candidates against both metrics, you can better determine what kind of performer they could be if they join your team. This also alleviates the uncertainty that comes with the standard interview process: prospective hires tend to present their best selves during an interview, but cannot easily predict what your key indicators may be for a successful hire. By emphasizing how a candidate answers your questions rather than strictly focusing on the content of their answers, you can better determine how their attitude will translate into their performance in a given role.

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