Recruit more superstars by finding out what makes your best people tick


When you need to recruit, it’s always handy to have a benchmark against which you can compare candidates.

While you can, and should, create job and skills profiles to help guide your decision making, you already have (literally) living examples of what you’re looking for: your current best performers.

Here’s a short guide to creating benchmark recruitment profiles based on your existing people. Using these profiles gives you the best chance possible of recruiting more people like them.

You can even use these techniques when setting up a new function or recruiting for a new role.


Your best performers aren’t necessarily those with the best numbers

For each role you will hopefully already have a series of KPIs that you track for the team, and for individuals. Those individuals who track best for productivity and performance-based KPIs such as contacts per hour, sales per hour, conversion rates, CSAT scores, and so on, should be included in the long list of people you would like to clone.

There could also be people who are not among the best performers but should be included due to their attitude, leadership skills, personality, or potential. It’s more difficult to qualify of course but often a mid-level performer who is keen to learn, a team player, and easy to manage can bring more to a team than a maverick who gets results but is disruptive.

Don’t forget, what you’re looking for are traits and results that can reproduced. That maverick might hit great numbers but it’s doubtful that what they do can be systemised and trained to others.

At this stage with a client we will often spend a day or so listening in to team calls to pick up on those individuals with the right ‘soft’ skills, approach, and attitude for the job. These people should be included because while most companies do want tangible commercial results, modelling your sales team after ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is usually detrimental to business in the long run.

If you are recruiting for a new function, then there will already be people in other roles that could do the job well if only you could spare them – starting with the person who is going to manage the new team, as if they couldn’t do the job themselves they’ve no business running the operation.


Find what your best performers have in common

Now that we have a shortlist of people we’d like to clone let’s find out what makes them tick so we can find more people with those traits.

While a lot of this can be identified from just observing and listening in to find out how they work, we always find it tremendously useful to interview them and their line managers.

This doesn’t have to be a formal, sit-down interview. In fact, we often find that people are more likely to open up if we ask them to fill in an anonymous questionnaire.

At the end of this process we have hopefully identified some of the following about your best performers:

  • What do they love about the company?
  • What do they love about their role?
  • What do they think could be improved?
  • What do they think is the most important trait for doing their job well?
  • What is the most important skill or trait they had before joining the company that helps them in their current role?
  • Which skills or trait that they have developed since joining the company has been the most helpful?

If answers are solicited anonymously and the feedback given is honest this is also very useful information for operational managers.


Keep the boss in mind

Line managers can make or break a team, so recruit with their management style in mind

There is not really any such thing as a bad manager. There are, however, managers that are just not a good fit for the team they are running. A loud, intimidating manager is not going to get the best out of a team of studious wallflowers, for example. And the reverse also applies.

It is therefore important to understand the personality, management style, and priorities of the management team. It’s usually enough to consider the team leaders, immediate line manager of the team, and that person’s boss as well. Tone is often set at the top and enforced by those reporting to that person, even if they do it unconsciously.

Again, we can get a lot just by observing, however we also recommend asking the clone candidates questions about their managers, as well as interviewing the managers themselves.

The objective here is to ensure we’re recruiting people with the right temperament and personality to work with the existing managers – not some imaginary, idealised managers who can adapt their style to all types of people. Such managers are exceedingly rare, if not a myth.


Now you can create a profile for your ideal candidates

With all the information gathered during the above process you should now have a template which will be an amalgam of the skills and traits of your best existing staff. This is the recipe we will use to find our clones.

As we can’t ask people to do the job until we hire them, it needs to be possible to identify these traits in candidates during the screening, phone interview, and group interview processes. The evidence we will have to go on includes their CV, their performance in interviews, during roleplays, on psychometric tests, and in group activities, as well as their references.

It is not possible to say whether an individual will be able to make 20 sales a day, like your best current performer. On the other hand it is possible to identify, methodically and with a certain degree of confidence, whether a candidate is diligent, reliable, charming, persuasive, relatable, capable of learning, and so on.

Armed with these profiles you can go into the recruitment process with the confidence that you at least know what you’re looking for.