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Business Oracle

How to recruit ‘A Players’ without the risk

The most important investment a company can make is in its staff. With this in mind, Nick Devine, The Print Coach, presents the first points of a five-system that will ensure you recruit the best person for the job

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If you are in any kind of a leadership position, success on the job is 100 percent determined by the quality of the people you hire, lead, and manage.

All of your successes will be produced by the people in your team. And all of your problems will be as a consequence of people in your team.

Research from the Gallup organisation revealed that the most pressing problem facing 59 percent of managers was finding and training enough good people to fill current and future requirements. It is obvious when you think about it. The number-one skill required to achieve your business goals is your ability to build a team of talented individuals around you.

The number-one skill required to achieve your business goals is your ability to build a team of talented individuals around you

So, it is shocking to learn from such research that some 75 percent of recruits are ‘mis-hires’.  And 75 percent of internal promotions do not work out. That statistic means only one quarter of the people working in most companies are what we term ‘A Players’. The rest are either ‘B’ or ‘C’ players.

If that statistic applied to the equipment on your production floor, you would be up in arms with your suppliers. Yet frustrating as it is, we seem to accept the same statistics as part of doing business when they apply to our team. 

Recruitment systems

The reason for the failure is very obvious; the recruiting systems used by most companies do not work. Just because everybody else recruits the same way, no longer means it is the right way. 
The research into the performance of sales people is even more startling. The top three percent of salespeople produce up to 250 percent more than the average. The top 20 percent produce up to 120 percent more.

An ‘A Player’ is somebody who is still working with you after twelve months and who is in the top ten percent of their peer group



If you going to recruit a sales person, does it not make sense to find somebody who is in the top three to 20 percent group. An Inc. Magazine survey showed that the job category with the most terminations is sales.

Research by Brad Smart revealed that approximately 50 percent of all recruits are no longer with the hiring company after twelve months. That is incredibly expensive when you think about it. 

The purpose of this two-part article is to reveal a proven five-step process for recruiting more ‘A Players’ onto your team. An ‘A Player’ is somebody who is still working with you after twelve months and there is a 90 percent probability they are in the top ten percent of their peer group, for the money you are willing to spend. 

The five-step process

It is very simple to understand, but far from easy to implement. It requires commitment and preparation, but it will more than double your odds of hiring the right people who succeed for your company. Here is a summary of the five steps.

1) Focus: define the key results the person needs to produce and the supporting skills that are required to produce those results

2) Find: source a high-volume of great quality candidates using some not so obvious strategies

3) Filter: use a multi-layered, objective interviewing process to filter out non-appropriate candidates

4) Finish: make the right job offer to the right candidate and get them started the right way

5) Finalise: raise the talent bar in your organization so the top people work for you

Step one

Focus: create a performance scorecard

This describes the results you need produced in the role you are about to fill. And it describes both the hard and soft skills the candidate needs to demonstrate in order to produce those results.
If you want to hire a superior person, you first have to define what superior performance looks like. Performance is about results. It is the person’s ability to execute and produce the results you are hiring them to produce.

Scorecards help you to hire specialists and not generalists, by telling you about the specificity of the role and describing the outcomes the person needs to produce.

It is important to develop an effective sourcing strategy, so that everybody you invite to interview is a high quality candidate




Typical job descriptions focus on activities. We are far more interested in results than we are in activities. And we are particularly interested in results we can measure. Describe in crystal clear, measurable language, the results the candidate needs to produce, such as:

a) Sell X amount of revenue, grow existing accounts by Y amount.
b) Win three new business accounts who spend an average of £200,000 a year with us.
c) Sell four web-to-print systems.

Additionally, list the critical skills a person needs to have and then translate them into tasks and activities that need to be done. For example:

a) Gain access to decision makers, such as marketing directors at our target list of ideal clients. 
b) Protect our profit margin when negotiating agreements and maintain it at 36 percent above.

Step two

Find: source more high quality candidates.

As Robert Half rightly says: “It’s easy to make good decisions when there are no bad options.”
If you are selling, your first step would be to identify your ideal client. Your next step would be to develop your value proposition or ‘difference maker’. Your third step would be to identify how you would find your ideal client, through sourcing and lead generation.

When recruiting, you go through the exact same process. This means you have to identify how you are going to develop a steady flow of good quality candidates. 

Just because everybody else recruits the same way, no longer means it is the right way

In your sourcing strategy, you need a way to deal with active and passive candidates. Most of your market will be made up of passive candidates, who are not actively looking.  Active candidates are on the search and will respond to ads and recruiters. 

According to research from LinkedIn, 83 percent of potential candidates for your job are not actively looking. If you do not have a strategy to source those candidates, you are missing out on over 80 percent of your potential marketplace.

Here’s a summary of some key sourcing strategies you can use.

1) Write great job ads: Regardless of the sourcing strategy you use, you will still need a fantastic advertisement. The vast majority of job ads are mindlessly boring and get lost in a sea of mediocrity. Each is identical to the other.  Here are a few quick tips for writing great job ads:

a) Great headline, for example: ‘sales superstar required’.

b) Use ‘you’ language for example: ‘you are a talented new business specialist looking to get paid what you are really worth’.

Referral networks: Let everybody in your network know that you are looking for a superstar to join your team. Send them an e-mail with a link to your job posting and do the same thing via LinkedIn. It is very likely that somebody in that network knows the ‘A Player’ you need to recruit.

Subcategories of your network might include;

a) Current customers
b) Current staff
c) Suppliers
d) Sales trainers and sales consultants
e) Networking groups
f) LinkedIn and other social media

3) Researcher: You can pay a researcher to call up target companies where your potential candidate is currently working. They can collect a targeted list of potential candidates for you to contact. This is often equally as effective as paying a recruitment agency and a lot less expensive.

4) Social media: There are a number of social media sites that offer specialist recruitment tools; you usually pay a little extra for the capability, but they are very good value. Companies include LinkedIn.com, Zoom.com, eladders.com and big job boards like monster.com. The quality of your job ad is critical when using these tools.


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