The Ultimate Guide to Hiring an A-Player

You’ve sifted through resumes because you want to make sure you’re hiring an A-player!  You’ve shaken the bushes to find every possible candidate.

But how do you know if this person will perform as advertised?  How do you really know if they are an A- player?

Here’s your ultimate guide to spotting them every time

  1. An A-player lives in the top 20% of the wage band
  2. An A player shares your core values
  3. An A player has a proven track record of better than average performance
  4. An A player has the right personality type for the role

An A-player lives in the top 20% of the wage band

Let’s be clear.  When you’re looking for an A-player, it doesn’t mean you want to find someone who could be the CEO one day, or who could even sit on the senior leadership team.

It just means that you’re looking for the best person available for what the role pays.

Let’s say you have 100 possible candidates for a facilities maintenance person role.

Of those 100 people, 10 are total duds.  They’re fired from past roles.  They actively cause problems.  If you hire them, you make a terrible mistake that you’ll have to fix down the road by firing them.

Now let’s examine the remaining 90.  Remember that your goal is hiring an A-player.  70 more of the candidates are somewhere between okay and not too bad.  You don’t necessarily make a terrible mistake by hiring one of these, but you’re not picking a winner either.

These 70 are run of the mill employees you see every day occupying roles everywhere.

However, there are 20 candidates left.  These are the A-players you are wanting to hire!  They perform at the top 20% of the wage band.

They’re enthusiastic and motivated and cheerful and a dream to work with.  That’s who you’re trying to find when hiring an A-player.  Simply the best person you can get for the money.

Ironically all 100 candidates cost the same.  The best don’t even charge a premium for their services.  So, take the time to do your vetting and hire the top 20% only.

The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on How to Hire Good Employees and offers a free preview.

An A player shares your core values

When a person doesn’t work out in a role, it’s almost always due to a ‘fit’ issue rather than a competence issue.

Using the example above, you can train people to manage facilities, but it’s very tough to train them to be cheerful and on it and motivated.

That’s why you determine what your core values – your key rules of behavior are – before you hire.  That way you know what you’re looking for.  If you haven’t yet discovered your core values, you can read more about that here:

How to Discover the Core Values of Your Organization

An A player has a proven track record of better than average performance

This is huge when hiring an A-player.  This is what defines them.  They are better than the average bear.  Again, it doesn’t mean they’re promotable.  It just means that out of 100 people, they’re in the top 20%.

Imagine this example.  You are a big box retailer, and you’re hiring an entry-level person.  You are looking for a greeter; someone who can dry rain off the shopping carts and give every customer a big smile.

You want to find someone who has shown better than average performance in that role in the past.  They don’t need to be able to run a cash register, much less be the store manager one day.  They just need to be great at the role.

You’re looking for someone who is unusually cheerful and can show up on time and stick to the job.  When you find that person, you know you’re hiring an A-player.

An A player has the right personality type for the role

This is big too of course.  If you haven’t yet explored DISC for personalities, you can do that for free here.

If you’re looking for a people person, you’re looking for an I or an S.  If you’re looking for a task person, you want a D or a C.  If you need someone who’s great at detail, hire a C.  If you want someone who can take conflict head on and is decisive and goal focused, find a D.  And so on.

Educate yourself about personality types if you haven’t already done so.  It will save you a lot of severance pay!

In summary:

Hiring an A-player is pretty key to the success of your organization.  In fact, finding and retaining the best people for your team is the most important business skill you can acquire.

Here is what defines an A-player:

  1. An A-player lives in the top 20% of the wage band
  2. An A player shares your core values
  3. An A player has a proven track record of better than average performance
  4. An A player has the right personality type for the role

Man in Library

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:


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