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How to Accurately Predict the Quality of Your Hires

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“And if you don’t know where you’re going; Any road will take you there.” – George Harrison–Any Road

Think about the best people you’ve ever worked with or hired. What do they do differently than their peers? You’ll probably come up with a list that includes:

Top 10 Traits of Top Performers Who are Not Necessarily Managers

  1. They get more done in the same amount of time.
  2. The quality of their work is better.
  3. They exceed expectations.
  4. They volunteer for projects that no one else wants.
  5. They collaborate with teams, and lead them, more effectively.
  6. They can be counted on to deliver the results required consistently, on-time and on-budget.
  7. They don’t make excuses; they just get it done somehow.
  8. They proactively coach their peers.
  9. They are flexible and can deal with change, including their hiring manager’s style.
  10. They are self-motivated to do what needs to get done without a lot of direction.

The not-so-surprising aspect of this is that everything described here is in comparison to some set of expectations. That’s the only way a person could either meet or exceed them.

What’s not included is a list of generic competencies, depth of skills, level of experience or behaviors. Quality of hire is measured in comparison to a set of performance objectives. By establishing the performance objectives and expectations before a person is hired, it’s easy to predict if the person will be successful with just a few questions.

The graphic summarizes the factors that collectively predict quality of hire before the hiring decision is made. Here’s a quick summary of the process:

  1. Define the work as a series of 5-6 performance objectives. The other day I was talking with a senior director of a software development team. I asked him what kinds of projects the new hires would be working on and what the best people do differently doing the same work. Within 10 minutes he had the performance objectives figured out.
  2. Ask candidates to describe their most comparable accomplishment for each of the performance objectives. It takes 12-15 minutes to fully understand each of the person’s related accomplishments and the underlying environment. Ask these fact-finding questions to fully understand this.
  3. Plot the trend of growth of the performance objectives over time. It’s a great positive sign if the person is taking on bigger and more important projects and interfacing with more senior people in more functions. Be concerned if you don’t see this trend.
  4. Ask the person the Anchor and Visualize leadership question. Get into a back-and-forth dialogue with the candidate regarding a major problem the person will face on the job. Assess the quality of his/her problem-solving approach, not the answer. Then ask the person to describe something he/she has accomplished that’s most similar.
  5. Determine if the candidate can work with the hiring manager. The hiring manager’s style has a huge impact on a new hire’s performance. Some managers are delegators, others are micro managers, some don’t care and others care too much. Getting the managerial fit part right is only important when it doesn’t, so make sure it does.
  6. Look for the Achiever Pattern. Find some evidence the person has beenrecognized for performing exceptionally in the areas where the person needs to do exceptional work. For example, the best people in most functions get assigned stretch projects within 6-12 months after starting a new position. For sales people it’s making quota year after year.

When these factors all signal a go, you’re about halfway there. The other half is determining if the job represents a significant enough career move for the candidate and, if so, getting the candidate to accept your offer.


In order for a job change to be considered a true career move it needs to provide a 30% non-monetary increase. This is the sum of job stretch (a bigger and more impactful job), the potential for faster job growth and an increase in job satisfaction, largely due to work the candidate finds more intrinsically motivating. This needs to be combined with a fair and equitable compensation package. Ignoring the candidate’s long-term needs and overemphasizing the compensation package is the primary reason good people underperform. This is the primary reason why predicting quality of hire in the past has been difficult.

Back to the Present: Predicting Quality of Hire before the Hire

Accurately predicting quality of hire requires three conditions. First, the job must be clearly defined as a series of performance objectives. Second, the person must have done comparable and exceptional work in comparable environments. Third, the job needs to represent a 30% non-monetary increase for the candidate. This is also called three-part harmony. You’ll call it a great hire.