How to recognize top talent

Every employer wants top talent, right? Top talent gets stuff done and without a lot of fanfare. Top talent is creative, flexible, and reliant. Top talent consistently delights. Who wouldn’t want that?

Now here’s another question. Would you (or your representative) be able to identify top talent during a job interview?

A 2012 survey by Leadership IQ, a research and management consulting firm, found that nearly 46 percent of all new hires fail within the first 18 months of accepting the new job. Forty-six percent.

What happened?

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According to the survey, once on the job, these new hires demonstrated low levels of coachability, emotional intelligence, and motivation—something you definitely wouldn’t expect from your most talented folks.

Here are 5 tips for scoping out these qualities during the hiring process.


  1. Listen more and talk less
    It’s not uncommon for unskilled interviewers to go on and on about everything under the sun in an interview instead of asking the candidate pointed questions relevant to the job and then listening carefully to the answers. Don’t do that.
  2. Prepare well
    Interviewing is a skill, yet far too many interviewers choose to “wing it,” believing that the applicant with whom they have “good chemistry” is the one to hire. Big mistake. The savvy interviewer will instead prepare well for the interview by reviewing the resume against the job description and creating a list of clarifying questions.
  3. Let go of your biases
    The ability to speak confidently does not top talent make. Still, many interviewers are taken with smooth talking, “outgoing” personalities rather than more quiet, introspective types, even though there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that extroverts make better workers, even in fields (such as sales) where we tend to think extroversion is an advantage. Of course, other biases could help you miss out on identifying top talent, too, such as bias against the overweight, the unemployed, and the self-employed, to name a few. The point is to know your biases and to actively manage them.
  4. Let go of your ego  
    The most talented people want their work to matter, and that means they’ll expect their opinions to be heard and considered. They may even challenge or argue with the boss when necessary! So if you get a glimpse of “spirit” during the interview, don’t take it as a bad sign. Instead consider that it goes with the territory. (It’s okay to ask a few questions to test your assumptions about the candidate’s attitude, however.)
  5. Do your due diligence
    As implied earlier, chemistry isn’t everything, and it can even be misleading. It’d be unwise then, to rely on chemistry when making hiring decisions. Rather than going by your gut, do some research. Talk to previous employers and coworkers and don’t forget to verify educational degrees and certifications, too.


Top talent doesn’t always present as expected, and you don’t want to miss it. And if you follow these tips, you won’t have to!




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