Two Questions That Reveal if a Job Candidate is a High Performer

Having furloughed or laid off employees, is your company finally inching back into hiring people? 

When you crank up hiring, will hiring just “okay” performers be good enough or do you really want to hire high performers? Our research over the years shows two things:

  • If you are a CEO, hiring manager, head of HR, or head of Talent Acquisition, you truly want to hire high performers, the people who really make things happen. But, unfortunately…
  • Only 25% of the people most companies hire turn out to be those high performers, the employees you would enthusiastically rehire or take with you to another job. 

So, what’s the problem? Almost all hiring methods do not reveal enough of the most important information about candidates; they do not accurately show if they will perform at a high level in the job.

Of course, any hiring process, including Topgrading, involves a lot more than just determining if a candidate is a high performer, but that information is key in determining if you’re making the right hiring choice.

Two Blockbuster Questions That Reveal if a Candidate is a High Performer

Are these trick questions? No. Are they sophisticated psychological questions that reveal the inner workings of candidates’ psyches? No. 

These two blockbuster questions can be asked the first time you talk with candidates – the phone screen interview.  

  1. Arrange Reference Calls with Managers

After building rapport say, “At Acme, a final step in hiring is for candidates to arrange calls with managers they’ve reported to in the past decade. A call with your current manager would only occur when a job offer is on the table. At the time of a job offer will you be willing to arrange the calls?”

If the answer is no, Topgrading companies terminate the interview because high performers are happy to arrange the calls, confident their bosses will sing their praises. And knowing you’ll be talking with their bosses, they will be open, transparent, and candid with you. Low performers decline because they guess their bosses would not agree to the call, or if they would talk, they would not be very complimentary.

In one question you’ve just eliminated the lowest performers and identified the likely best candidates.

  1. What Your Managers Would Say

The second blockbuster question works best if in the phone screen interview you ask candidates about their most recent two jobs – what their responsibilities were, their successes and failures, what they liked and disliked about the job, and what they liked and disliked about their managers.  Then ask the second blockbuster question: Assuming you will arrange a call with that manager, what is your best guess as to how they would rate your overall performance, and what would they list as your strengths and weaker points?.

In four decades of using this approach, millions of candidate-arranged reference calls have been conducted and Topgraders say that:

  • What candidates guess their bosses would list as their strengths and weaker points is spot on, amazingly accurate.
  • What candidates guess their performance ratings will be on a scale of Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor is also very accurate.

High performers guess their bosses would rate them Excellent or Very Good. “Good” does not typically describe a high performer. 

Conclusion: Incorporate these two blockbuster questions in your phone screen interviews and you will replace hiring methods that do not reveal much with a method that produces much greater insights. And you’ll replace worthless reference calls (often with candidates’ friends) with powerful verification of what candidates tell you – calls with their managers with no phone tag.  Ask these two blockbuster questions and you will hire a lot more high performers.

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