How to Hire A-Players: Step-by-Step Guide

Why You Need The Right People

How do you hire A-players for your team, and make sure they’ll push your business forward? At Clear Results, I use proven coaching techniques from across the industry, including the Scaling Up system by Verne Harnish. A core piece of that system is the Four Decisions: the idea that the success of your business comes down to decisions around your People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.

You might expect that each of those four hold equal importance, but the truth is that without perfecting the People in your organization, you won’t be able to enjoy exponential growth in the other areas. Building the right team needs to be at the front of your mind when addressing the challenges in your business today, and that team should be full of A-players.

Learning how to consistently find, hire, and retain A-players is a process which I’ve been perfecting at Clear Results for years. You can contact me for a full consultation about hiring the right employees for your business, or download our PDF Guide for quick insights.

What is an A-player?

An A-player is the holy grail for your business. They’re the top 10% of talent available at the wage you’re paying, and are usually energetic, creative, and looking for opportunities to improve themselves as well as take on new challenges in the business. Unlike B or C-level talent, they actively work to improve your company and innovate new ways to succeed.

In short, when you have a business that’s growing rapidly, A-players are at the forefront. By eliminating stagnant B-players or stubborn C-players from the team, you can open up the door to new growth and streamline your operations.

There’s a serious incentive for this – in addition to business growth, the average cost of a mishire for a mid-level manager is over $100K. Hiring the wrong person not only slows down your progress, but it sets you back on time, training expense, and competitive advantage.


How to Hire A-players

We break it down into four steps:

  1. Create a Job Scorecard
  2. Find your Candidates
  3. Pick the Best
  4. Sell Them On The Job

The two biggest mistakes you can make in this process are:

  • Not be clear on the job you’re hiring for
  • Source your hires from the wrong place

Step 1: Create A Job Scorecard

A Job Scorecard is a document that clearly lists what the responsibilities of your new role are, as well as how the candidate can succeed in that position. You’ll want it to have the following pieces of information:

  • Job Title (do your research on what this title’s average salary and responsibilities are with Indeed, Glassdoor or others)
  • Mission and Purpose of this role within the company
  • Skills and Competencies required to be successful in this position
  • Education Requirements (if necessary for your industry)
  • Outcomes and Results expected for the first 30, 60, and 90 days, with responsibilities, 2-3 goals, and measurable KPI’s for each

Step 2: Find Your Candidates

When recruiting, you should be going through a LOT of candidates to find the perfect fit, and it’s likely a bigger number than you think. On average, we try for as many as one hundred candidates per open job position. The extra time up front to find the best pool of candidates, combined with knowing exactly what requirements you’re hiring for, goes a long way towards guaranteeing success with every hire. Statistically, you’ve already improved your odds a long way with those steps alone.

When looking for your candidates:

  1. Start with your personal network. Announce your jobs on your own social media, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  2. Then, reach out to the influential contacts you know. People who you think would fit the job, friends in the industry, previous connections, anyone who might know someone who’d fit the job. Provide the link and job description, and allow them to share.
  3. Take a moment to think. Are there any specific places where the ideal candidate may spend their time? Are there creative ways to reach them beyond just creating a job posting?
  4. Lastly, post on Linkedin Recruiter, Indeed,, and other job sites.

Step 3: Pick the Best

Recruiting Process:

Let’s talk about the hiring process. Your hiring page should go beyond just an Indeed description. We suggest you include these elements:

  • A short video explaining the job
  • The job scorecard itself
  • A bio about the company and team
  • A video explaining your core values
  • What makes your company exciting or adds social proof?
  • Pay range and benefits
  • Your requirements
  • A link to your job application form

Your job application form can be as simple as a Google Form. This application can include more creative elements such as personality test results or a type speed test (which often correlates with level of tech skill), as well as more general information like a Linkedin profile, why they think they’re a great candidate, current employment, and any other key questions.

Interview Process:

We operate on a three-interview system: the Screening Interview, Focus Interview, and Topgrading Interview.

  1. The Screening Interview consists of just a few basic questions over 15 minutes or less: Why are you interested in this job? What are you good at, and not good at? What are your career goals?
  2. The Focus Interview goes deeper into making sure they have the core competencies required for the job, and that they fit the Job Scorecard. These can range from 30-60 minutes.
  3. The Topgrading interview is as long as 2-4 hours, and is only for the top 3-5 candidates (out of a hundred). We walk through their entire work history, job by job, asking the same questions for each: What was the highest point? What was the lowest? What did you struggle with? What is your boss going to rank you on a scale of 1-10 when I talk to them? And why did you leave?

Look for people who have been pulled out of jobs instead of pushed. People may change jobs for a number of valid reasons, such as a better offer from a competitor, wanting to build new skills, or pursuing the next stage of growth for their career. If they’ve been forcibly ejected from multiple teams, however, yours is unlikely to be the one that works out.

Reference Process:

For the top 3-5 candidates, you’ll want to handpick the former bosses from their background that you’d like to talk to, and ask the candidate to set up reference calls on your calendar. This is a different approach from most reference situations, but ensures that you’re talking with the people who can actually appraise that candidate accurately, as opposed to family friends or relatives.

For these reference calls, we’ll ask what they were good at, not good at, or struggled with? How would you rate them from one to ten, and what could that candidate do better? You can also ask follow-ups from the previous interview, such as ‘the candidate mentioned they struggled with x while working in this role at your company, can you expand on that?’

Further Guidelines:

When possible, do all interviews via video. You get a much better gauge of their professionalism, demeanor, and ability to connect than from an audio call alone.

For Focus and Topgrading interviews, have at least two team members responsible for interviewing the candidate together. One person is responsible for running the interview, and the second is in charge of probing and asking difficult questions. Having two perspectives ensures that a personal bias won’t affect the interview to the same extent.

It’s best to batch interviews back-to-back when possible; this helps to keep the mission of the job fresh in your mind, and avoid recency bias when it comes to candidates. After each interview, both of the interviewers should add the candidate to an ordered list with their number one choice, second choice, and so forth. Different interviewers will likely have separate opinions on the top candidates, which is a discussion you want to have.

Red Flags:

What constitutes a red flag will vary from industry to industry, and position to position. However, these are some general insights to keep in mind:

  • Is this person a ‘culture fit’? Are they a hard worker, will they succeed in this environment, are they used to working with the same amount of support?
  • Are they growth oriented?
  • Are they negative?
  • How badly do they need the job? If it’s a hobby for them, they may not stick around for difficult stretches.
  • How does their spouse feel about this career move?
  • How long is their commute? Is it half an hour or less?
  • Have they made more money in the past than they will at their current job?

Step 4: Selling the Position

A-players are highly employable, and thus they have options. You want to ensure that when they come to work with you, you’re providing them with a step up in their career journey (and they know what they’re getting into).

What is great about your work environment? Your benefits? Your company’s long-term vision? You need to emphasize these things in your communications, and get them excited about potentially working with you. It’s marketing that extends not just to customers, but to future members of your team.

If you’d like support in hiring A-players, and refining your company’s team to guarantee business success, I invite you to apply for a consultation with Clear Results. We’ll take an hour to review your business and lay out how to begin hiring A-players for your team.

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