Peter Drucker has said, “Executives spend more time on managing people and people decisions than on anything else, and they should. No other decisions are so long-lasting in their consequences or so difficult to unmake and yet, by and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions. By all accounts, their batting average is no better than .333. At most one-third of such decisions turn out right; one-third are minimally effective and one-third are outright failures. In no other area of management would we put up with such miserable performance.”

In a sampling of management workshop participants, we asked if they agree with Peter Drucker. And, we found that most do agree. They also provided an additional, important insight: just because the hiring decision turned out to be a mistake, that does not imply that the person hired left the new job.

In many cases, the new hire falls short of expectations or requires too much supervision. However, they often remain on the job because—for managers—accepting poor performance is more uncomplicated than finding a replacement.

When we hire a new person to come into our business, we share the expectation they will be the right one, or we would not have hired them. Why, then, are we so often disappointed?

Our research suggests the answer may be a missed point of focus. We are trying to find and hire top candidates rather than top employees. They are not the same!


Characteristics of Top Candidates

In conversations with recruiters and employers across Canada, we have compiled this list of the characteristics of top candidates:

  • Good Resume
  • Good Skills
  • On time for the interview
  • Prepared for interview
  • Good communicator
  • Enthusiastic
  • Great first impression
  • Aggressive jobseeker
  • Interested in you
  • Interested in the company
  • Good follow up
  • Poised and confident

Is anything missing from the list? Looks rather attractive, doesn’t it?

Consider this: using this list, would all of your top employees today be considered top candidates?

Further reading: Malcolm Pick on Hiring Talent


Characteristics of Top Employees

Our respondents gave us the following list of characteristics of top employees:

  • Highly motivated to work
  • Competent
  • Do more than required
  • Do not make excuses
  • Anticipate problems
  • Solve problems
  • Take initiative
  • Learn quickly
  • Committed
  • Focused
  • Consistent
  • Strong team player
  • Loyal

Did you notice there is not much overlap between the two lists? To improve your odds of hiring right the first time, give careful thought to the qualities of your top employees, then look for those qualities in those you hire. A good assessment can help you measure both instead of guessing!

Further reading: How to Hire Your Top Performers This Year