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To Recruit 'A' Players, Try This 5-Step Method Having or lacking great talent will determine whether a company continues to grow and succeed.

By Zach Cutler Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


When I started Cutler PR six years ago, focusing on client success and perfecting the craft were at the forefront of my mind. Now, as we've grown to become a global company with clients and staff throughout the world, and as we continue to hire, focusing on onboarding "A players" has shifted to the forefront of my responsibilities.

Having or lacking great talent will determine whether a company continues to grow and succeed.

Related: 4 Ways to Tell If Job Candidates Are Telling the Truth

In Who: The A Method for Hiring, authors Geoff Smart and Randy Street detail a systematic method for hiring the right talent -- they call it "The A Method for Hiring." This approach, which can assist a company to create a team of "A players," can help make or break long-term success. Here are the elements of Smart and Street's "A Method for Hiring":

1. Build a scorecard.

The scorecard is the blueprint for success in the "A Hiring Method." It outlines the purpose of the job, what is expected from the employee and what characteristics are needed. Create a scorecard for each open position, and fill each one with the following components:

  • Job mission: Specifically define the essence of the job. For example, "grow revenue through building direct relationships with customers." The job mission should be short, sweet and understandable.
  • Outcomes: Outline what must be accomplished. For example, "grow revenue from $25 million to $100 million by the end of the year." Set three to seven outcomes that are challenging but attainable. Setting expectations too high can scare off candidates or create problems when someone is hired.
  • Competencies: Define how the employee is expected to operate. Some key competencies include efficiency, honesty, integrity, intelligence, persistence, attention to detail, organizational capabilities, analytical skills, openness and hard-working.

2. Source candidates.

Don't expect the right candidate for the job to apply -- actively search for candidates. This is crucial. Look to source candidates through asking network connections if they know talented individuals that may fit the bill. Encourage current employees to use their networks and refer anyone they think would be a good fit for the job.

After referrals, recruiters are the next best source for candidates. Use external recruiters or develop internal recruiting capabilities to find the best candidates, or explore both.

Related: A Short Guide to Offering 'A' Players No-Interest Loans to Purchase Equity

3. Conduct up to five types of interviews.

Five interviews may seem excessive, but each serves a specific purpose and brings value to the "A Hiring Method":

  • Phone screening: Use phone interviews to screen candidates and select the best ones to move on to the next step. Use four key questions and set up each one in a what, how, tell me more framework.
  • Top grading: Conduct long, in-person interviews discussing the last 10 years of job experience. These interviews should last anywhere from one and a half to three hours and should use the same five questions for each candidate.
  • Focused interviews (optional in some cases): Introduce candidates to the team and have other team members conduct interviews. These interviews are more focused on the responsibilities of the job and compatibility with the team.
  • Skill-will interview (optional in many cases): Use this interview to recap the information covered in previous interviews to ensure a candidate's skills and motivation align with what's needed for the job.
  • Reference interviews: Contact references and conduct informal interviews about the candidate, his or her work experience and attitude.

4. Make a decision.

Use the scorecard to grade each candidate. Conduct interviews in a systematic way to get the same data from each candidate. Based on this data, assign an A, B or C grade to each candidate. Select the candidate with the highest grade.

Basing hiring decisions on the scorecards helps to eliminate bias and makes it more likely that the best person is chosen for the job.

5. Sell.

Five frogs sit on a lily pad. One decides to jump off. How many frogs are left on the lily pad? Five frogs are left -- just because the frog decided to jump doesn't mean he or she did.

This riddle highlights the importance of selling to candidates throughout the entire process. A candidate may like the job and the company, but may not take the risk of leaving his or her current job for a new one, or may opt for a different opportunity.

Sell to candidates throughout the entire process, not just at the end, to convince them to make the leap to a new opportunity.

What do you think? What is the most important element of an effective hiring process? Sound off in the comments section below.

Related: How to Poach Talent Politely

Zach Cutler

Entrepreneur, Founder at Cutler PR

Zach Cutler is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Cutler PR, a tech PR agency in New York and Tel Aviv. An avid tech enthusiast and angel investor, Cutler specializes in crafting social and traditional PR campaigns to help tech startups thrive.

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