Hiring a top-performing candidate is the objective of all recruitment efforts. Recruiters want to find the best person possible to fill an open position. But, this is more complicated than it sounds on the surface. 

No organization wants to make a bad hiring decision. In most cases, companies do a pretty good job of steering clear of hiring a bad candidate. But, where things get challenging is in differentiating between good candidates and top performers. Good candidates will be able to do the job. However, top performers can provide you with transformative results. So, it’s essential to make this distinction when comparing candidates. 

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Over my 18 years working in marketing recruitment and executive search, I’ve identified 3 undeniable differentiators of top-performing candidates. I discuss them here. 

What Are The Undeniable Differentiators of Top Performing Candidates?

Top performers share many similarities. It’s these commonalities that help them break through and separate themselves from the pack. Here are the 3 undeniable differentiators that make candidates top performers:

  1. Top-performing candidates get things done and have a track record of success
  2. Top-performing candidates are adaptable, embrace change, and solve problems
  3. Top-performing candidates have passion for what they do and aspire to be leaders

Top-performing candidates get things done and have a track record of success

People become top performers because they get things done. They meet deadlines and make things happen. So, when you are looking at candidates, you want to focus on what candidates have achieved in previous roles up to this point in their careers. 

A standout candidate showcases pride in their work, displaying reliability and consistently surpassing expectations. They exhibit strong work ethics, high levels of engagement, and unwavering dedication to their duties.

So, what should you look for when interviewing candidates?

A top-tier candidate goes the extra mile by backing their claims on their resume by offering solid evidence. They provide measurable results and key performance indicators (KPIs) related to their job performance. They also share anecdotes that illustrate their abilities in action, providing tangible examples of their skills. Finally, are honest and acknowledge areas where they may lack skills or experience, yet they show a proactive willingness to learn and bridge those gaps, demonstrating their dedication to personal and professional growth.

Top-performing candidates are adaptable, embrace change, and solve problems

Top performers know that nothing is set in stone and things will evolve. So, they embrace change and adapt by learning new skills, continuously learning and making adjustments when required. They are flexible, which also helps them become effective and efficient problem solvers. 

When comparing candidates, look for people who demonstrate the ability to do more than is expected of them. Top candidates will ask questions, be able to explain the rationale behind the decisions they make and be able to differentiate when they need outside assistance to complete a task. They have a willingness to dig deeper and make changes to ensure success in their role. 

Top-performing candidates have passion for what they do and aspire to be leaders

People become top performers because they love what they do. They have a passion for their work. This passion drives them to be the very best they can be in their industry. 

When interviewing candidates look for people who are excited to work for your organization. They want the specific role you’re offering, and not just a role because it’s available. 

It’s the passion that top performance present that makes it easier for you to envision them in leadership. Many top candidates can show they have leadership potential in what they have done previously. Perhaps they have taken on special projects, are active in the industry outside of work, or display leadership qualities.

What Are Some Top Characteristics To Look For In Top Performers?

The characteristics of a top performer will vary based on your industry. The key things you will look for will change based on the role you need to fill. Generally, hiring managers should be on the lookout for the following characteristics:

  • They have unique and innovative ideas
  • They are lifelong learners
  • They are known within the industry (online presence, conferences, speaking events)
  • They have a well-defined career plan
  • They seem like a good fit for company culture

Where Should I Recruit Top Performing Candidates?

Top performers are in high demand. So, the reality is that finding one is challenging. One of the best ways to find top performers is to recruit passive candidates. These are people who already have a job and may not be actively looking. You can identify these types of candidates in a variety of ways:

  • Leverage your employee network
  • Attending conferences, webinars, and speaker series
  • Contributions / publications on social media
  • Research employees at top performing companies

What Are Signs Of A Top Performing Candidate In A Job Interview?

There are some stark differences between a top performer and a good candidate. Top performers go above what is required of them. During the job interview, you may notice:

  • They are actively engaged in the conversation at all times
  • They are well-prepared
  • They have done their research and know the company and role
  • They clearly convey what will make them successful in the role
  • They ask excellent follow-up questions
  • They have a clear idea of how they imagine themselves in the role

A Final Word On Hiring Top Performing Candidates

The difference between hiring a good candidate and a top performer can make a significant difference to your business. Look for candidates that show the signs – a track record of success, exceptional adaptability and problem-solving ability and a passion for their work. These are the people that will help your company meet and exceed your targets. They are the future leaders of your organization.

Reach out to our executive search team to learn more about how we can help your company recruit, hire, and retain top performers in your industry. 


More Recruitment Insights By Our Executive Search Team

What’s the Difference Between Executive Search and Recruitment?

How to Prevent New Hires from Regretting Their Decision

Top 3 Signs Your Hiring Process Might Be Broken (And How to Fix It)

Mark Rouse Marketing Recruiter

Mark Rouse

Mark leads Canada’s largest Marketing Communications & Media recruitment practice. Leveraging close to two decades of industry experience in the Marketing Services and Agency businesses, he has been responsible for hiring, developing, and retaining top talent as Vice-President with companies such as Young & Rubicam, Wunderman, and J. Walter Thompson.

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