Job Success Recipe – 7 Common Traits of High-Performers and How to Spot Them

Have you ever asked what do the best people do differently than others that help them perform well at work and produce top results?  


As a Business Owner, Hiring Manager, Recruiter, have you identified the common traits of achievers and performers — the recipe that makes one hire successful at work than others to help you get the right talents on board?  

Since recruitment has been around for many years, various trials and errors, surveys, observations, practices, and sharing have been done to identify what separates top performers from the rest.

In my 10 years of combined experience in Recruiting, HR, and Training/Teaching — 8 years in Talent Sourcing, Recruiting, and Headhunting, I’ve tried, tested, studied, tried, and tested over and over again several frameworks available in the market by various originators. In those span of years, I have identified out of the hires I did, which recipe worked, which common attributes do performers possess, which are different from the others. Speaking of the Quality of Hire metrics, how many people were hired and out of those people, what percentage perform after three months, six months, to one year. 

Now, these that I’ll be sharing with you have undergone 30 years of extensive review, trial, and error by the originators of the Performance-based hiring framework, Lou Adler and has worked for me, out of the many other available frameworks in the market.   It’s been applied by some of the world’s huge and small companies. 

Now, let’s dive in!

To ensure you get it right, you need to define (as clear as a crystal) “high-performer profile” – what are the common traits that high achievers and top performers have, and what do they do differently. 

Your “high performer profile” basically tells you everything about the high-performing candidates you’ll look for from the types of results they produce to behavioral aspects and traits. 

 Making your high-performer profile – as simple as creating a mental picture in your head to putting them in into writing is vital for you to reach your right target market – you want to entice top people to apply with you (who by the way are more selective than others – unless you make it clear that it’s a better career move and not a lateral transfer), and not the mediocre or average performers that are badly needing a job for economic reasons. 

This is different from the “ideal candidate profile” (which we’ll talk about in detail in the next article) which is more specific to the role and covers various aspects such as job-specific competencies, motivation to do the actual role, manager fit, etc.).   

Not only in Recruitment but also in Talent Development and Employee Performance Management, always keep these 7 pointers in mind; they’re your quick guide in spotting top talents.  Let’s dissect them one by one in detail.

RESULTS! – First look at the results that the best candidates produce. 

  1. The best people consistently exceed expectations based on the company’s investment in them. 

These people consistently contribute to the company’s success and exceed expectations.

Examples would be consistently hitting and even exceeding sales quota or hiring target or streamlining the process to make it more efficient, leaner, and produce better output.

For a manager, it could be consistently developing talents that became masters in their roles and get promoted. 

For a trainee, it could be learning to conduct a sales demo faster than their counterparts.

You can identify these by asking in the interview, “In your entire career (or “your current company” –if you want to focus on each company) what are the top 3 exceptional results or most significant accomplishments you’ve done? Can you walk me through those exceptional results?

Then, as an interviewer evaluate whether each example is strong or merely minimum requirements of the job. Also, ensure that you do reference checking and include such in points for verification — if he passes the other stages. 

  1. They have good problem-solving and thinking skills.

The best people have good thinking skills — they can rapidly learn. They can visualize what needs to be done to get to results or address issues, the resources and information they need, and the people they can ask for help. They can anticipate possible problems and act before they can occur. Even if they don’t know about a particular task, they can identify the process they’ll undertake to get the information they need and act based on such. 

These can be identified through problem-solving questions in the interview — the “how would you” question and anchor it with what they have done in the past that’s comparable. As interviews can be subjective, it’s important to supplement them with various tools such as simulation or professional tasks that will gauge problem-solving, as well as learning agility assessments to identify innate capability to learn alongside with drive for mastery, focus, and perseverance in learning, open-mindedness and inquisitiveness, and planning. 

  1. They’re highly driven.

The best performers have that innate urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need to achieve and perform. 

You can spot that by asking, what are the 3 examples of accomplishments they’ve done where they walked the extra mile or accomplishments beyond the requirements of the role. 

Talents who are driven always do more than the requirements of the job and you can see patterns in their previous works. 

This doesn’t mean working more hours and being overworked though. It could be initiating projects and initiatives that make work easier, faster, leaner, more efficient, save cost, etc. 

  1. They’re proactive; they plan and deliver.

What they say they’ll do, they deliver. They can visualize the needs of a particular task or project, or the resources needed to deliver,   and they produce the expected output – no matter what the circumstances.  They hold planning sessions with themselves as well as with others and set specific goals with deadlines. They value setting deadlines to increase efficiency and prevents procrastination.

You can identify gauge this by asking candidates to identify what they have planned at work in the past or projects they have planned etc. After such, ask which of the plans materialized. If not, identify the circumstances they were in to help you in the evaluation if they’re simply making excuses or it’s an uncontrollable circumstance. 

  1. They develop themselves and others.

Whether they’re managers or not, they have strong records of helping others grow. They also develop themselves – their competencies.  

Either they help in training specific technical skills, or soft skills, or guiding teammates and coworkers as they navigate the role and the company. Ask them the names of the people they coached — better if they’re the same level as them. 

Self-development endeavors are also manifestations such as learning new skills even if those aren’t requirements of the job, or initiatives that grow their expertise in a specific field, or even post-graduate studies. 

  1. Fits! Deals with change; adapt to the culture

They know how to face ambiguity and changes. They think creatively to explore different avenues as a way of dealing with change.

You need to first identify the types of organizational culture they’ve been in the past, check for comparability in your current company culture, and whether thrive in those companies — which you can spot along the interview process.

Notice variation in the culture types whether dynamic and fast, hierarchical and traditional, clannish, and if they perform well in each of the companies with varying culture. It’s a reflection of their ability to adapt to the varying cultures or if there’s a certain inclination (let’s say they thrive more on fast-paced, dynamic modern culture as opposed to the structured and bureaucratic ones). 

  1. Get it done – no excuses.

The best people set high standards for themselves. For them, excuses are lies. They take responsibility for their actions and admit mistakes. Thus, they also set high standards of accountability from others. 

They also don’t just follow through with planned tasks and events, they follow up as well, and make sure the value received was worth the time and effort expended. This ensures that they are indeed completing 20% of the tasks that yield 80% of the results. They always question whether they are making the best possible use of their time.

People with these attributes are the talents we want for our team, our departments, our company. They produce results, they get things done, they deliver, they contribute to your organization’s success, and your success as a hiring manager, recruiter, or business owner. 


Need help in recruiting? Contact hiring@talentlush.com now.

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