Skip to content

Hiring: How to Identify Elite Candidates

Career advice delivered to you.

Email Signup

Taking ownership and driving results with a no excuses attitude will allow you to become an expert in your role. But what does that mean? During a recent visit, Matt Cameron discussed how sales people can not only develop these traits but how they can recognize them in decision makers.

The three types of sales professionals

There are three types of people: elite, middle of the pack (best of the worst and the worst of the best) and C players who cruise. Professionals who fall into the elite category set themselves apart from the rest of the pack through discipline and time management. This is done by creating a rhythm for their life that sets them up for success.



Specifically professionals who stand out as elite:

 

  • Wake-up early and exercise before starting their day;
  • Manage their schedule by blocking off time to complete tasks;
  • Prepare for meetings to increase effectiveness and efficiency – one way to do this is by creating a call plan that establishes: Answers – what information is needed from the meeting; Attitudes – what is the intention of this meeting (If I don’t work with you, I’m not going to hit my numbers); Action – what is the desired outcome of this meeting (a verbal agreement, an introduction);
  • Never stop learning – suggested readings to support this mindset; include: Sales Acceleration Formula, Sales Management Simplified, ForEntrepreneurs.com and SaaStr.com.

Elite people earn respect in their role and industry through credibility. Sales professionals working with executives and company founders need to develop credibility quickly. A manager with innovative suggestions about the type of professionals to fill key roles is much more valuable than a manager who fails to understand the intricacies of the industry.


For example, at Salesforce they were selling technology to sales people so decided to hire sales managers to be account executives to sell to managers because they understood the persona.

Every sales person knows the importance of understanding the company and the position they are selling into, but many fail to know what that understanding looks like and how to gain it. A detailed understanding includes an insider’s perspective about the role including the 30/60/90 day plan for this position as well as a firm understanding of the compensation model.

How to fast track your industry knowledge 

The best way to get an insider’s perspective about the role you are hiring  for is to take someone already in that role out to lunch or coffee and ask them to tell you about their job – specifically ask them to describe what a typical day looks like. Next, make sure to understand the 30/60/90 day plan for the role you are placing.


What goals and objectives will this new hire be working toward and what are the key performance indicators that will gauge his or her success? This information will be invaluable in identifying candidates capable of making an immediate impact in the role you are placing. And finally making sure you completely understand the compensation model will ensure you are engaging appropriate candidates.


When assessing candidates for any role, every hiring manager should vet for these five attributes:

  • Intellect which should be determined based on factors related to the position you are hiring for;
  • Curiosity speaks to a candidate’s eagerness to learn and be gauged by asking what are his interests outside of work;
  • Coachability and growth mindset can be identified through a role-play exercise during which the candidate is provided feedback, if they apply the feedback that indicates a growth mindset;
  • Prior successes should be viewed through a lens that compares them to the key performance indicators established for the role you are seeking to fill;
  • Work ethic can be identified by asking the candidate to describe his typical work week. Be wary of candidates who talk about working 60 hour weeks as this is not sustainable instead look for candidates who demonstrate a “make it happen” attitude. For example a candidate who drives to a meeting after a flight cancellation.

Professionals who fall into the elite category have high social and emotional intelligence. They understand that people like people similar to themselves; accordingly, they dress, speak and act in a manner reflective of the position they want to have. Similarly, before sending an email or making a phone call they think about the appropriate language and tone for the interaction – for example when speaking with a prospective client they would refrain from informal greetings such as hey. And finally but perhaps most importantly elites know how to fake it until they make it.


Whether you are a hiring manager or looking for a new role knowing how to identify elites or position yourself as one is essential to climbing the career ladder.