How to Increase Your Chances of Hiring a Superstar

Five rules for identifying the perfect candidate—even before the interview.

(Photo: Getty Images)

 

At a recent Wharton entrepreneurship event, an interviewer asked me how it is possible for high-growth startups to keep a high bar for talent when they have to scale so quickly. Hiring superstars is always tough because in any pool of qualified candidates, maybe just 10 percent are superstars. That means your odds of hiring one is 1 in 10; the odds of hiring three in a row is 1 in 1,000. Hiring them fast is even harder.

When faced with 10 qualified candidates, given that all 10 will get hired by someone, I’ve evolved a method over the years that dramatically shortens the time it takes to spot the superstar. It hinges on one key fact: the most time-consuming part of the hiring process is interviewing candidates. The goal of my method is to spot the likely superstar before I interview anyone. I apply five rules when reading LinkedIn profiles:

  1. Can’t leave a good company too soon. Superstars don’t leave companies with a high bar for talent in less than two years or fast-growing, successful venture-based companies before the typical four-year stock vesting period. If a candidate did, there’s a story there and it’s probably not a good one.
  2. Can’t move from one company to another too often. Superstars don’t job hop. I define job hopping as four or more jobs over a 10-year period, not counting the first three to five years of someone’s career, when most people are exploring. If I see this, it’s “10 to four, over and out.”
  3. Can’t fail to advance in the same company. Superstars don’t stay at the same level in a company for three or more years early in their careers or five or more years in the middle of their careers without a significant change in responsibilities or scope of the job. I look for managers who’ve been promoted rapidly, from manager to senior manager to director to senior director, and so on.
  4. Can’t work for a company in decline. Superstars have lots of choices, so I rule out people who chose to go to work for a company in decline. One caveat: if the person was hired to actively participate in a turnaround that was successful, that changes everything.
  5. Can’t make a lateral move. Superstars make step-changes up in level and scope of responsibilities when they change companies. Leaving a good company without moving up or taking a small jump to go to a lesser quality company is a red flag.

In fairness, I’ve met superstars who’ve broken some of these rules, which means that some might fall through the net. But if a person has none of these disqualifiers, the odds are higher they are a superstar. And since I’m just looking for one to fill the job, I’m okay letting a few get away.

Also, there are pitfalls to interviewing people with any of these disqualifiers. Most people in job interviews put their best foot forward and do a pretty good job explaining away career mistakes. Once you invest the time in getting to know someone and connect on a personal level, the temptation to hire them might be too great.

Which speaks to the main benefit of my method: it objectively and dispassionately surfaces disqualifiers and allows you to act on that information before you meet a candidate in person. That’s essential when you’re looking for superstars and speed matters.

Of course, once you’ve identified a potential superstar, the interview counts a lot. I wrote about this in a previous post about the six traits I look for in hiring. Check it out.

 

Editors note: This post was originally published on Marc Lore’s LinkedIn page. Read the original post here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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