Most recruiters and HR agree that choosing a successful candidate is a bit like choosing the winning lottery numbers.  No matter how much homework we do, getting it right isn’t easy.

There are so many factors that come into play with employee/job/company fit and all too often those doing the recruiting overlook the key ones.

1.     Actions speak louder than words.

What candidates have done in the past says more about them than what they can say they can do.  Candidates, especially those going into performance roles, should be asked about their past achievements – and these should be able to be verified by references.  Beware the candidate who has “blaming reasons” as to why they missed achievements in previous jobs.  It’s sometimes what a candidate doesn’t say that gives the game away and it’s a reason why you should look past the verbal cues to the non-verbal cues.  Do they look uncomfortable when asked about previous managers, results or reasons for leaving?  Do they shift in the chair?  Do they have trouble coming up with a simple or plausible explanation?  Star employees are usually comfortable in their own skins, honest about their careers and happy to talk about them.

2.  The Spark

Some people just know how to sparkle.  No matter what they talk about, you feel their energy. And it doesn’t have to be loud energy – but you sense that they’re “up”. Do you get a sense of their passion, what excites them, their desire to enjoy what they do?  Do they talk about happiness?  These people are already internally motivated so you won’t have to do it for them.  They will throw themselves into whatever they’re given, typically with gusto. They’re also the people who won’t get all twisted about things that go wrong.  They don’t sweat the small stuff.

3. A lack of drama

We can all do without drama queens (or kings) in our lives, especially at work, so if your new employee has a history of “issues” it’s probably no co-incidence.   If someone’s career has been littered with run-ins or not seeing eye-to-eye with others, or their previous co-workers or managers were “out to get them” or “threatened by them”, you might be looking at a bit of a diva.

4. The ability to listen.

Some people like the sound of their own voices.  A lot.  They talk more than they listen – and that’s usually not a good thing.  Star employees ask more questions than they have answers to.  When they’re presented with an opinion different to theirs, they quietly weigh up how much that makes sense in their head and they’ll often admit that, “you have a point”.  They don’t jump to defend their opinion without any moment of consideration.  They’re willing to be wrong.  Don’t get me wrong; they’re not shrinking violets.  They don’t sit in the back of meetings fearful of speaking up.  Instead they’re happy to contribute – and many of their contributions will be preceded by questions.   They make logical decisions by weighing up all of the information they’re given and, to do that, they are able to listen intelligently.

5. They feel a connection to your company, what it does or what it stands for.

A star employee feels a real commitment to the “cause”.  They’re not just going through the motions. Kristine Kern, Principal Consultant at The Table Group said in an article “To ensure cultural fit, hire based on your company’s core values. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes commitment. Not many companies I know of are committed to treating their core values as non-negotiable, meaning that if you have a candidate who is a match on the skills front but not on values (culture), you do not hire that person.” It stands to reason that if a candidate / employee has a real affinity for what the company does, believes in the product or service, identifies with changing the status quo by providing something better to the market, then the result you get from them will be better than from one who is simply going through the motions.”

The real question that Kristine is asking is whether or not HR recruitment managers are brave enough to bypass candidates who have past results or look good on paper for perhaps less stellar candidates who truly identify with the company.

Making the right decision at hiring time can save huge amounts of time and, of course, money.  Identifying the right talent before you hire them is the key to doing that.  Ensure your interview process includes the right questions or tactics to get answers in the five areas above will heighten your chances of getting the best people for the job.