Making great hires is often viewed as a bit of an art form, when what we’re really looking for is a recipe for success, a proven process that works. Companies often bring in a number of candidates, interview them, make a “best guess” hire based on the team’s input, and hope for the best. But it doesn’t have to be this subjective. There are fact based studies and long term trends that can make hiring more straight forward and objective.

1. Industry experience NOT required
ATR International has been hiring and training recruiters and account managers for over 25 years. And what we have found is that industry experience is often a negative predictor of success, not a positive one. The reason is that candidates with staffing industry experience are often not happy or successful in what they are doing and think moving to another company in the same industry will help. It usually doesn’t. The best approach is to hire for ability, past success, and problem solving abilities. Next, train them yourself and educate them about your industry and you will have much better luck.

2. GPA is meaningless
Google collects data on, and analyzes nearly everything that goes on within their daily operations. This includes their hiring process. And what they found is that a correlation between GPA and an employee’s on the job performance simply does not exist. In other words, a candidate’s performance at school is completely unrelated to how they will perform at work. The reason for this is that it takes a different skill set to be successful at school than it does to be successful at work. Read about it in more detail here.

3. Facebook? Yes, Facebook
Facebook is often used as a resource to screen out job applicants who are spending their nights getting drunk at the local watering hole or making questionable “social” decisions. But a new study by a trio of universities has found that Facebook can be used to predict success on the job as well. Researchers at the three universities used 5 personality traits, conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion and openness. New hires who received the highest scores from independent evaluators of their Facebook presence in these categories received the highest scores in relation to their job performance 6 months later.

4. Problem Solving
A thirst for knowledge and an ability to solve problems is a proven key for a successful hire. But these traits are often not teased out in an interview. Ask questions like these to get at a candidate’s natural ability to solve problems:

  1. Tell me about a time when you had a major issue to solve and what you did.
  2. Tell me about a personal accomplishment you are proud of.
  3. Tell me something you learned how to do recently.
  4. Tell me about a recent failure. (people who are problem solvers are comfortable failing)

These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. People who love to learn and solve problems will have no problem answering any of these questions.

5. Employee Referrals
They’ve been around for quite a while and are so ubiquitous it might seem as though they are a standard rather than a best practice but recent data confirms how effective they actually are in bringing top talent into a firm. Many studies have shown that employee referral hires are more productive than non-referral hires – right from the start as well as 6 and 12 months later. They perform better and have longer tenures with the company too. Why are Employee Referral Programs so successful? One reason is that employees know what skills are needed and understand your company culture, so the people they refer are more likely to have those key attributes. In essence, employee referrals are very effectively prescreened candidates.

6. IQ vs. Cognitive Control
The common assumption is that a high IQ leads to greater academic abilities which leads to greater success in one’s professional career. However, this common assumption has proven to be wrong. The truth is, people with the best cognitive control are statistically the most successful in life, regardless of IQ levels. Cognitive control, as defined by LinkedIn Influencer Daniel Goleman:

“Cognitive control refers to the abilities to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, maintaining impulse control, managing upsetting emotions well, holding focus, and possessing a readiness to learn.”

Cognitive control was first brought to light in the famous Marshmallow Test conducted at Stanford University in the late 1960’s. It’s been redone many times and is worth four minutes of your day if you haven’t seen it.



Aside from this entertaining video, employers are now seeing that cognitive control is a major predictor of success in the workplace. A 30-year longitudinal study of more than 1,000 kids found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control predicted success better than a child’s IQ. So how do you screen for it in a job interview? Ask questions that will uncover this specific trait.

  1. Tell me about a long term goal for yourself and what you are doing to accomplish it.
  2. Tell me about your most significant accomplishment.
  3. What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?
  4. What is something you would love to accomplish but seems impossible?

Listen carefully to the answers and look for individuals who were not easily deterred in reaching their goals. Individuals who understand that failure is simply a step towards ultimate success. Someone who can work hard for a promotion but also understand there may be a wait until a business case can be made too. These are the people you want to hire.

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