Finding the 80%-ers Part I

Finding the 80%-ers  Part I by Dr. Scott Yorkovich

Photo by Ben Heine. Available at

Have you ever been on a great team? Have you experienced the excitement that comes from working with a group of people that gets high levels of achievement? I have. It’s a lot of fun! I have been on undefeated soccer and basketball teams. I was on 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams that won many races. I’ve been on winning karate teams. I led a small team of support staff that served thousands of clients. I have been on several teams that studied and researched together. I have been on teams of consultants that helped clients with organizational change. For each team, we experienced high levels of success and we made an impact. Sometimes it was just for fun. Sometimes it was to serve others’ needs. Other times it was about fulfilling our own goals.

I’ve been on not-so-successful teams, too. These teams were ineffective for one or more of several reasons. Some didn’t handle conflict well. (The successful teams had conflict, too, but they handled it well.) Some didn’t have the right mix of skill sets among the people. Some didn’t have effective leadership. Some even had people who actively sabotaged the efforts of the team. There are many potential reasons for lack of success, most of which are about the people.

Recently, someone asked me, “What are the key things I should know about people before they start working for me?” The context of this question is that this leader has been refining his approach to screening leadership candidates for his organization. His philosophy is that it is far more effective to start with the right people than it is to train and develop people once they are in the door. I wholeheartedly agree! Training and development are still important. However, wouldn’t you rather train and develop someone who is already an 80% match to your needs than someone who is only 20%?

So the question is, how do you find the 80%-ers? Finding interested candidates is usually not the problem. Qualifying those candidates can be a very difficult task. What are the factors you need to consider and how do you uncover the information you need?

There are organizations out there that will charge several thousand dollars to answer that question for you. I once served on the board of an organization when we were looking for a new CEO. We had a very rigorous process to determine our needs and filter candidates. One of the final steps in the process was to put the top candidates through a one-day assessment at a HR consulting firm. After a series of interviews, assessments, and work simulations, they produced a rather magical report for us. It contained many amazing insights that helped us make our decision. These services can work quite well. In this particular case, the person we selected is still the CEO more than 10 years later and that business is doing quite well. However, these services are thousands of dollars.

By the way, if you are hiring for senior level positions in your organization, it IS worth the money to use these HR servcies. No organization can afford to churn through multiple leaders trying to find the right one. I’ve seen the cost of the keep-it-cheap strategy. It is far more expensive in the long run, burns out mid-level leaders, and destroys credibility among multiple constituencies. Spending the money to find the right leader the first time is worth it!

So whether you are hiring mid-level or lower leaders, how do you find the 80%-ers without spending several thousand dollars? What factors should you consider?

  • Skills and competencies?
  • Work experience?
  • Education?
  • Personality?
  • Talents and strengths?
  • Other factors?

What is important to you? How do you filter and qualify your candidates? Even if you are not a hiring manager, I would like to hear what you think is important when selecting people for a position. Please drop me a note or post a comment. I’ll be sharing your feedback and my own take on finding the 80%-ers next week.

9 thoughts on “Finding the 80%-ers Part I

  1. Every item you listed is an important piece of whether someone is the right fit or not. But I think underneath it all is a shared vision. Does or can this person share the vision you have for the organization? Without a similar vision, there will be underlying conflict from the very beginning.

    • Excellent observation, Barb! Shared vision is very important! What if there was shared vision, but a difference in, for example, values? Can shared vision (i.e. the direction and purpose for working together) overcome a lack of shared values (i.e. what’s important in our work together)?

      • The more I think about your question to me, the more I think that there are certain core values that can’t be overcome. Just like when buying a house, you make a list of “must-have’s”, “wants”, and “wishes”, the fit of a new person must have a similar list. As the hiring person, you need to be aware of what things are on that “must-have’s” list. Then, if you get the others on the list, it’s a bonus!

        The process of discovering these three categories is revealing in and of itself and is helpful for its own benefits.

  2. I believe chemistry is crucial. Can you work with them and can they work well with the existing team? This goes a little bit further than personality. I have had people that are passionate about the same things but their values were different. Since values often determine behavior, this can be a clash if they don’t align. I look for people that will work well with the existing team as a barometer of our their potential with us. Great topic, cant wait to see the rest!

    • Mike,

      More good observations. The concept of “chemistry” is a little elusive. Can we predict whether two individuals will have compatible chemistry? If so, what are the factors? Or, can this only be determined through live interaction?

  3. One word: character :o) Seriously. Above all else. Gifts and talents are like jewelry adorning the body. Character is the body itself. Without it, all the most expensive jewelry in the world can’t hide what’s really underneath: the core moral integrity of the person.

    • Sarah, that’s a great word picture for character and other elements! I agree with your argument. You are “previewing” part of what I’ll be exploring in a later post in this series.

      Keep reading. Thanks for your comments!

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