What to Do When Top Performers Are Not Team Players

Businessman stressed out at work in casual office-1.jpegWouldn’t your life be easy if the right resumes leaped to the top of the heap, the way those high performers, themselves, do once you’ve hired them? It’s possible to spot the high performers who can help your organization excel—just by reading their resumes. September and October are the busiest hiring months with more candidates looking for work than any other time of the year. Here are 5 surefire ways you can screen the pile quickly to find the high performer resumes.

Tip 1. High performers have had a lot of jobs.

Don’t be surprised, dismayed, or deterred by the number of jobs or positions that a high performer has had. First of all, the days when people stayed in one company their entire careers are long gone. Second, high performers, because of their drive to succeed, are always looking for new opportunities to move up and if an employer is not giving them with those opportunities, they will not hesitate to look elsewhere.

As long as a resume shows a constant progression upward in terms of position and responsibilities and shows evidence of the other key indicators of a high performer, a candidate who has switched employers a lot is probably worth interviewing. Keep in mind, however, that if your company can’t provide an upward career track for a high performer, you may find yourself needing to fill this job again in a few years when the high performer you hire decides to it’s time for another move up.

Tip 2. High performers have been promoted.
Similarly, when high performers have been with the same company for a long period of time, they most likely haven’t stayed in any one position for very long. They usually get promoted every one to two years. If they leave a company, it’s generally for a job that’s a step up. They leave only for a better opportunity that involves more responsibility, power, and status.

High performers tend not to be interested in lateral moves; they want positions that will take them to the next level. For example, if you have the resume of someone who was a project director, then became a manager, and within a few years moved into a VP slot, you may well be looking at the resume of a high performer.

Tip 3. High performers have held leadership positions.
Even if they work within a team, high performers tend to assume a leadership position or play some sort of leadership role in most of the jobs they’ve had. High performers tend to step naturally into leadership because they are goal driven and want to make sure that the task at hand gets done successfully.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it doesn’t always matter how long a person has been in the workforce. You might want to look for leadership capabilities rather than experience. If a young applicant has not had much work experience to tout on a resume, you may find clues about his/her leadership potential in the description of college activities. Someone who was involved in multiple extra-curricular activities and took leadership positions in these groups is probably a high performer.

Tip 4. High performers emphasize goal achievement.
High performers tend to focus their resumes on the goals they’ve achieved. For example, the resume might include: how they achieved sales or revenue goals, completed project goals, or reached or contributed to an organization’s goals.

A word of caution: since resume writing guidebooks and other resources that people use to help them craft their resumes emphasize the importance of talking about goals and achievements, you can’t rely totally on this information to identify a high performer. In other words, some so-so candidates may simply have learned how to write an outstanding resume. However, if the resume fits this characteristic as well as most of the other four discussed here, you can safely prescreen the candidate as a high performer.

Tip 5. High performers are involved in many activities.
While the current school of resume writing discourages including activities and accomplishments outside of the workplace, when they are included and show that someone is involved in lots of activities and has accomplishments, this candidate is likely a high performer. High performers don’t “turn off” when they leave the workplace. They’re involved in their communities, continuing education, and highly devoted to their hobbies and personal interests. For example, if someone lists gardening as a hobby and mentions that they have taken that interest to the max by achieving the designation of Master Gardener, that might indicate a high performer candidate.

While not all of these indicators may be present on every high performer’s resume, if you find many of these characteristics present, then you’re almost certainly looking at someone who fits this category. Use a screening call before bringing your the candidate in for an interview and see if your resume sleuthing is on target!

Learn more about managing high performer employees and high performer bosses in Katherine Graham-Leviss’ new book, High Maintenance Employees: Why your best employees will also be your most difficult… and what to do about it (Source Books), November 2005. For over twenty years, Katherine Graham-Leviss, president of XB Consulting, has been helping companies manage and develop their talent to improve results and grow their businesses.