How to Identify a Potential Top Performer During the Interview

How to Identify a Potential Top Performer During the Interview

You want a top performer on your team, but how do you find one during the interview?

A study conducted by Indiana University in 2012 found that top performers deliver up to 400% higher productivity than average performers. This stat alone indicates the importance of having someone productive on the team.

Top Performer vs. Top Candidate

First of all, top performer ≠ top candidate.

The purpose of an interview is to find someone who’s most suitable for the job. Many times, one or two rounds of interviews may not be enough for interviewers to know everything about a candidate. After all, some traits may only show up over time.

A top candidate can be well-spoken in the interview. They can leave a positive first impression by being enthusiastic, assertive, and articulate. A top performer, however, can be an introvert who may not look that passionate and confident. Even though they may seem quiet and avoid eye contact, they could be efficient and deliver the best work.

So, how do you identify the potential top performer during an interview, then?

Determine Key Attributes of Top Performers

To identify a top performer, it is critical to determine what a top performer actually looks like while working. Could it be someone who’s accountable, organized, adaptable, or a strong influencer?

It’s like developing a persona or sketching for a prototype. Remember, these attributes should just be created as a reference, though. They should not be wired into the hiring committee’s selection criteria.

Ask the Right Questions at the Interview

Apart from asking technical questions to assess hard skills, select some specific situational/behavioural questions that can help you learn more about the candidate. In other words, assess a candidate’s soft skills and how they would react in certain situations.

For example, if you are hiring for a Project Manager, instead of asking, “Tell me about a time when you managed a project,” ask, “Tell me about a milestone project you’ve managed. What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?” By asking specific situational/behavioural questions, you’ll get a more precise portrait of the candidate.

Add Top Performer Traits into Your Job Description

While not technically part of the interview process, a well-written job description can help attract top performing candidates. Rather than only focusing on years of experience and education, set expectations on what success looks like for someone working in the role, and how their performance is evaluated to attract top-performing candidates.

Here are a few tips I wrote in 2017 about how to optimize your job posting.

Adding a top performer to your team can undoubtedly get jobs done faster while motivating other team members. Additionally, it can cultivate a performance-driven organizational culture in the long run. Therefore, it makes identifying a top performer during the interview even more critical.


  1. Capitaljoblink
    January 24, 2022

    This post was not only helpful with the comment issue, but had also great links to other blogs.
    Some of them I will most likely keep visiting!
    Thanks and greetings..
    Top Staffing Solutions jobs in Etobicoke

    1. Jeslyn Xie
      January 26, 2022

      Thanks for your positive feedback!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons