How We Hire All-Star Employees — Experts Weigh In

What do you look for when you’re building an all-star team of employees? Do you seek out humans who fit into your company culture, focus more on skill sets, or look for natural enthusiasm? Or maybe it’s a little bit of all of the above! We chatted with entrepreneurs to get their expert opinion on how to hire a team that’s ready to go to bat for your business.

1. “I’ve made mistakes in the past when hiring employees because I was looking for the wrong attributes. When I hire I look for someone that’s creative,  can tell a story, can work in a team as well as independently and has a thick skin. We’re in the business of ‘no,’ so if you can’t handle that then you’re not the right candidate. Enthusiasm and passion are some other qualities that seek out.” — Teana McDonald, Founder, 3E Connections, Inc.

2. “I focus on effective problem-solving. I only want to hire people who can find a way to solve problems on their own. It’s really important, especially in a small organization where team members often deal with various tasks. What’s the best way to make sure a candidate is a problem solver? Give them a few position-specific task, and focus only on describing the final result. The problem solver is the candidate who has to reverse-engineer all the steps they need to take. If they succeed, they will be much more likely to become independent and self-driven top performers.” — Kuba Koziej, CEO and Co-Founder, 

3. “In my experience, the most important things to take into account when hiring staff are how well they fit into your company ethos, and what sort of person they are. Attitude, desire to learn, and flexibility to try new tasks are all far more important in most cases than qualifications (although there are some exceptions) – the majority of our longest serving staff all came in as trainees and rose to the top, whereas we’ve hired those with experience in the past and it’s never gone anywhere near as smoothly.” — Dave Hartshorne, Managing Director, Dijitul

4.“It’s so important to find people who truly understand what your company’s goals are and who are thinking about how to grow your business. Regardless of what position they are applying for, candidates should have a vision for how they can help build the company, how they can help it to scale and evolve — and only candidates who have done their research will be able to have this type of discussion with you!” — Davide De Guz, Founder, Rebrandly

5. “Personality is a huge factor in the hiring process for us. We are a small team with a work hard, play hard ethic; it’s vital that our new hires share this philosophy and know how to have a laugh as well be able to do the job.”— Steve Pritchard, Managing Director, It Works

6. “When I’m hiring for my team, I look ensure the person has the skills, experience, and DNA necessary to perform the right tasks and behaviors in the role. Specifically, the person needs to have ambition, competitiveness, a sense of urgency, confidence, perseverance, optimism, resilience, and the ability and desire to influence others. These intangible, but highly critical traits are what drive all-stars to be successful. They are what allow them to make sound judgements, create good luck for themselves, and capitalize on opportunities that average people miss.” — Keith Johnstone, Head of Marketing, Peak Sales Recruiting

7. “Hiring quality people means two things: first hire someone better at the job you’re advertising for than you are, and second hire someone you could see yourself working for. Anyone who fits these two criteria will add value to your business without affecting your internal culture.” — Rob Mead, Head of Marketing, Gnatta

8. “When hiring employees, I care more about authenticity, motivation and a person who fits in the culture. I prefer to have a person come in for an interview then a short (day or two) internship before I get their application.” — Dr. Ty Belknap, ACC, CEO, MyCoach.Life

9.“Enthusiasm is first, definitely, and being a good fit is high on my list. As for skills, I’m always looking at the bigger picture: adaptability, innovation, leadership, those sorts of things. Having a skill set for a particular job is important (and sometimes mandatory) but I’ve found my all-stars are the ones that have skills beyond the specific position we’re hiring for.”— Monica Eaton-Cardone, Co-founder and COO, Chargebacks911

10. “I typically start by going beyond the traditional job description and thinking about what holes exist in the talents of our current team. It’s important to develop a well-rounded team capable of producing at a high level, and bringing on a new team member always presents an opportunity to fill any talent gaps that exist.” — Anthony Gaenzle, Director of Marketing, Saxton & Stump

11. “Find your chameleon. When hiring people for a sales position or any other position, I look for people that excel at communication. This type of position requires a personality that mimics a chameleon and can change with any situation and with any individual.” — Gene Caballero / Co-Founder, GreenPal

12.“We hire for attitude and demeanor above all else because we can teach skills, but we can’t teach attitude. When searching for new employees we use our network and we over-emphasize the following point in the job description: The person we want for this role is currently employed, doing very well and has no apparent reason to leave their current position. That formula has worked very well for us!” — Jon Sterling, Managing Director, Agents Launch

13. “The best team players are those that are totally engaged with your business before they even get the job. If a job candidate has taken the time to visit our website and asks me a few specific questions about our company and/or our industry after reading about us online, then this shows me right up front that they will be a team player. They are in it for more than themselves. You can’t go wrong with that kind of employee.” — Danielle Kunkle, Vice President, Boomer Benefits

14. “When I’m building an all-star team — or helping other companies do the same — we are looking for three specific things: current skill set/ability to acquire new skills, a personality that will gel well with the current team, and the instinctive hard-wiring that will enable an individual to do a specific job without burnout. In our experience, a team member that is working against their hard-wired instincts will never be able to be a long-term success.” — Nicole C. Wipp, CEO​, Wipp Enterprises

15. “As a remote company, we primarily look for new candidates with a strong ability to communicate. Whether they need to clearly express to us their concerns or challenges regarding a project or whether it is directly to the client we need to know that the people we hire can express their thoughts and actions in a clear & concise way.” — Elyssa Respaut, Project Manager, AmDee

16. “When you are building a team of star employees, there are many smart, skilled and overly qualified people in the world. While hiring someone with the necessary skills and smarts for a specific role is very important, it is also critical that a company find people who are able to succeed in the organization’s culture and spirit. Sometimes that means not hiring the smartest or most skillful but hiring the person who is almost are skilled but is the right cultural, inquisitive and enthusiastic fit.”Stuart Snyder, Founder & President of Snyder Media Group

17. “In a small business, everyone has to wear many hats. So I look for people that not only enjoy flexibility but thrive on it – people who like to know too much about their job description are not a good fit in an entrepreneurial culture! I also look for a competitive streak – former college athletes are great – as you have to really want to win to be successful in taking on the big companies.” — Jeff O’Hara, President, AlliedPRA New Orleans

18.“There are three things companies should do to build the culture and the team. #1: Referrals — rock stars hang out with rock stars. Pay your people to bring you the very best. #2: Interview their spouse. Getting to know the potential hire’s spouse has many benefits. #3: 90-day probation. During this time, they’re on probation and so are you!” — Dave Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Solutions

18.When I hire for my team, I look for people who can complete work on time and follow instructions. Anyone who has those two qualities can be molded into an all-star. To find such employees, I give all applicants a detailed, but simple, set of instructions to complete. Not many complete them without making mistakes. Those who do are invited to join my team.” — Camila Rabin, Founder of Musicaroo

20. “I focus more so on someone’s personality and behavior versus their previous experience. To find a potential employee’s personality and behavioral traits, I require them to take the Corporate Consulting AVA (Activity vector analysis) test and a DISC personality test.” — Tom Parmentier, Director of Operations at Express Homebuyers

21. “We seek people who are curious and eager to learn. The desire to learn is a big part of our company culture.” — Charles Dugan, Founder, American Image Displays

22. “We look for enthusiasm first, and it’s important to note that it can be enthusiasm in most anything but ultimately we want a person that cares and isn’t just a robot that is coming in to punch their time card. The second most important piece is around culture. We are a small team with a very tight culture and we spend a lot of time and thought around everything, so it’s important to find someone that amplifies this instead of condenses it.” — Jesse Lakes, CEO, GeniusLink

23.“We look for employees who are reliable. We want people we can trust and who are committed to our company and mission.” — Earl Choate, Founder, Concrete Camouflage

24. “This year, we designed our core values and through those values we set the bar and the strategy in how we recruit. Through multiple hiring pushes, we’ve realized that hiring top talent must ALWAYS come down the culture fit. We have found that asking questions help us seek out whether or not potential candidates fit into our core values is what is the best method in finding those who will not only fit well, but who will do great work because they are at a place where their intrinsic values match that of the organization.” — Mandy Yoh, Head of Communications, ReviewTrackers

25. “It’s as important to fit our culture as it is to have the requisite skills. We take time to hire the right person, even if it means going months without filling a position or rejecting qualified people. If a candidate makes it as far as the on-site interview stage, they may find the process to be intense. We spend a great deal of time with prospective employees and then put in even more time in discussions, building consensus across the diverse viewpoints of the many parties who spoke with the candidate. For example, we had an immediate need to fill a position recently. We nonetheless put candidates through 10 interviews apiece, speaking with people across all levels and departments of the company-including the founders, who interview each and every person we consider.” — Ujjwal Gupta, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, BenchPrep

26. “We look for people that match our company values and passion for the environment.” — Saloni Doshi, Owner, EcoEnclose Packaging

27. “While building an all-star remote team, my first priority was finding workers I can trust, and whose skills and qualifications I can vouch for. To meet this need, I hired people I had worked with on creative projects for 5 to 15 years, before I ever launched the firm.” — Alexis Chateau, Founder & Managing Director, Alexis Chateau PR

28.“When searching for great employees, we look for a combination of experience and attitude. We ask for concrete examples of their past work (if they have a history of doing good work there’s no reason they wouldn’t produce the same quality of work for us), and we do pretty extensive interviewing to get a feel for who they are as a person. If one of those qualities isn’t there, we keep looking.” — Eric Anthony, Founder, Streaming Observer

29. “The one thing that really impresses us about a candidate is when they do prior research about our business and know how their skills will fit into our company culture before the interview ever starts. This shows drive, self-management, and a true interest in working for our company – as opposed to only wanting to be involved due to the financial rewards that come along with the job position.” — Neil Mclaren, Owner/Founder,

30. “A great team is one who possesses a variety of specialty skills and a strong relationship to combine those skills for successful results. We seek team members that have skills that are different but complementary to those of our current employees, and especially connect with individuals who express a personality that will mend well with the rest of the team.”— Matt Collins, Director, Unsecured Personal Loans

31. “During the interview, a candidate who will fit in my company will do four things: carry the conversation, show great intellectual curiosity , have command of specific facts related to his or her previous jobs, and speak like an adult (no like and no uptalk).” — Dan Biederman, President, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures Corporation

32.“Star employees are the ones who have a mix of super qualities like adaptability, integrity, and ingenuity, which they use to deliver exceptional results. While hiring such employees can be attributed to both chance and smart hiring techniques, what matters is the ability of the company to retain them and getting the best out of them. An engaging workplace that promotes and rewards high performance is one of the key ways to motivate and retain your star employees.” — Ed Lateef, Intelliverse

33. “We start with mission orientation – we only hire like-minded souls who are truly passionate about our mission. Beyond that they need to bring something new to the company – that might be deep skills, or that they push our culture in a good way, or something else that makes us better as a team with them in the mix.” — Eric Hennings, Founder and CTO, Vocate – The National Online Career Center

34. “The biggest thing I look for in building out a good team is balance. A team of all stars is great in theory, but could potentially lead to conflicts if everyone is trying to be the ‘alpha.’ Some highly experienced players who can help instruct others is obviously helpful. A few younger workers who bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team can also be helpful to push some of those who are more experienced. And of course, a few well-placed all stars in key positions can make a big difference.” — Bob Clary, Director of Marketing, DevelopIntelligence

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