How to Spot a Rockstar Employee

“A man in a leather jacket holds up an electric guitar and shouts into the microphone” by Austin Neill on Unsplash

How do you know if the person you’re interviewing is a rockstar or just a crockstar? A rockstar employee is someone you can count on to do the job right, who fits with your company culture and gets along with your team. This is the person that you’re hoping will walk through the door to an interview. Of course, you’ll also want to beware of the crockstars (as in “full of crock”) — the ones who talk a big game in the interview stage but fail to deliver.

So how do you separate the rockstars from the crockstars? How do you know that someone is the right fit? Experience and skills are important, sure, but attitude is a far better indicator of success. So look out for candidates with the right attitude and who will set the tone for success.

Necessary hard skills (coding, foreign language proficiency, software knowledge) vary from industry to industry. However, ideal candidates share key personality traits no matter if they’re a software engineer or a salesperson. Learn to recognize what sets them apart from the crowd:

  1. Self-Awareness: A successful candidate will work to make sure that the job is a right fit for them (not just the right fit for the company) before accepting an offer. Look for candidates who ask about the culture of the workplace, the management styles, and the day-to-day responsibilities of the role. It’s a sign that they’re serious about being the best person for the job.
  2. Humility: Are they unafraid to ask questions or admit to past mistakes? “What’s your biggest weakness?” is a classic interview question for a reason. Everyone has made a mistake at work; we’re all human after all. Don’t fixate on what the mistake was. Instead, focus on the candidate’s response to their mistake. How did they work to make it right? You want someone who will be honest about challenges and can learn from mistakes, rather than being frustrated by them.
  3. Curiosity: Hard skills can be taught, but curiosity cannot. Don’t count someone out just because they don’t have the specific experiences that you had in mind. Look for someone who is interested in learning. That attitude is far more essential for success than a working knowledge of Excel or typing speed. You can ask if he/she has any hobbies or ask them to list a couple new skills they’ve picked up in the last year or so. The actual hobby or skill doesn’t really matter. The fact that they’re working to improve themselves is what’s important.
  4. Ambition: My all time favorite question that a potential hire has asked me was, “What can I do to make your job easier?” It was music to my ears. It shows that they truly want to work together to make the business run smoothly. These are the people who will go above and beyond to do what needs to be done. If the person I’m interviewing understands the demands of the job and asks about ways to expand their role beyond the job description, it shows ambition and passion.
  5. Sociability: You’ll want to watch out for the candidates who march to the beat of their own drum and are slow to adapt to teamwork. In today’s culture of open work spaces and flat organizational structures (those without a strict hierarchy), teamwork is vitally important to success. The entire personality of an office can shift depending on one employee’s attitude, so make sure you hire someone who is upbeat and is comfortable collaborating with others. Even if your employees don’t often work collaboratively on projects, you still want to steer clear of Debby Downers.

The final interview (if you have multiple stages) or the final part of the interview should be a stress test. This section of the interview process is reserved for those potential hires who you’re serious about bringing on board. This is when you tell a candidate about everything that could potentially be not-so-great about working there.

Let’s face it, no employer is perfect. Maybe it’s the long hours. Maybe it’s the fast-paced environment. If you’re serious about hiring this person, you should be upfront about what challenges they may face in this position.

Collaborate! Ask them if they’ve ever worked in a similar environment or if they have any apprehensions about these challenges. Let them speak frankly about their concerns and work together to come up with solutions if needed. The hiring process shouldn’t be a one-way street. You should be invested in making this job the perfect fit for both of you.

Finally, remember that it can take a little while for a new hire to get used to working for you. They have to adapt to the rhythms of the office space. Don’t count someone out if they don’t immediately “get it.” Give them time to get settled and give them freedom to tweak some of the existing procedures and processes to fit with their unique style.

Don’t worry; your new rockstar hire will be making music in no time.

An Entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant. Let’s discuss how I can help with your organization’s biggest challenges.

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