Ultimate Guide to Hiring A-Players

Finding A-Players: Not As Difficult As You Think

What Makes A-Players Stand Out?

A-Players are the exceptionally talented, uncommonly ambitious, and remarkably intelligent professionals who fuel the success of your company. They are, however, extremely rare and difficult to find.  

Dr. Jim Walsh describes an A-Player as:

To quickly spot them, here is a short list of characteristics that are essential to all A-Players.

The Essentials of A-Players

✓  Has Not Been Fired

✓  Has Been Promoted

✓  Impressive Track Record

✓  Great References

✓  Can Handle Difficult Situations

✓  Driving Force of the Team

✓  In for the Long Haul

The Top 10 Skills of A-Players

When evaluating candidates for employment, most companies focus on hard skills — specific, measureable, technical skills that candidates must have in order to be successful in the position.  

Don’t make the same mistake!

Sure, A-Players check all the hard skill boxes, but they also bring advanced soft skills, and a passion that sets them apart and adds incredible value to your business. 

Hard Skills

A-Players consistently rise to the challenge of every project and deliver results that blow everything else out of the water. Undoubtedly, their hard skills like computer programming, web design, analytics, analytics, accounting, and foreign languages are advanced.

Soft Skills

Besides checking all the hard skill boxes, A-Players bring advanced soft skills — personal attributes that enhance relationships and increase productivity.

In demand soft skills include:

1. Good Communication

Good communication keeps a team running like a well-oiled machine. Projects run smoothly, deadlines are met, and everyone understands what they need to do. Besides strong written and verbal communication skills, effective communication includes non-verbal communication and the ability to listen. 

2. A Positive Attitude

A-Players come to work with the right attitude and leave their personal lives at home so they can focus on your business. A-Players inspire others with positivity and determination, and go the extra mile to help others and improve morale. The right attitude can keep a project moving in the right direction or get a project back on track. A bad attitude will drive a project off the rails, diminish productivity, and fuel a toxic workplace. 

3. High Emotional Intelligence

The ability to recognize and manage emotions in ourselves and others is a valuable skill that improves outcomes. A-Players maintain composure in stressful situations and adapt to change in a productive manner. Employees with this skill are important to have at all levels of your organization. Potential interview questions include: What is your opinion of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace? How do you adapt to change? Give me an example.

4. Risk-Taker

A-Players are fearless. As life-long learners, they take risks to learn. It is not enough for them to get a positive result — they need to know why the risk paid off. They investigate outcomes to identify factors that positively and negatively impacted results to ensure future success.

5. Adaptability

Successful businesses adapt to ever-changing marketplaces and customer demands. A-Players thrive in demanding environments, and welcome opportunities to reach deeply into their bag of tricks to solve problems and overcome complex obstacles without missing a beat. In fact, they make it look easy.

6. Prioritization

A-Players are natural leaders and masters of prioritizing tasks. Their keen focus on your vision, mission, and goals enables them to complete projects on time despite new developments, uncertainty, and chaos. 

7. Self-Motivation

Believing they are unstoppable, A-Players motivate themselves to achieve their mission despite setbacks and hard punches. They are warriors who are stronger than all obstacles. You need them on your team.

8. Self-Discipline

A-Players takes responsibility for the welfare of the company, its employees, and clients. This responsibility fuels their discipline to work with integrity, accuracy, and precision.


9. Anticipation

A-Players anticipate distractions, setbacks, and obstacles. They are skilled at devising efficient strategies and acting to keep their teams motivated, on task, and on schedule.


10. Passion

A-Players are excited by your vision and take immense pride in fulfilling it. They hunger to improve your business and serve your customers with exceptional service. They are also passionate about advancing their professional development and require challenging work.

And now, what is the unequivocal, number one skill that sets A-Players apart from all others?

How A-Players Top the B- and C-Players

A-Players and B-Players are similar. Both are wonderful employees. The main difference is that A-Players live up to their potential and continually advance their limits. They are excited about the future and rush towards it.

B-Players make valuable contributions and do a good job. Rather than actively living up to their potential, however, they only have potential that has yet to be activated. 

Managers can activate the potential in B-Players by building their confidence, fostering their professional growth and skill development, nurturing their passion, and rewarding initiative and self-motivation.

5 Characteristics of B-Players

1.  Competent

B-Players have the skills to complete projects on time but they are considered average. 

2. Steady Workers

You can rely on B-Players to pull their own weight, meet deadlines, and successfully deliver their assignments.

3. Need Guidance

B-Players depend on others for guidance. They are eager for clear instructions, and encouragement to complete tasks and develop new skills.

4. Loyal 

Look at a list of your longest-serving employees and you’ll find B-Players. They’re committed to their projects, and are loyal to their employers, supervisors, and teammates.

5. Eager to Learn 

B-Players like to learn. Encourage their curiosity about how processes work, projects they’re not directly involved in, the big picture, and how they can contribute to it, and you’ll turn a B-Player into an A-Player.

What about the C-Players? 

C-Players are the least productive employees in a workforce. They are underachievers that account for 10%-20% of your staff.


4 Painful Habits of C-Players

  • Just Checking the Boxes

These employees do the bare minimum to complete their tasks without regard for quality, integrity, or accuracy. They don’t take initiative or add value, and show little to no pride or interest in new tasks and projects.

  • Miss Deadlines

As master procrastinators that lack time management skills, C-Players miss deadlines. They often struggle to meet deadlines by rushing through tasks. 

  • Require Full-Time Supervision

These high-maintenance workers need constant supervision to ensure they complete their assignments. Left to their own devices, they will drift aimlessly.

  • Unmotivated

C-Players lack ambition. They work for a paycheck and benefits, taking little to no pride in their work. They don’t have a career path or personal goals.

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Hiring A-Players: 5 Secrets You Need to Know

If YOU are the only A-Player amongst a roster of mediocre employees, forget about company growth. B-rated companies are full of stagnant B-Players. Exponential growth and success is close at hand with A-Players to help you get there. Do you know the benefits that A-Players bring to your organization?

1. A-Players Have More and Do More

A-Players have mastered advanced skills to fuel growth and accomplish goals. They hone their skills through ongoing professional development and seek challenges to put their skills to meaningful use.

2. A-Players Exceed Expectations

A-Players set a high bar for themselves. Being experts, their expectations for their own performance is usually higher than what the organization expects of them. They will consistently exceed your expectations but never exceed their own expectations.

3. A-Players are Productive

A-Players love what they do. Fueled by achievement and urgency, wasting time disgusts them. They are the ones chomping at the bit to run and win. The A-Player’s tagline is: “Put me in, Coach!”

4. A-Players Have a Track Record of Success

A-Players strive for excellence. Their performance is better, faster, and stronger than others. Their resumes shine with significant accomplishments and game-changing projects. 

5. A-Players See the Big Picture

A-Players live and breathe the company mission and vision to continually propel business success. Rather than getting trapped in the minutiae of daily and weekly tasks, A-Players quickly identify and flawlessly execute the most impactful initiatives.

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4 Easy Ways to Find A-Players TODAY!

1. It Starts with YOU! 

You are the company’s original A-Player. Knowing that your A-Player behavior will attract other A-Players, are you actively looking for other A-Players on a regular basis? Industry get-togethers are a great place to find other A-Players. Remember, A-Players pursue professional development. That means you’re sure to find them at conferences and trainings.  

Also, check out free events for entrepreneurs like 1 Million Cups every Wednesday, the Google for Startups Community or TechStars’ StartUp WeekTM. Events are held in cities throughout the U.S. and in other countries.

2. Keep the Ball Rolling — Always Accept Applications

Most companies accept applications when they NEED to fill a position. Don’t make the same MISTAKE! If you want a team of A-Players you need to build a Roster of Potential A-Players, now!

NEVER, ever stop accepting applications! Talk with interesting applicants. Add the A-Players to your roster of potentials and bring them back when you’re ready to hire. In the meantime, look for them at events and keep in touch. It’s never too early to have a productive conversation! 

3. Cash In Your Network

Your network is your richest resource for A-Players. Like you, your connections know A-Players. BAM! The A-Players in your network just grew exponentially!

  • Get Referrals

Do you meet 3 new people every day? Do you reconnect with 3 long-time connections every day? Reach out to your contacts and groups that may be able to refer you to some of their relevant A-Player connections.

  • Social Recruiting

LinkedIn is the original social media site for business people. Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date? Have you joined LinkedIn groups like alumni and industry groups? When it comes to finding A-Players, LinkedIn is a great way to cast a wide net for A-Players.

But wait, there’s more! If your customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or other social media sites, your company should be there, too! These social networks are great for market research, and Facebook and Twitter are especially good for recruitment, also. 

  • Company Layoffs Are GOOD for YOU!

Layoffs usually result from downsizing, financial or legal struggles. That does not mean that employees who were laid off are faulty or unproductive. In fact, A-Players are laid off just like B- and C-Players. Don’t overlook them and you’ll discover terrific prospects.

  • Connect with Competitors

You and your competitors are looking for the same professionals. Approach the ones with whom you enjoy a good relationship. They probably have more applicants than positions. Ask them to share your contact information with A-Players who did not join their team (confidentiality will prevent these companies from being able to share their applicants info with you).  

  • Network with Influencers

Industry influencers build incredible networks over time. Once you establish a good relationship, they may be open to referring someone to you. 

  • Become an Influencer!

As you build your network and attend events, why not offer to speak at a meeting, or write a blog post? A-Players will take notice and want to work for you.

  • Hello, Professor!

Yes, YOU could be an Adjunct Professor. Colleges and universities are always looking for part-time instructors, and their professors are always looking for guest speakers to share real-world experiences with students. An affiliation with an institution of higher learning publicly confirms your expertise and provides the opportunity to network with a strong pool of blossoming A-Players. 

4. Knock It Out of the Park

  • Strengthen Your Careers Page

A career page on your website is necessary for your company to find employees. Make sure it’s geared for A-Players. If they’re not impressed, you don’t stand a chance of hiring them.  

Remember, A-Players do their homework and research companies. If you are speaking at an event, for example, A-Players will find out more about you and your company BEFORE going to the event. They will seek you out at the event and impress you with their knowledge about the organization. If they’re in the market for a new job, they’ll also look at your site’s Careers page to see what positions are open and learn more about the culture. Expect A-Players to approach you with resumes, business cards, and questions at speaking engagements.

  • Be the Answer to Their Career Dreams 

Take every opportunity to sell your company to potential A-Players, every day, in every way. Whether it’s your website, a podcast interview, or a speaking engagement, let everyone know about your company’s terrific benefits, perks, and culture. People want to work for companies that take care of their employees.

  • Make It Easy

Smartphones are everywhere these days. RIGHT NOW, your potential hires are scrolling through job opportunities on their phones. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. 

Example: I Will Teach You to Be Rich careers page

Why we like it:

  • Company Culture

The bold team photo shows that their fun company culture is a priority. Potential hires see the team dynamic and the right candidates will wish they were in that photo!

  • Company Photo

You see fun, friendly faces you’d like to meet and work with. It motivates good candidates to apply and look forward to working with you.

  • Perks

Always showcase the perks your company offers. This gives them more reasons to say YES! to your company. Companies may offer similar benefits like insurance and savings plans, but not the same perks. Perks set you apart from other employers.

  • Credibility

To prove your case that you offer attractive opportunities for A-Players, share case studies and impressive results. Dangle the carrot and share projects they’d be excited to tackle…IF they choose you! 

  • Benefits

A-Players are responsible, and employee benefits are very important to them. Potential hires may assume you don’t provide health insurance, a 401K plan, or tuition reimbursement if those benefits aren’t on your website or in their offer letter.

Earn Your Reputation

To get on the radar of A-Players, build your reputation, deliberately, and consistently so they will want to work for you. Once your company’s reputation is buzzing, A-Players will want to be a part of it. 

No time to read the entire guide now?

Don’t worry! We can send the PDF over to you so you can read it anytime you want.

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring A-Players

Finding and hiring a winning team is a crucial part of moving your company to the next level.