In the Spotlight: Finding the Best and Brightest

Superstars. Overachievers. High performers.

Whatever you call them, you know your company’s success depends on finding, hiring, and keeping them. But, if you’re interviewing candidates for hire or promotion, how do you identify the best and brightest?

To help, we’ve put go-getters in the spotlight to pinpoint what sets them apart:

  1. They have found their focus. High performers have identified their own strengths, and have found an expression for their unique combination of talents in the workplace.
  2. They are forward-thinkers—about projects and their own careers. To thrive, they need to know how what they’re doing now will impact the future. This “big picture” perspective gives high performers an advantage over those who focus solely on the objective at hand.
  3. They are accurate appraisers—of peers, projects, and themselves. They can spot talent in co-workers and chinks in their competitor’s armor. They use objective measurements to track the success of ongoing projects. Perhaps most importantly, superstars are not afraid to shine the light on themselves—they recognize their own weaknesses and strive to improve them.
  4. They are self-managers. Research has shown that high performers consciously apply a systematic approach to every project they tackle. While the steps vary for each individual, they usually include:
    • Determining goals, objectives, and expectations
    • Creating and executing a game plan
    • Making and keeping a commitment to the project
    • Evaluating their performance and project results
    • Periodic evaluation of their overall process (reviewing the process itself)

This disciplined “process” approach leads to a more organized, productive, and fulfilled employee.

  1. They are intrinsically motivated. While money is undoubtedly important, high performers are fueled from within. They are passionate about their careers. Their need to attain personal and organizational goals is often as great a reward as compensation.
  2. They are optimistic. The way people respond to setbacks is a fairly accurate indicator of how well they will succeed in work. Top performers see the glass as half-full. They tend to treat obstacles and setbacks on the job as temporary and therefore surmountable.
  3. They have mutual respect for other high performers. Top performers recognize traits of success in others (at all levels within the organization). Rather than focusing on hierarchy, achievers operate within a society of mutual respect. As a result, high performers will lend a hand to others with talent and help them flourish.
  4. They are results-oriented. These individuals won’t sit quietly and do a job just because they’re told to. Top performers need to know how their efforts affect the company’s “big picture.” They need to measure their work in terms of bottom-line results.
  5. They take risks. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is a personal mantra among high performers. They do their homework, accept change easily, and are calculated risk-takers. The good news is, an achiever will take calculated risks to help your company succeed. The bad news is, he will also take risks to help himself succeed—including taking a job with your biggest competitor.


Elsdon, Ron.
“10 Ways To Retain High Performers.”“Identifying High Performers: Can biometrics provide the answer?”. 01/12/2005“Identifying high performers: HR, recruitment, staffing & employment articles, trends and sound bites.”“Top Performers are Self Managers.”. 06/10/2004

Marritt, Andrew.

Sonnentag, Sabine. “Identifying High Performers: Do Peer Nominations Suffer from a Likeability Bias?” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology (1998): 501-515.


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