How to identify top performers: Tips for hiring your dream team

Dream team
What are the personality traits of a top performer? How can hiring managers and recruiters identify the makings of a successful employee? What does a true dream team look like? Don Fornes can tell you.

In the following Q&A, the founder and CEO of Software Advice discusses the research his company recently conducted that identifies the personality traits of successful employees, the four types of top performers, the roles they excel in and how to hire more people like them.

Q: What was the inspiration for your research around the “Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team”? 
Fornes: In the eight years we’ve been in business, I’ve picked up on some of the characteristics that make our top performers successful. I wanted to develop a more sophisticated understanding of our employees and applicants, so that we could hire the right people, put them in the right roles and manage them more effectively.

Q: How did you conduct this research and/or come up with these profiles?
Fornes: Through my day-to-day interactions with some of our top performers, I started to get an idea of their personality types, but I wasn’t sure if my ideas were quite right. So I commissioned a local psychologist, Dr. James Maynard, to help us. He met with each of these top performers and talked with them about their backgrounds, what makes them tick and how they prefer to be managed. It was an informative exercise, and the team seemed to really enjoy it. I think they liked getting the opportunity to explore their own minds. From there, Dr. Maynard shared his findings with me, and, with the help of our managing editor, Holly Regan, we researched each personality type further. Together, we published our “Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team.”

Q: How many different profiles did you identify? 
Fornes: So far we’ve identified four unique profiles: The Giver, The Champ, The Matrix Thinker andThe Savant. But there are a lot more out there. For the sake of what’s manageable and effective, however, we wanted to focus on profiles of the top performers who really make a difference in our business.

Q: Can a person fit more than one profile? 
Fornes: I think so. Dr. Maynard mentioned that, at the highest level of the organization, you have senior executives who fit multiple profiles. For example, you might have a CEO who is a Matrix Thinker but also exhibits many of the characteristics of a Champ. And, perhaps most importantly, senior executives have maturity, which allows them to leverage their unique strengths while keeping their weaknesses in check.

Q: Are there profiles hiring managers should avoid entirely?
Fornes: Of course. Sociopath comes to mind. But we haven’t really dug into those profiles. We’re trying to identify the ones that improve our business. In terms of the profiles we developed, hiring managers shouldn’t avoid any specific one. Instead, they should assess the maturity level of the candidate, where they fit on their spectrum and determine whether or not they’d fit the role and company culture.

Q: In undertaking this research, did you learn anything that surprised you? 
Fornes: One thing that surprised me was how every personality type is sitting within a spectrum, where one end is powerful and positive, and the other can be destructive and negative. For example, The Champ is driven by a twinge of narcissism. Their self-confidence empowers them to do great things, but it doesn’t take much for that narcissism to become too strong and manifest itself in damaging behaviors. Again, their ability to control these negative impulses comes down to maturity. We found that the same is true for Savants who struggle with interpersonal skills, Givers who can be passive-aggressive and Matrix Thinkers who can devolve into chaos.

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