When you consider that the top 25% is a definition of outstanding performance rather than a statistic, it’s possible for everyone to meet this threshold of performance:
A top 25% person is someone who is fully competent or can learn fast, is intrinsically motivated to do the work that needs to be done, gets it done with limited direction and has strong soft, organizational and interpersonal skills while getting it done.
The Hiring Effectiveness Index in the graphic below shows how to implement a performance-based hiring approach to hire these types of outstanding people at scale.
This course on LinkedIn Learning describes how you can do the same thing one job at a time.
However, as this AI-generated story points out, sometimes recruiters and hiring managers need to convince the traditionalists of the error in their ways.
Convincing the Boss to Shift to a Performance-based Hiring Approach
Grace, the hiring manager, paced around her office, her heels clicking against the hardwood floor. Her phone lay ominously on her desk next to the resume of John, a candidate who had become the epicenter of a professional tug-of-war between her and Robert, the VP of her department.
“Robert, you have to see the bigger picture here,” Grace urged, her voice resonating with conviction during their meeting earlier that day.
Robert frowned skeptically. “The guy was pretty quiet in the interview. And his academic background doesn’t exactly impress. Worse, he doesn’t have the depth of experience we need for this very important role.”
“Academics aren’t everything,” Grace retorted. “John led an extraordinary project at his previous job that’s very comparable to what we need done. They were launching a new product line under intense time pressure. The original team had hit a wall, and they brought John in to turn things around. He led a cross-functional team and managed to bring the project not just to completion but to resounding success.”
Robert raised an eyebrow. “Success? What does that mean?”
“Yes,” Grace beamed. “Not only was the project successful, he was formally recognized by the CEO for his outstanding performance at the annual company awards program. The CEO said that it was leaders like John who were the company’s most valuable asset.”
Robert’s eyes narrowed, pondering.
“And that’s not all,” Grace pressed on. “Based on that performance, the VP of Marketing from another business unit specifically requested John to lead a more complex, higher-stakes project. Robert, when you get that kind of cross-departmental recognition, you’re not just good; you’re exceptional. We need that kind of talent here.”
“Also, remember that John was referred to me by one of his co-workers whom I know personally and she described John as someone with a strong work-ethic who is always willing to help his peers.”
Robert had hesitated that day, his eyes searching Grace’s. “I need to think about this, Grace. This is a significant deviation from our traditional hiring practices.”
Grace had nodded. “We don’t have a lot of time here. John is considering a few other offers. But remember, we’ve moved to performance-based hiring for a reason. And the reason is to more accurately predict fit, performance and potential.”
Back in her office, Grace’s phone finally broke the tension with its ring. She picked it up; it was Robert.
“Grace, you were right. Make the offer to John,” he said, his voice carrying a newfound respect. “And if I need to talk to him again I’ll be happy to.”
Relief and triumph washed over her. “What made you change your mind?”
Robert sighed. “You’re reminding me of why I promoted you over others who had more experience but were less willing to take on bigger roles. Your proven performance, combined with John’s exceptional track record, tells me that we’re looking at a top 25% performer. That’s the kind of talent we need to evolve and succeed.”
“Thank you, Robert,” Grace replied, her heart swelling with pride and gratitude. “Your support means everything.”
“As it should,” he chuckled. “After all, you reminded me that what defines top performers goes beyond just ticking boxes. Sometimes it’s about recognizing exceptional achievements, even if they don’t come wrapped in the usual packaging.”
As Grace hung up and prepared to make the offer to John, she felt a deep sense of validation. It was a win not just for her, but for a more inclusive and forward-thinking approach to hiring. One small step for her department, but potentially, a giant leap for the organizational culture.
And in that moment, she knew they were investing in not just a candidate, but a future leader. Because sometimes, recognizing true potential meant looking beyond the resume, and focusing on accomplishments that redefine what success looks like.
And that’s how you hire the top 25% for every job. It starts by replacing traditional skills-laden job descriptions that are nothing more the ill-defined lateral transfers with performance-based job descriptions that define career growth and opportunity.