Actionable definition of an A player and one tip on how to hire them – via Mixergy and Jeff Hyman

I listened to a great episode of Mixergy this week (over here with Jeff Hyman of Retrofit which is a data driven weight loss program.

You’ll should listen to the whole episode but there were a couple of things I wanted to put in a blog post. The first is the commitment Jeff highlights you need if you’re hiring “Don’t be half pregnant” as he puts it, or “Do or do not there is no try” as someone else might phrase it. He goes into details in the interview but the point is a bad hire is going to cost you all the effort of recruiting them, plus dealing with the fallout afterwards. If you’re hiring people, commit to spending a lot of time (30+ hours Jeff suggests) in the knowledge it’ll pay off in the long run.

Definition of A Player

Jeff has a definition of an A Player I’d not heard before. He defines an A Player as the top 10% (was it 10%) of all available candidates you can attract at the salary you can offer. I like this definition when compared to a more absolutist view of the world as it’s actionable. You can justify being soft in recruitment if you tell yourself that A players just aren’t available to you but if you focus on the top 25% of the available candidates you can at least get that.

How to get more A players

The above definition is also useful as it suggests two ways to attract more A players. Firstly, you can simply offer more money. This plays to people I’ve seen occasionally who complain that they can’t hire developers only to have it pointed out that they’re asking for Rock Star developers but offering busker salaries.

Secondly, You can spread the net wider. If A player for you has little to do with knowledge and more to do with raw intellect and drive maybe you can include more junior people in your search. Listen to the interview for why work experience might be the worst approach to defining A players. Secondly, you could spread the net wider geographically and accept candidates who would work remotely. If you’re based in San Francisco you can now also hire developers in London, Chicago and Vancouver. Depending on local salaries you could be putting a lot more people into your salary range.

The one thing to do when trying to hire A players

There is a lot of advice in the interview and you should really go and listen to that if you’re about to be hiring or just interested in hiring the best people. The one thing Jeff specifically highlighted as the one thing people most often don’t do is not to settle. As he puts it “I’ve never seen a role so unimportant that it could be given to a B player”. If you’re after the best and it’s taken you two months to find second best, don’t let yourself be convinced into hiring them. Hold off for the hire you’re looking for.

For more great advice on hiring I’d definitely recommend watching the interview

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