How to assess if a candidate is a high performer during the interview

You’ve completed the CV sift, removed candidates that are underqualified or fall outside of your key parameters and whittled it down to the best talent. Now at interview stage you ask yourself, how do I assess someone’s potential performance from on-the-spot questioning?

In my years of experience in recruitment, you can tell a high-performing candidate from not only their CV, their enthusiasm, or the quality of their handshake, but from the way they answer certain types of questions during the interview.

Interview questions that push them to improvise, demonstrate passion, independent thinking, self-management, a drive to upskill and how and when they might need to ask for help will give you a good indication of their potential performance should they be hired.

What is a high-performing candidate?

Given the general turbulence experienced in recent years, hiring managers and recruiters are more aware than ever that every hire counts. The cost of a bad hire is not only undesirable but almost unfeasible at such a time, so assessing a candidate’s potential and ascertaining who is going to perform well is a number one priority.

A high performer differs from a workaholic or a perfectionist, both of whom are prone to burning out. A high performer is someone who can consistently hit targets and reach above average results both on a regular working day as well as under pressure.

Whilst you don’t need an entire team of top performers, having some strategically high-performing employees on a team can help improve the performance and efficiency of other team members who can emulate their energy and contributions.

However, a high performer will also be able to demonstrate a healthy number of interests outside of work where their level of dedication, passion and organisation should shine through. This is an important part of what sets a high performer apart from other candidates. It shows their own commitment to a healthy work-life balance, relaxing and blowing off steam and coping with stress in a healthy way.

Why is it important to identify a top performer during the interview?

According to Glassdoor, the top benefits of hiring high-performing candidates are:

  • Better employee retention
  • More productive employees
  • More engaged employees

Employee retention is a particularly important factor when the cost of the recruitment process, onboarding, and training are calculated as retaining and promoting that employee is significantly cheaper than replacing them every 18 months to two years.

So finding that high-performing candidate, whether it’s for underwriting, loss adjustment, customer service, etc., will benefit your insurance company for not only short-term goals, but also long-term opportunities.

Questions to help you identify hard and soft skills in an interview:

The following questions have helped me pick the most promising ‘high performing’ candidates. Following the same set of questions can help you benchmark candidates and reduce unconscious bias as it allows you to focus on the key elements and qualities required for the role, not simply how well your conversation or interaction went.

Describe a successful project you were particularly passionate about?

A high performer should be able to demonstrate one if not several projects of differing lengths where they maintained their enthusiasm for the work. This is particularly important for the insurance industry where projects can have many objectives and even span several departments. Having someone who can commit to it wholeheartedly, ensure standards and all objectives are met, will be invaluable.

How do you manage your tasks on a project? What organisational techniques do you use?

No two people are the same, so there are many different ways that a high performer will organise and manage their workload. This could be anything from a highly-organised calendar to a daily list on a post-it note; you are really only looking to see that they have a structure in place to motivate and organise themselves with their tasks.

This question helps to ascertain independence, drive and the level of management, or micro-management, the candidate may need to support them.

How or when would you approach a manager for feedback or guidance?

This is a particularly important question if your candidate is interviewing for a customer-facing role as knowing when to seek guidance is a very important skill to possess, especially in the insurance industry.

Although you don’t want an employee who needs to be micromanaged, you do want an employee who knows when to seek help or guidance on how to improve in the future.

What skills are you hoping to develop in the next five years?

This is a variation on the classic but difficult to answer ‘where do you see yourself in five years‘ time?‘ question. However, it gives a better indication on where a candidate is looking to improve and upskill him or herself. This question functions more as a measure of initiative rather than looking for a fully-fledged plan.

A high-performing candidate will have skills they want to improve either in areas where they have not worked before or to build on skills they already have to improve speed, accuracy and efficiency.

What motivates you at work?

A high-performing candidate will be able to identify what drives them to achieve their professional KPIs, objectives and goals. Some will be very ambitious, and some will just enjoy the sense of a job well done, but it’s the self awareness of what drives their efforts that is a good indication of their ability to stay motivated throughout a project.

If you’re in need of additional tips on how to shape your interview process to assess high-performing candidates, our team at Davies can help. They have experience across the market and can help find talent solutions that are tailor-made for your unique requirements and needs.  Complete this short form here and one of the team will be in touch.

Dave Rose

Commercial Director

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