I was once told that a small business relies on the strength of its people, a medium business on the strength of its processes, and a large business on the strength of its values. That transition from people to processes can be one of the hardest jumps for a business to make, but it doesn’t happen at all if you don’t first begin with a strong team—or as we call them, “A” Players.

Our methods for hiring and recruitment come from a book called Who, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. If you have a current a staffing problem or you’re just in the mood for a great business book, we highly recommend it.

What is an “A” Player?

In Who, an “A” Player is described as “someone with at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of candidates could achieve.” Even if you’re as bad at combining percentages as I am (The top 10% of the top 10%? Does that make them the 1%?), you can pretty much get the idea. “A” Players aren’t just great candidates. In a pool of only great candidates, they stand out.

Important note: An “A” Player isn’t just an exceptional employee. They’re an exceptional employee whose areas of expertise fit with what you need done. A candidate with decades of experience managing teams in high pressure environments is only an “A” Player if the role you’re hiring them for requires those skills. If you’re hiring for an entry-level position with a lot of the same, repetitive tasks every day, that person is not an “A” Player for that role. They’re likely to become bored and quit, or make the role more complicated than you intended to keep themselves interested.

How do you find an “A” Player?

The first step to finding an “A” Player is knowing what you’re looking for. You’d think that would be easy, but most companies screw that part up. How many job descriptions have you seen that are way too general? I’ve seen a ton. By looking for someone who can do a little of bit of everything, businesses miss out on finding a candidate who can excel at the things they actually care about.

You might want someone who can write, but also do a little graphic design, but also occasionally manage a team—but which do you actually need? If your company is struggling with mediocre marketing copy, hire for a marketing copywriter. Don’t ask for a general marketing assistant and hope you end up with Don Draper.

Another side benefit of knowing what you’re looking for—your employees will know what they need to do to succeed. By being very clear about what you want most, your future employee will have a clear understanding of where their priorities should be if there is ever a conflict.

Want to know what the next steps to hiring “A” Players are? Buy the book. This isn’t a paid placement and we don’t get any kickbacks, but we do want to support the creators of a methodology that has changed the way we look at hiring (almost immediately for the better).