The Empowered Blog

The Secret to Hiring Top-Performing Employees

One CEO Spills the Beans

As mentioned in our article “The Shocking Costs of Hiring Mistakes … And The Secrets to Avoiding Them,  too many hiring decisions are based solely on past experience and current skills without any regard to the real drivers - – mindset and “fit” – – of top performance.

With permission to reprint his article “Hire for Will;  Teach the Skill,” Ron Alvesteffer, CEO, SEI Service Express, Inc., shares how his company hires top-performing employees – – his secret to achieving SEI growth goals and cultivating an exceptional organizational culture.  Enjoy his wisdom!

(Reprinted with permission from March 27, 2013)

Hire The Will; Teach the Skill

by Ron Alvesteffer

It’s a phrase I often use with leaders at SEI, particularly when they’re recruiting for talent at our organization.

Because SEI is a growing company with an exceptional culture, we’re fortunate that we attract applicants with a high level of skill and aptitude in their areas of expertise.

But we don’t just hire people who can do the job.  By the time they’ve made it past our initial screening process, we’ve determined that they have both the skills and the aptitude to succeed.  We also have many candidates who rise to the top because they have an advanced skill set.

It can be tempting for hiring managers to rush the process because they have extra work that needs to be off-loaded, they don’t have time to sit through more interviews, or they feel pressure from others to fill the position.  In my experience, rushing this critical process does a disservice to the new employee and to the business.  In the end, hiring the wrong person often leads to more work because employees are left to clean up.  Work loads are compounded, the recruiting process must begin all over again, and the pressure that hiring managers feel is exacerbated.

A recent study uncovered that 46% of new hires don’t make it past the first 18 months of employment.  Of those, 89% didn’t make it because of attitudinal reasons, while 11% didn’t make it because of lack of skill.  As a result, companies are experiencing high levels of turn-over which put s a significant strain on productivity, innovation, customer service, revenue, margins, growth and employee engagement.

At SEI we don’t hire the skill; skill can be learned.  We hire the will.

While there are simple tests that can measure both skill and proficiency, for many organizations finding A Players can be both challenging and more resource intensive.

Because one person’s attitude has a significant impact on the culture of an entire organization, recruitment should be a high priority.

David Packard once said “No company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth.”

We guard our culture fiercely and decided early on that we would would take the time necessary to hire people who are a great culture fit for SEI.

SEI is exceptional because our people are exceptional.


About Ron Alvesteffer:

Ron Alvesteffer is the President of Service Express, Inc and is the author of The SEI Way. He speaks and writes about leadership and on building workplace cultures that produce great results.


Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the criteria, traits and attitudes that differentiate an “A” player from a “B” and “C” player for each role in your organization?
  • Is every leader on your team performing at an “A” level?  If not, what is your development plan to raise the bar for that leader?
  • How do you interview, screen and select for the right attitudes and traits for a given role?
  • What lessons have you learned about your own blind spots from past hiring mistakes?

Share your experience, questions and challenges in hiring top talent within your organization in the comment box below.


Denise Corcoran works with CEOs and executive teams seeking rapid growth yet are challenged by the “invisible barriers” that keep them stuck, overwhelmed or in crisis mode. Her company —The Empowered Business — is one of the few companies providing whole brain, strategic solutions for unleashing leadership and organizational potential. Her secret sauce is assisting CEOs and executive teams develop the “X factor” – i.e., the mindset, attitudes and game-changing thinking -- that drives double and triple digit growth … by design.


Posted by Denise Corcoran on November 4, 2013 in Assessments, Hiring Practices, Leadership Performance, Organizational Performance, Top Talent and tagged , , , , , , , .

Comments are closed.