The science of hiring: Identifying success factors of top talent

Portrait of a happy confident woman

4 mins, 23 secs read time

There’s no perfect E=mc2 formula for hiring the best talent, but there are steps you can take toward achieving success. We kicked off this year’s Greenhouse OPEN Roadshow in Los Angeles with a “boing” as Genevieve Crawford, Director of Talent Acquisition at Boingo Wireless shared actionable tips for identifying what your employees’ Success Factors are, and how to hire for them.

Success Factors are essentially what they sound like – the attributes that make people successful at your org. What are the behaviors that are rewarded? Who are the people that take action based on what’s best for the team and the greater org?

In 2014, competition for tech talent was high and Boingo Wireless had a 23% turnover rate, their recruiting process wasn’t aligned with the business and hiring managers practiced “butts-in-chairs hiring” to bring new employees in quickly. The Boingo team knew they needed to make a change, so they launched their employee Success Factors project, which allowed them to assess what it takes for an employee to succeed at their organization, and then create a process for hiring for those attributes.

After implementation, the Success Factors project resulted in strong hiring manager scorecard adoption and reduced turnover to a mere 10%. Curious about how you can achieve similar results?

How to Identify Success Factors

Collect Information

In order to identify what it takes to succeed at your organization, you need to tap into your greatest resource – your employees. Whether through performance evaluations or listening tours, forms of feedback are a critical piece for building the equation of your company’s success. Genevieve explained the importance of identifying your team’s top talent and asking them to reflect on what helps them be successful.

Top performers are usually humble. We usually ask them what attributes they believe other top performers have to get an honest answer. —Genevieve Crawford

Focus On Behaviors

Unpack the common behaviors that top performers share. This is not the same thing as stating a skill, like “excellent communication skills.” Good Success Factors are best stated as action phrases that can be measured. Genevieve recommended something like “shares project statuses with stakeholders” or “has produced clear, persuasive presentations”. This helps to clearly identify the ways that success has manifested in the organization.

How to Interview for Specific Success Factors

Create a Success Factor Interview Guide

The toughest part of this process comes after identifying the attributes. How do we build them into something measurable? That starts with creating a guide or template that can be used by all interviewers. Hiring managers and recruiters should know the Success Factors that they’re assessing, what the success indicator is, how to create an interview question based on it and how to best assess the candidate’s answer.

Customize the Scorecard

Custom questions in the scorecard should match the assigned Success Factor. The Boingo team also adds an additional “qualification” for raising the bar. That means the interviewer should be able to say whether the candidate will “raise the bar on talent”.

During the discussion workshop at the Los Angeles OPEN Roadshow, talent leaders from various organizations shared the Success Factors they identified and offered potential accompanying questions. Here’s one example from Lesa, a Senior Technical Recruiter at Grindr:

  • Success Factor: Conscious about correct processes
  • Behavioral interview question: “Which processes have you optimized in your career, and what was the outcome?”

Prepare Interviewers and Provide Guide Training

The partnership between your recruiting team and hiring managers is incredibly important for creating a structured and transparent interview process. When building scorecards, collaborate with interviewers to understand what works on their team. Then show how behavioral interviewing can help assess for the Success Factor while also uncovering previous experience.

“We use the Interview Prep tab in Greenhouse Recruiting to provide interviewers with all the Success Factor interview questions so that they’re completely prepared.” —Genevieve Crawford

Measure and Stay Consistent

The Boingo team saw great results after a few years, such as the 10% turnover rate, increased revenue per employee by +19% and a solid ranking in LA’s Best Places to Work for the fifth year in a row.

But that all came with hard work. Genevieve mentioned the importance of staying consistent in the process. For example, temps who did great in their role often failed after six months in their full time role. Why? Because they were thriving doing their specific temp task, but weren’t interviewed for all Success Factors, therefore they may not have had the attributes necessary to succeed in the first place. For this reason, every job opening gets a launch meeting, and Boingo’s Success Factor interview training is ongoing for people who are new to management.

It will always be difficult to predict employee performance, because people are complex, and humans interacting in human systems are even more complex (hello unconscious bias!). But by using an applicant tracking system paired with Boingo’s actionable guide for Success Factor hiring, you can help your organization exponentially elevate its hiring formula and achieve incredible results.

Missed out on OPEN Roadshow in Los Angeles and San Francisco? Join us on October 16 in Chicago, or October 26 in Boston for insightful new discussions and content.

Micah Gebreyes

Micah Gebreyes

is a Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Greenhouse where she develops and leads the content strategy for Greenhouse blogs, social media and thought leadership newsletter, Modern Recruiter. When she's not working to bring the brand story to life, she enjoys spending time with her Pomeranian, Cashew. Keep the conversation growing with Micah on LinkedIn or through the Greenhouse LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.