Who Makes the Best Employee: The Little Known Key to Successful Hiring

What we think
Business owners have been bombarded with information designed to assist them in choosing the best employees. Unfortunately, what we know only tells part of the story. Therefore, it is important to look at how we go about choosing employees and the one thing that can make a difference between success and failure.

IQ, EQ, and SQ
For years we were told to hire the smartest people. Then we were told that people who possess high IQs did not necessarily make the best employees. In fact, some companies found that people with high IQs underperformed when compared with their less intelligent colleagues.

When this became known, companies were told to hire individuals with high EQs (emotional intelligence) because they had better communication and empathy skills, were more understanding, and definitely more self-aware. In fact, one study followed the hiring of sales agents for L’Oreal on the basis of certain emotional competencies. These agents outsold other salespeople and had 63% less turnover during the first year than those selected in the typical manner.

That sounds impressive, doesn’t it? That is not the end of the story. Harvard began doing studies which showed that Social IQ (SQ) was essential. They showed that EQ was not enough. The best employees also had high social intelligence. The findings demonstrated that those with high SQs led greater revenue growth.

If social intelligence is the key, why look at other factors? We look further because business owners want employees that are happy, team players and reliable.

The Secret: A positive frame of reference and the ability to create multiple realities
Recently I was listening to an e-book by Shawn Achor entitled, Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change.  I realized that there was a key that was missing.

It is that the best employees choose the reality they construct. For example, we all know that people can have the same experience but their stories about that experience differ radically.

Therefore those that choose to construct a positive mental reality create positive change. They can keep open minds, accept many points of view and can change their story when they are presented with new information. They do not see the glass as half empty or half full. They see the jug next to the glass and know they can fill it when they choose to do so. These people realize that their brains can process only 40 bits of information per second despite a deluge of 11 million pieces of information available to them. Therefore, new information is welcomed, multiple perspectives are envisioned and positive outcomes are always chosen.

Dr. Achor argues that being positive and happy is easy in good times and it is a huge competitive advantage during difficult times. Therefore the best employees for each employer to choose are those who don’t wait for happiness and don’t wait for others to make them happy.


Consider the applicant’s ability in four areas:

  1. Teachability:  Does the applicant have the ability to take direction and feedback, and constructively make necessary work changes?


    • If I asked you to do something you did not really want to do, how would you go about ensuring you follow the direction?
  2. Effect on Others:  Does the applicant have the ability and maturity to see, evaluate and positively affect their own and coworkers’ reactions?


    • Tell me about a conflict you’ve had with a coworker or boss, outlining the cause, your actions, and whether resolution was reached.
  3. Drive:  Does the applicant have the initiative to put forth an optimal level of effort needed to excel at this job?


    • Give me an example of when your supervisor set a demanding work goal, how you assessed the obstacles and opportunities, and how you achieved it.
  4. Mind/Personality Style:  Is the applicant’s attitude and personality a good match to this company?

    Example: If the job requires a customer service focus you could ask (adjust the question based on the type of job):

    • Describe your style of approaching customers, dealing with conflict, and working in the face of adversity.

The Key

The key is to ask questions and hire employees who are deliberately raising their happiness levels now, can express the meaning of their work, enjoy connecting with other people, and perceive stress as enhancing rather than as an energy drainer.

facebrenda1Brenda Kelleher-Flight owns GDP Consulting Inc.  and works face-to-face, or via phone or Skype. She works with small business owners to develop questions to find the right person for the right job. This right person is attuned to the company’s values and has or is able to quickly learn the skills needed for success. To reach her write Brenda@gdpconsulting.ca or call 709-753-9935.


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