Optimize, elevate, and secure top talent.

Hello from Atlanta, Georgia!

This week is the first instalment of my guide on mastering the art of hiring A-players for your business! 

(Also if you’re in Montreal, Canada next week, I’m going to be speaking at a free pre-event ahead of the Montreal Startup Festival with two other rockstar speakers. Come by and check it out!)

In this series, I’ll walk you through a proven methodology based on the book Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. This will help you identify, attract, and keep the top talent your organization needs to thrive. 🕴️

To make things super clear, I’ve split this topic into multiple parts.

To start, we’re going to cover Understanding A-players and creating a scorecard. I’ll define what A-players are and why they’re crucial for your business. Then, I’ll dive into the first step of the A Method—creating a scorecard to outline the role, mission, outcomes, and competencies. 🗃

In future editions, we’ll go through the other parts of the A Method – and as those are published, this section will update to have links out to those parts.

By the end of this series, you’ll have a solid grip on how to attract, hire, and retain top talent using this structured approach. 

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    So, let’s dive in and get started!

    Here’s an obvious statement—your business needs the right talent to succeed. But who is this “right talent,” and how do you find them? 🤔

    Let’s address the first question—the “right” talent you’re looking for is A-players. These uniquely motivated individuals will drive your organization’s growth, innovation, and efficiency. They’re hungry for a challenge and have the grit and tenacity to make things happen. 

    This leads to our 2nd conundrum—how do we find these A-players? That’s exactly what we’re going to address in this article.

    As mentioned above, this multi-part series will explore a proven A-player hiring methodology, which is based heavily on Geoff Smart and Randy Street’s book Who: The A Method for Hiring. 

    But before we get into this, let’s address the question you’re probably thinking:

    What (and Who) Are A-Players? 🅰️

    An A-player has three unique qualities:

    1. They’re incredible at their job (they deliver results and then some)
    2. They’re eager to learn, do more, and do better
    3. They bring a positive attitude to their work and environment, inspiring others to be and perform at their best

    Having a team of A-players can make all the difference in your business. Ever had your team build or suggest an innovative solution/process that you had very little to do with?

    More often than not, an A-player led that charge. 💪

    I’ve seen this firsthand—one of our standout A-players was a product manager. This person not only streamlined our product development process but also went above and beyond to introduce several innovative features that turbo-charged our user engagement and retention. 🔋

    Just imagine the advantages of having a stacked A-player roster—especially if you’re in the early stages of a business. How much further would your business go and grow?

    How to Find A-Players: The A Method 📋

    “This looks fantastic, Jason. I want to build my own team of A-players. But how do I do this?”

    Great question! That’s where the A Method for Hiring comes in—and here’s why you should seriously consider using this methodology:

    1. It’s a structured (and objective) hiring approach 📔

    The A Method is, first and foremost, a repeatable, step-by-step hiring process (no more guesswork).

    The ethos is that we’re removing (as much as we can) the subjectivity prevalent in the usual hiring process by using objective measurements, such as scorecards, against predefined hiring criteria. 

    I’ve found it much easier to maintain consistency and focus within our hiring processes by sticking to something objective and predetermined, like that within the A Method

    2. It will help you reduce mis-hires 😫

    By being ruthlessly objective in our hiring practices (e.g., evaluating candidates against a rigorously defined scorecard), we aim to minimize those dreaded (and costly) mis-hires.

    3. It incorporates cultural fit into the hiring process 🤝

    Hard skills are necessary for the role, but what about cultural fit? It’s often discussed in passing, but ensuring cultural fit is imperative to a hire’s success and long tenure at your organization.

    Lucky for us, the A Method also assesses cultural fit, which we’ll get into below.

    4. It helps you screen for winning qualities 😁

    Remember what I said earlier? A-players bring a positive attitude to their work and their environment, and this is something that we also look for as part of the A Method for hiring.

    This is one of the hidden benefits of A-players—they aren’t just great because of their productivity and ingenuity, but they also help uplift and motivate the rest of your team.

    The Importance of Hiring the Right People

    All businesses are run and made up of people, so it makes sense that a key decider of your business flourishing or floundering comes down to the people you bring on.

    With the right team, it’s like magic🪄—the right people can help jumpstart a positive culture of innovation, drive, and calculated risk-taking. This culture enables your employees to excel in their roles, feel good about their work, and feel justly compensated for their contributions, which feeds back into this positive culture—a positive feedback loop. ➿

    When all this comes together, the odds are in your and your business’ favor.

    But it can be a delicate balance—even the best teams can fall apart with a single mis-hire. I’ve seen projects delayed, opportunities missed, and morale obliterated when the wrong person gets added to a team. 😣

    And these issues will extend into your finances—you need to take into account all the expenses and lost time involved in onboarding and training a mis-hire, not even mentioning the issues they may cause if you keep them on long enough. For instance, a small business may lose between $10k-50k per mis-hire; in larger companies, the figure can soar to up to $500k

    Believe me, I learned the hard way. One time, we hired a candidate who looked great on paper, but we didn’t do our due diligence on whether they’d be a good cultural fit (spoiler: they weren’t). 

    The disruption caused by this mis-hire not only delayed a key project by several months but also cost us tens of thousands in rehiring and training expenses. 💵

    👉 So what’s the takeaway here? Hiring the right people is non-negotiable. Don’t settle for anything less because your company’s future literally depends on it.

    The A Method for Hiring 🌟

    Now that we’ve adequately illustrated the nightmare caused by a mis-hire, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you by diving into the A Method and how to, ideally, never make a hiring mistake again.

    (The contents here are greatly informed by the New York Times Bestseller Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street; if what we talk about here sounds just like what you need, I highly recommend reading the whole book.) 

    I said earlier there’s a step-by-step framework, and here it is—the A Method 4 steps are the follow (#1 we’re covering here, while 2 – 4 we’ll cover in later editions):

    1. Creating the scorecard: Define the role, mission, outcomes, and competencies
    2. Sourcing candidates: Identify and attract top talent
    3. Selecting candidates: Conduct thorough interviews to evaluate candidates
    4. Selling the position: Persuade top candidates to join your team

    Step 1. Creating the Scorecard

    An example Scorecard – steal this format! | Source: Hiring for Success

    The scorecard is your compass, map, and GPS in the hiring process—it’s your key to landing those A-players, and you’ll be referring back to it again and again throughout the hiring process. 🔑

    So it’s in your best interest to do a thorough job putting it together. 🤔

    The scorecard clarifies the role and sets clear expectations for what you’re looking for in potential candidates—this reduces internal ambiguities and ensures that everyone within the hiring process knows exactly why a candidate is (or isn’t) being considered.

    Here’s a step-by-step on how to build your scorecard:

    1. Define the mission 📄

    The mission describes this position’s raison d’être (in American: it’s purpose). It needs to be concise (1-5 sentences) and clearly articulate the role’s purpose and why it exists. 

    Example: A sales director’s mission might be to “Double the revenue from business clients in 3 years by securing new accounts and growing existing accounts.”

    As discussed above: 

    • What’s the goal of this hire = double revenue from business clients
    • Associated timeframe = in 3 years
    • High-level direction for accomplishing said goal = by securing new accounts and growing existing accounts

    2. Outline key outcomes 🎯

    This is where we get into the nitty-gritty—the outcomes are 3-8 specific, measurable results that the candidate must be able to achieve. These should be quantifiable and time-bound, giving candidates a clear understanding of the performance metrics they will be judged against. (Think SMART goals)

    These outcomes can also be tiered—e.g., underneath the bigger outcomes, there are smaller, more specific (or slightly different) outcomes.

    Example: From the sales director example above, the big outcome is “Grow revenue from $25M to $50M by the end of year 3.”

    Under this, there are two smaller outcomes that we’re also aiming for:

    • Increase the number of national industrial customers from 4 (year 1) -> 8 (year 2) -> 10 (year 3)
    • Reduced revenue from residential customers from 75% of total sales by the end of year 3

    3. Identify key competencies 🧐

    Think of the 5-8 skills and attributes required for success in this role—these are the key competencies. These should cover not just technical abilities but also soft skills, attitude, and cultural fit—remember what we said earlier about mis-hiring?

    Example: For the sales director role, competencies might include:

    • Strong analytical skills
    • Proven experience in B2B sales
    • Ability to innovate and drive change
    • Excellent follow-through on commitments

    4. Validate the scorecard 👍

    The scorecard shouldn’t be siloed—ensure it aligns with your business plans. It needs to make sense when compared to the objectives of related or reporting from/to roles, and it needs to be reviewed and approved by relevant stakeholders.

    5. Review and adjust the scorecard on a regular basis 📃

    The scorecard is a living document—regularly review and adjust the scorecard based on feedback and changing business needs to ensure it remains a relevant and effective hiring tool.

    A word of caution: Do not take the scorecard lightly ⚠️

    Your scorecard will make or break your hiring process! 

    A well-built, thoroughly considered, and vetted scorecard will align the hiring team, reduce biases, and improve your overall decision-making, increasing your odds of making the right hire the first time.

    A scorecard slapped together at the last minute? Not so much.

    In fact, we’ve personally benefited from a well-built scorecard: When we were hiring a new marketing director for Ascendance Coach, we made sure our scorecard followed all the above advice. We put considerable time and effort into crafting this role’s mission, key outcomes, and required competencies. 

    This scorecard was instrumental in helping us source the right candidate who not only exceeded our expectations but also drove a 30% increase in lead generation within the first year. 📈

    If you’re not already convinced, here are more reasons why a scorecard is critical to your hiring process:

    • Alignment and clarity: A detailed scorecard ensures that everyone involved in the hiring process knows what the ideal candidate looks like. Miscommunication and misalignment will mar your hiring process (or worse, cause a mis-hire), so having a codified, agreed-upon hiring reference document like a scorecard helps limit these issues.
    • Objective evaluation: Everyone has their own opinions and internal biases (whether we’d like to admit it or not), so having predefined outcomes and competencies on a scorecard means you can assess each candidate against what actually matters for the role.
    • Structured interviews: Each interview round can focus on different aspects of the scorecard, ensuring a structured interview process and a comprehensive assessment of the candidate’s suitability for the role.
    • Improved communication: Sharing the scorecard with all stakeholders involved in the hiring process, including peers and recruiters, ensures everyone is on the same page. This shared understanding facilitates better collaboration and decision-making.

    At this point, you should have a beautifully crafted scorecard in front of you that (1) everyone on the hiring team is aligned on and (2) adequately describes the goals and ideal traits of your perfect candidate.


    Thanks for sticking with me through this first part of our journey to master the art of hiring A-players! I hope you’re feeling pumped about the potential these top talents can bring to your business.

    But we’re just getting started! We’re going to cover the whole “A Method for Hiring” in this series – links will be added here as they’re published. Or sign-up to the Ascendance Coach newsletter to make sure you get them straight to your inbox.

    Get Actionable Insights💡
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      Need a hand perfecting your scorecard? Reach out to Ascendance Coach for guidance and support in setting up your scorecard. 

      Till next time,
      Jason Long