Where to Find Your Next High-Performing Employee

High-performing employees are few and far between, and it can be hard to determine whether a person will be high performing from a simple interview.

By Neil Solari 

When you hire for an open position, you don’t just want somebody who can do the job. You want a high-performing employee. That is, somebody who has the skill set to do the job they’ve been hired for, but who also rises above what’s asked of them and does things that may not necessarily be in their job description. They work intuitively and don’t have to be asked to work hard and take on additional responsibility. They have great soft skills — they show up on time, treat people well and generally do an outstanding job. 

In our business, high-performing employees are really important. If you have an employee who works in a tasting room, for example, and something needs to get done that’s not in their job description, that task still needs to get done. A high-performing employee will have a sense that their job is to do whatever it takes to help the company at any time. 

High-performing employees are few and far between, and it can be hard to determine whether a person will be high performing from a simple interview. These are the places I go to find the best workers, as well as ways to search out those high-performing employees in interviews. 

Where to find high-performing employees 

Ducks swim with ducks. What I mean by that is, good people know good people. I’ve always found really good employees from the high-performing employees I currently have. Let your best employees know what positions you’re hiring for and what you’re looking for in new employees. Ask them to refer friends and colleagues. You might even incentivize them to suggest people by providing a small bonus. 

Tap into your professional network. Let your trusted colleagues know who you’re looking for and ask them for recommendations. You may have heard that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most successful and oldest forms of marketing there is. Word-of-mouth recruitment can also work very well. 

Find people who are employed. The best way to do that is to work with a recruiter — and preferably a recruiter who specializes in your field. What a good recruiter does is open up a pool of good candidates because they have relationships with good people. They find candidates who weren’t looking for a job until the recruiter approached them. 

Identifying high-performing employees from their resumes 

When I’m interviewing potential candidates for a job, there are several things I look at. First, is the person I’m interviewing currently employed? In this market, where we have such low unemployment rates, you can have a job right now if you want to work and you’re good at what you do. Of course, there are circumstances where that isn’t true. A good candidate may have just been laid off, or they may have moved to another city or state. But it’s still an important thing to consider. 

Next, what is that person’s tenure at their previous jobs? That’s a really important one. Truly high-performing folks tend to stick where they are because they’re valued. If a candidate has had six jobs in the last eight years, that raises a lot of red flags for me. Why have these moves been so consistent and why aren’t they sticking anywhere? 

Look for people who have progressed in their career. If someone came in as an associate and now they’re a manager, that tells you they have good leadership skills, are open to learning new things and are open to taking on additional responsibility. 

Finding high-performing employees during interviews and reference checks 

I always evaluate how well a person articulated themselves during an interview. Can they explain why they’ve made moves throughout their career? Can they identify a career path and what is important to them in their next job? 

The most important thing you can do during the interview and reference check stage is listen. I see a lot of managers get into an interview and do all the talking. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionally. If the other person does most of the talking, it gives you a treasure trove of information about them that you can use to determine whether or not they will be high performing.

The value of reference checks is up for debate right now. In my experience, people don’t give bad references, so I don’t put a lot of weight on them. But I do like to ask behavioral questions. If this happened, how would the person react? Have they been in this situation and what did they do? That helps me evaluate what they might do when faced with problems or challenges in real life. 

Even high-performing employees need support 

One more piece of advice: Even the best employees need training, clear expectations and feedback. Managers often just put a person in a job and walk away, but you can’t do that and expect them to succeed. Instead, assume the interview process continues for the first 90 days on the job. Make sure you provide all employees with extra support as they learn about the job and your company. 

Published on Wine Industry Network March 29, 2023

Neil Solari
Neil Solari

Neil Solari is the founder and CEO of Intertwine, a talent acquisition firm that focuses solely on hospitality companies. He spent nearly 20 years as an executive at some of the largest recruiting firms in the United States before starting his own firm. His knowledge of the hospitality business dates back to his childhood; his family owns Larkmead Vineyards, one of the original post-Prohibition wineries in Napa, Calif. Contact Neil at (707) 312-8190 or  [email protected].