I've been interviewing candidates for years. Some were great people who underperformed when taking jobs ill-suited for them. Others became stars by finding situations that allowed them to excel. When it comes to hiring there are four types of people ranging from people you should hire to those you shouldn't. However, the types described are not fixed!

As Phillip E indicates in his comments, "Obviously, the types refer to hiring outcomes and not to personalities."

The outcomes are situational, depending on the job itself, the hiring manager, the company culture and if the right person was chosen for the right job. Most often this is not the case. This type classification provides advice for hiring managers on what it takes to hire more great people who fit the actual job needs. On the flip side, job-seekers can reverse engineer the advice and use it to seek out opportunities that allow them to become Type 4 hires.

The Four Types of Hiring Possibilities

  • Type 1: those you should never hire. If you’ve ever hired someone who is a true under-performer it’s apparent to everyone else you did something fundamentally wrong. The likely causes: you didn’t look at the resume, you trusted your gut, you didn’t know the job, you hired largely on presentation and personality, you were desperate, or you didn’t conduct a background check.
  • Type 2: the bottom-third of those who are hired. Typically these people have the basic experiences, technical skills and academic background, but they’re assessed primarily on their personality, first impression, affability and presentation skills. One big problem with these hires is they need more coaching and supervision to do average work. Worse, some demotivate everyone else on the team. These people can all become Types 3 and 4 given the right situation.
  • Type 3: the middle-third of those who are hired. These people also have the basic skills and experiences, but in this case the assessment is more thorough. Generally this involves more behavioral-like interviews with more people, a more in-depth technical assessment, a battery of questionnaires, and a thorough background check. This is the interview process most companies use and it’s one designed largely to prevent mistakes. The unintended consequence is hiring people just like those who have always been hired since it’s the safer decision. The reasons these people aren’t in the top-third typically involve lack of motivation to do the actual work, some cultural fit problem, a style-clash with the hiring manager, or lack of necessary drive, leadership or team skills. Under the right circumstances everyone in this group can be a Type 4.
  • Type 4: those you hire who wind up being in the top-third of those hired. These are your star performers – the strong leaders who get results regardless of the challenges. They’re highly motivated to do the actual work required, they take on projects no one else wants, and they fit seamlessly with the people, culture and manager.

Here are some commonsense things you can do to hire more Type 4s and what job-seekers can do to find Type 4 situations:

Four Big Ideas for Hiring More Type 4 People

  1. Define Type 4 performance. Take every “must-have” factor and generic responsibility on the job description and have the hiring manager define how the person uses the skill on the job. This should be in the form of a task or an activity. Then ask what the top-third people do differently doing the same work. Put the top 6-8 of these performance objectives into priority order. These are the same things you tell the new person what needs to be accomplished on the first day on the job. Here’s a complete handbook for preparing these types of performance-based job descriptions for any job. Here’s the one-minute management version.
  2. Attract more Type 4 people. Since everyone wants to hire these Type 4 people, you’ll need to use compelling recruiting advertising that emphasizes what they’ll be learning, doing and becoming. Whether this is a job posting, email or voice mail, you’ll need to attract the person’s attention and enter into a series of exploratory conversations to keep them engaged.
  3. Assess and screen for Type 4 performance. Since they’re handling bigger projects sooner than their peers and getting promoted faster, Type 4 people typically have less experience and depth of skills than Type 3 people. This is offset by the intensity of their experiences, their ability to rapidly learn and apply new skills, and having the opportunity to develop their team and leadership skills early in their career. Dig deep into their major accomplishments, seeking out these Type 4 level indicators. The Most Important Interview Question of All Time can guide you through this process.
  4. Stop using processes designed to attract and hire Type 3 people. If the bulk of the people you’re seeing are Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3, you won’t hire many Type 4s. Weeding out the weak in the hope that a few strong survive is an exercise in futility. Since Type 4 people, whether they’re active or passive job-seekers, are always more discriminating, you need to design your hiring processes around how these people look for work and how they expect to be interviewed and hired. Here’s how to get out of this Catch-22 Staffing Spiral of Doom.

If there is no difference between the top-third of the people you hire and the bottom-third, you can safely ignore this article. However, if you want to see and hire more Type 4s and raise the talent bar, you have to design your hiring processes around how these people look for new career opportunities and how they expect to be professionally recruited and interviewed. It starts by doing the right stuff while stopping doing the wrong stuff. Unfortunately, the stopping is far more difficult than the starting.


Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He's also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. You can continue the conversation on LinkedIn's Essential Guide for Hiring Discussion Group.