Over the past 30 years of interviewing candidates and following up on their careers, we have noted one factor that all top performers share. It is also easy to determine if your candidate possesses it – if you know what to look for. If they do have it, they are highly likely to be high performers for you!

So, what is this single magical ingredient that can predict future success? It has been proven to us through thousands of interviews that employees who:

  • Work hard to develop their professional skills and increase their industry knowledge away from work, on their own time, and,
  • at their own expense

 Nearly always develop into high performers in their careers.

This we refer to as their “own time and dime” theory.

Examples include:

  • Sales personnel who practice their presentation at home and record it on their smartphone to review and look for ways to improve
  • Managers who practice meeting at home and record it and look for ways to improve it
  • Reading books on management practices, leadership, customer service, sales, etc., to excel in their job
  • Enrollment in online or weekend classes related to work, such as a Bookkeeper enrolling in Microsoft Excel classes
  • Join LinkedIn Groups to stay current on their industry
  • Joining clubs like Toast Masters to hone their speaking skills
  • Active members in their profession, such as the Society of Actuaries

So what do we ask candidates to explore this? Our wording will vary depending on the level of the candidate; generally,  here is what we ask:

“What are your career aspirations in the next 5 years?” Listen to their answer, then ask:

“What are you doing – away from your workplace – to get to that level?”      

After listening to their answer, I may be prompted to ask, “Do you think that is enough to get there?” 

 Ask, “What books have you read to learn more about your industry or improve your skills?”

“What do you do to stay current in the industry?” Are they a member of LinkedIn groups such as the

– Automotive Buy Here Pay Here Professionals

– Subprime Auto Finance News

– Vehicle Service Contract Professionals?

I may be impressed with their answer and confident that I am interviewing a high performer.

If their answer is lacking, I may wonder why they are not putting more effort into developing their skills/knowledge the way high performers do. You should wonder too.

In summary: Employees who put effort into their career improvement – on their own time and dime  – are very likely to be successful with you – so make sure you ask.

Donald Jasensky is the Founder and CEO of Automotive Personnel, LLC, and the author of “Hire Like A Pro,” available on Amazon.com.

[email protected]



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