ABC’s of Hiring #38 Attributes of “A Players”

Every organization needs “A Players” to be successful. They are needed at every level within the organization. “A Players” are the stars who shine and outperform their peers. They are usually recognized as high potential leaders and put on the fast track for increased responsibility and professional development. For 20 years as a hiring manager and 20 more as an executive recruiter, I have searched for “A Players” for myself and my clients. After a lifetime of observation and reflection, “A Players” have certain attributes that set them apart. You may wonder if they really exist. The answer is absolutely.


Attributes of “A Players”


Goal Oriented – They tend to be ambitious but not arrogant, confident but not cocky and optimistic, yet not naive. They like a challenge and set stretch goals for themselves and their organizations. They have high energy, work hard and are typically change agents.

 Articulate – They have strong verbal and written communications and presentation skills. They can be very gregarious but tend to be slightly introverted and comfortable in their own skin. They are insightful, thoughtful and definitely not a “hip shooter”.

Continuous Learner – They are avid readers who scour the media to learn anything of relevance to their business or function. They participate in trade organizations to find out what the competition is doing. They are highly intelligent, a quick study and have excellent analytical skills.

Decisive – They are able to make tough decisions with incomplete data. They are not afraid of making mistakes because they tend to be effective in making course corrections when things don’t proceed as planned. They are risk takers, adaptable problem solvers and resourceful.

Visionary – They see opportunities where others do not. They have insight regarding what could be done versus what is being done. They focus on continued improvement, customers, people and growth.

People Savvy – They are caring about others at every level, respectful, not manipulative. They have integrity, high ethical standards and deal with others in an open and honest fashion. They are collaborative and inclusive. They teach, mentor and motivate their team members.


How do you identify them in an interview?


  1. Ask if they have been promoted from within during their career.
  2. Ask if they have received cross functional training or exposure.
  3. Ask them about any major project responsibility they have had, and how it impacted the organization.
  4. Ask them if they see the position you are interviewing them for, as advancing their career, and why.
  5. Ask for examples of continual learning, both inside and outside of the workplace.
  6. Ask them about a mentor, or person they have mentored, and what happened.
  7. Have them explain a situation where it was difficult to “do the right thing”.
  8. Have them explain a situation where things didn’t go as planned, and what did they do about it.
  9. Ask them what they know about your company and the position, and the challenges they see, and what they might change.

“A Players” will readily address these questions and thrive in the moment. Their attributes will be readily apparent in their responses.

When they ask you questions, do they probe the strategic direction of the department or company? Do they ask about the quality of the team they will be joining or the tenure and background of the management team? Do they have a good foundational understanding of the role and expectations based on their questions? “A Players” have done their homework and will have insightful questions.




“A Players” take responsibility for everything they do. They credit overall performance to their team. They participate in business with an ownership mentality. They run it like they own it, not as hired help. Every organization needs “A Players” in every function to excel in today’s competitive marketplace. They are hard to find but once identified need to be continually challenged and nurtured, if you want to keep them for the long run. My best advice is to find them and keep them.


Bob Harrington Associates has been in the executive search business since 1994 and can help you find the best people for your organization.


Best Regards,


Bob Harrington CPC
Bob Harrington Associates



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