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How Do You Know If You’re a Top Performer (or Not)?
November 16, 2020 at 10:00 PM
This is a shot of the owner of New Zealand watch company - Hunters Race.

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Pareto Principal, also known as the “80-20 Rule”.  The rule states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  In business, the common thought is that 80% of any salesperson’s sales come from 20% of their clients and that 80% of the work for any organization come from 20% of their employees.  Well, how do you know whether you are in the top 20%?  Better yet, how do you know if you are in the top 10%?

In the executive search industry, recruiters are constantly looking for the top 20% in the markets they cover.  These candidates are known as the “players” and the candidates who will make an immediate impact in an organization.  I’m constantly asking people how well they performed versus their annual and monthly goals over the past 3 years.  Unfortunately, most people can’t answer that simple question.

Whether you are in a sales position or a non-production position, we all have goals and objectives.  The key is to fully understand what those goals are and keep track of how well you are doing against those goals on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.  What are your production numbers?  Have you saved the company any money?  Have you turned around a team or division?  Do you have copies of your annual reviews?

A few years ago, one of my key clients was interviewing a prospective employee and was having a hard time determining if the candidate was a top performer.  The applicant wasn’t able to give concrete answers on how well he had performed over the past couple of years and it was making my client hesitate on whether or not to move forward in the interview process.

The client shared with me something that he does and I thought it was some great advice.  Even though he has been with the same organization for 18 years, at the end of each year he sits down and grades himself on his accomplishments.  He starts with the objectives he received at the beginning of the year and writes down how he performed versus those goals in each category.  My client uses both actual numbers and percentages.  He then calculates how his team did versus their overall goal and how he contributed.  He will also write down what he feels his biggest accomplishments were throughout the year that can’t be measured by metrics.  Finally, along with his annual review, he will put everything in a folder and add it to what he calls his portfolio.  At any time, he can provide a prospective employer, a recruiter or even his current manager a complete record of what makes him a top performer and how he has brought value to his company each and every day.

While this may seem like a lot of work and sometimes more difficult to quantify for some positions than others, the payoff is completely worth it.  Study after study has shown that top performers have significantly higher salaries and wage increases.  From my experience, if I’m able to provide hiring managers with direct evidence of performance, I’m able to get many more job opportunities and have much more success seeing pay increases over 20% instead of the normal 10 – 11% increase.

Another benefit of realizing where you are at versus your goals is understanding what you might need to tweak to become more successful.  You are able to make the necessary adjustments to realize that annual bonus or promotion.

As an Executive Recruiter, when I see a candidate that has really thought about how they have impacted their current company and how they can make a real impact in their next organization, I am much more excited to work with that person.  Understanding your career accomplishments will help you put together a great resume, get your name to the top of a recruiter’s list and give you the confidence needed to surpass other candidates in the interview process.  Imagine being able to answer the “Why should I hire you?” question with ease and decisiveness as well as demonstrating that you are, in fact, in the top 10%.