If you're one of those high performers who consistently outshines your colleagues and exceeds expectations, you should have prospective employers lining up at your door.
That’s because top performers are difficult to find and even harder to keep (especially given the record-low unemployment rate in tech). In fact, they comprise roughly 20 percent of the workforce, yet studies show that they produce around 61 percent of their departments' work.
In order to prove that you're a top player worthy of premium pay, however, you need to come across as a top performer during a job interview. Fortunately, establishing yourself as an elite professional doesn't have to be complicated. Here’s the criteria that experienced hiring managers use to identify a top performer during a job interview.
High Performers: They’ve Held Different Types of Jobs
You don’t necessarily need a deep tech background to be a high achiever, according to Nathan Mielke, director of Technology at Marquette University High School.
“No matter what their background is or how much experience they have, top performers are able to evolve and stay on top of changes in technology,” Mielke said. “They have demonstrated the ability to retool and reeducate themselves over the course of their careers.”
Having a diverse background and perspective gives them strength and the ability to be utilized in different ways, he added. For instance, someone who has experience with the back-end and the client-side understands how the two interact.
Diverse experience also sets you apart in terms of flexibility and adaptability. If you have a successful and diverse work history, you’ll have a leg up in a promotion or hiring situation.
They Think Ahead
Michael Spitz, owner of Compunet Consulting, says that exceptional employees create positive momentum from the outset of an interview. They give off a positive vibe and demonstrate specific behaviors.
“High performers are not only on-time and dressed appropriately, they anticipate the types of questions I’ll be asking and bring specific examples, letters of reference and so forth to show that they can handle the work,” Spitz said.
Studies have shown that well-organized people are more productive and fundamentally improve a team. Show that you can do what others can’t by preparing for the interview and being on your game from the very beginning.
They are Capable Problem-Solvers
High achievers aren’t paralyzed by big, tough problems; they problem-solve quickly when the situation demands. When they run into things they haven’t seen before, they think on their feet. To coin an expression, they can build the plane as they fly.
“They also have empathy for end users,” Spitz said. “So, when things go wrong, they have the ability to talk someone down off the ledge.”
How does Spitz spot an elite problem solver? People who are adept at solving problems can provide measurable and specific examples of their success. What should you say if you don’t have a lot of problem-solving experience? Top performers never settle for mediocrity.
“Describe your approach for analyzing problems, go-to resources and methods for evaluating possible solutions,” he said. “The key is knowing where to go to find the answer.”
They Can Explain Technical Information to Nontechnical People
Effective communication skills are what distinguishes an average employee from a high performer. Top performers demonstrate the ability to communicate with internal and external stakeholders, transition into management, and handle increasingly responsible positions.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a pure technical role; showcase your ability to communicate up, down and across the organization.
They are Committed to Self-Improvement
High performers tend to be self-directed and self-motivated individuals who are not only interested in learning about emerging technologies, but lots of different things.
“To me, side hustles are indicative of someone who has a desire to grow and willingness to go above and beyond,” Mielke said.
You don’t need a long list of paying gigs to impress a hiring manager like Mielke, either. Simply volunteering to teach a class or providing IT support to a nonprofit or library proves that you are well-rounded, willing to give back, and always ready for more.
Hiring managers correlate drive and a desire to set your own goals and exceed them as a sign that you belong in the top 20 percent of employees.