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Defining what makes a Great Person: The Little Known Truth About Star Employees

How many times has a recruiter told you that they have “good employees” for you? And how many times have you found that to actually be true? The next time a recruitment firm (who knows little about your company or your job) offers to send you a “great employee”, ask them to send you a unicorn instead (at least you'll get some publicity). You see, both the unicorn and the good employee out of context are mythical beasts.

Let's take two employees. Joe Bloggs: aged 38, keen surfer, been with the firm 15 years, popular with the staff, leaves work at three, has no interest in further training, has never been promoted but is content where he is and never wants to be promoted; and Sam Slick: an employee of the same age, who started in accounts, and through tertiary study, determination and focus, has been promoted five times and is now seriously headed towards CEO. Who is the great employee? Most would say Sam, but take a closer look.

Place Sam Slick in a firm that does not match his values, doing work he has no interest in, and—for all his degrees, drive and talent—watch him flounder. Leave Joe Bloggs in his position, where he displays ongoing loyalty and long-term commitment, mentors junior staff, integrates the team, and contributes to stability and growth through his extensive general and technical knowledge and sheer experience, and you have in him one of the best employees in your firm.

It's all about fit. (Or matching, or positioning - whatever you want to call it.) Fit works both ways. For both the employer and the employee. Most firms make the mistake of focusing on what they want and not placing an equal focus on what the employee needs and wants, but employees these days are looking closely at what’s In It for Me? (WIIFM). Have the needs of one being met without this being true for the needs of the other party, and you won't have a good employee, no matter how talented or driven they are.

The simple truth is this: most people can be good employees if they are in the right job and the right company at the right stage in their career. You must BEWARE of the recruitment consultant who tells you otherwise, and tries to convince you they have “great people” on their books.

So why are highly talented people in the wrong job not still great? They are very talented after all. However, whether someone is “great” is always determined by:

• The particular job.
• Whether it fits the particular stage of their career and their life (yes, even if they are extraordinarily talented.)

So how do these talented people get into the wrong job?

• They focus on money and not other important factors.
• They were pushed into it by a recruitment consultant who was keen to “sell” them to the company, regardless of fit.

So how do you ensure you get that good employee who is talented, but who is also a great fit for you at this time?

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Toby Marshall is an active speaker on the international conference circuit. His mission: To give all companies, no matter how few employees they have, the information and expert help they need to do their own recruitment and selection and find great new staff. You can get more resources at

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