Chapter 21. Don’t Look for A Players

Lisa van Gelder

We know that the 10x developer is a myth, and we don’t look for Ninjas or Rockstars in our job postings anymore. So why do we still talk about hiring A Players or categorize team members into A, B, or C Players as if their growth or skillset were fixed?

I first came across the term “A Player” at a company that used the Topgrading interview process—tagline “How To Hire, Coach and Keep A Players.” The idea is to categorize candidates into A, B, or C Players during the interview process and to hire only A Players. This assumes that skill is fixed and all you need to do is identify it—and heaven help you if you don’t weed out the non–A Players before you hire them! In fact, if you don’t weed them out during the interview process, it means that you aren’t an A Player: “A players hire A players, B players hire C players,” as Steve Jobs said.

So why do I have a problem with it? First, it goes against my belief in a growth mindset versus fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that abilities are innate, whereas those with a growth mindset believe people acquire abilities through effort or study. I prefer to invest in my people. There are engineers who, with good coaching and career development, can deliver far more to the team than someone who might have wowed during their interview.

Second, it leaves you wide open to unconscious ...

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