baseball team mates sitting in dugout with player holding a ballThe default position among many employers and hiring managers is to only hire ‘A Players‘; that is, those who fit the job description perfectly or very closely—and to jettison the rest, which is those who fall below the grade,B Players‘.

On the face of it, this sounds a like a perfectly logical hiring strategy, but why is it then that so many HR managers and recruiters find themselves in the position of having to try to convince hiring managers to accept a B Player? It’s because HR managers and recruiters are at the battle front of the global talent war and understand the realities, which are that in many shortage areas, it’s is a never-ending battle to find “grade A” talent.

But, is it ever really acceptable in this high-stakes, total-quality age to hire B Player talent? I think it is, and below, I have set out 5 reasons:

1. A Grade Talent Is a Mirage – there’s no such thing as an A-Player

Is there really such a thing as A-grade candidates? Or is a just a mirage, and when you get up close, it’s just a lie? How many times have you hired superstars on paper who turn out to be average or even mediocre? Would you bet your house on an A Player candidate working out great?

In fact, there are studies that support the idea of the A grade talent mirage. Take the one from Harvard Business School, which revealed that when star investment analysts changed businesses, they suffered an immediate and terminal decline in performance – suggesting that success was context dependent. For example, dependent on the resources, networks and colleagues from their former firm.

2. Your B Player is an internal applicant

A Wharton study has shown that internal recruits seem to have an edge on external recruits in that they are paid 18 to 20 percent less, have higher performance scores in the first two years and are less likely to be fired or laid off. On balance, you could in some circumstances get a better ROI from a B Player internal applicant over an A Player external applicant over a 2-year period.

3. It’s not possible to identify an A player with any real certainty

Studies show that even the most reliable assessment techniques of structured interviews and assessment centers have a predictive validity of around 60 percent; so, you can only be about 60 percent certain that your A Player is actually an A Player. There’s about a 40 percent chance they might be a B Player. If there are no A Players available don’t be afraid to hire a B Player.

4. Hiring a B Player may now may deliver greater returns than hiring an A Player later

How long will you have to wait to hire your A Player? Six months? Perhaps your B Player could be on board in 3 months, saving you 3 months lost production time, potentially providing greater financial returns over the 12=month period than waiting for the A Player.

5. Your B Player is high potential and may soon become an A Player

Research from Teachers College, Columbia University and the Center for Creative Leadership has shown that high potential employees who are most likely to progress through the organization show a trait known as learning agility. If your B Player candidate has learning agility (you can screen for this with interview questions and with tests), they may have the potential to progress into an A Player in no time.

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