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What is an A-Player?

What is an A-Player?

5 minutes

Sep 12, 2023

Written by Léo Fichet

In recruitment, the term "A-player" is regularly used to designate profiles of candidates or employees of a very high level. These performers, who are supposed to reach all the objectives, are a real subject of debate for recruiters, as it is so difficult to define them.

Is this a new fantasy for recruiters? Or on the contrary, a typical profile with clearly identifiable elements?

In this article, we will dissect point by point the origins of this term, the common characteristics of these brilliant personalities and finally their impact in companies.


1 - Origin of the term


It is difficult to trace the exact origins of this term, as there are so few works characterizing it. What is certain is that as early as the 90's, Steve Jobs used this anglicism to support the importance of recruitment and more particularly the selection of candidates "A-players attract A-players, B-players attract C-players". 


If this analogy does not help us in our understanding, we understand that the idea of a hierarchy of profiles is not recent and that its theorization does not necessarily come from the world of research but from that of business.


2 - What are the characteristics of an A-player?


While doing our research on the issue, we were able to bring out common elements put forward by different actors characterizing the notion of A-player.


2.1 - Strong intellectual capacities

Thinking well and quickly, that seems to be the adage of these exceptional profiles. The technical skills they possess are not essential, it is their adaptability and their ability to learn that make the difference. People with highly developed soft skills therefore seem to be the most likely to be A-players.


2.2 - High intrinsic motivation

Although brilliant, some employees do not perform well due to a lack of motivation. This is a necessary consideration when you are looking to recruit these high-level profiles. They must be placed in stimulating environments. For some, it will be a particularly competitive environment, for others, commitment and performance will come from a world that encourages creativity. There is therefore a projection to be made between the employee's personality and the environment in which he or she will evolve.


2.3 - A good fit with your corporate culture

Although exceptional and motivated, these profiles will sometimes not flourish in your organization or upset the balance of your business. However talented they may be, these people must be able to fit in with your company's culture. It is once again a question of projection during the recruitment process, between your analysis of the candidate and his compatibility with the culture of your company.

3 - What are the advantages of an A-player?


3 advantages come up regularly when we talk about these great employees: productivity, attractiveness and performance.


3.1 - Productivity

The quality of these exceptional talents often translates into high productivity. They deliver more than others, they consistently meet and exceed expectations. They are also generally expected to have a strong work capacity, with an above-average ability to concentrate. Resilience to stress is also regularly mentioned, allowing them to remain productive and effective even in the most intense times.


3.2 - Attractiveness

This is perhaps the least obvious notion, but ultimately it makes perfect sense (as Steve Jobs suggested): A-players attract A-players. If your company is designated as being made up of only top talent, it will attract ambitious profiles with the will to progress. You can also rely on co-optation to take advantage of your employees' network, usually aligned with their skills, to find other high-potential employees.



3.3 - Performance

Finally, the enthusiasm generated by the notion of the A-player is summarized in this theme of performance, at all levels. Because they are competent, because their commitment is high, because they are fulfilled in your organization, they perform. Performance is collective, your teams reach their objectives, for a large part of the A-players, a natural leadership will emerge. Depending on the profile, you will be able to let them manage with confidence and delegate some of your decision-making. Results will be achieved and problems largely avoided.




Three elements emerge in this article. First, the so-called A-players have three common characteristics: they have above-average intellectual potential, a high desire to succeed, and their personality fits the corporate culture.

Secondly, their soft skills are essential. In this article, we have mentioned adaptability, stress management and learning ability. All this shows the importance of having adaptable profiles and not necessarily experts on a specific topic.

Finally, what stands out is that each A-player depends on a context. It is the meeting between a competent person (or with the potential to become one), a favorable context and a common desire to work together.

To accompany you in your search for these high-level profiles, the Yuzu solution integrates a tool to define your key competencies and evaluate the soft skills of your talents. Easy to implement, this SaaS solution promises to revolutionize your candidate and recruiter experience, thanks to gamification.