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Bucket List Employees - Why you should hire for ambition

Posted by Deb Muoio

Mar 24, 2015 2:12:00 PM

It’s a standard (i.e. clichéd) question that most interviewers ask: bucket-list-employees

“Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

 And most job candidates will respond with a perfect yet equally clichéd answer, like:

“In a position, here, with more responsibility, because I enjoy learning and love challenges.”

Ask a useless question and you’ll get a useless answer, but inquiring about a person’s aspirations has merit. In fact, research we conducted at PsychTests using our Ambition Test indicates that the degree to which an employee is ambitious has a significant impact on his or her performance

Here’s what we discovered when we compared below average, average, and top performers:

  • Top performers are much more driven (score of 70 on a scale from 0 to 100; 63 for average performers, 56 for below average).
  • They are more likely to have several professional aspirations (score of 76 vs. 65 vs. 61).
  • They are more likely to have several personal aspirations (score of 67 vs. 63 vs. 58).
  • They have a stronger sense of self-efficacy (score of 71 vs. 62 vs. 52).
  • 70% of top performers make it a point to learn new skills, aside from those they learn in school and during job training (compared to 66% for average performers and 53% for below average performers).
  • 88% consistently look for ways to improve their performance or complete tasks more efficiently (compared to 71% and 61%).
  • 73% strive to achieve top honors at work, like Employee of the Month (compared to 46% and 31%).
  • 89% set high work standards for themselves (compared to 73% and 64%).
  • 58% have a long-term career plan (compared to 47% and 46%).
  • 87% are “very motivated” to improve themselves and become a better person (compared to 77% and 58%).
  • 94% believe that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to (compared to 75% and 70%).
  • Only 21% of top performers have turned down an opportunity because they didn’t believe they could live up to the challenge it offered (compared to 31% and 49%).
  • Only 13% would be content with a “Satisfactory” job performance rating (compared to 20% and 29%).

While it may seem that these top performers can walk on water, one particularly enlightening statistic from our study reveals that these ambitious go-getters are not immune to self-doubt. In fact, 35% of top performers indicated that they get discouraged when faced with obstacles to their goals. What differentiates them from average and below average performance is their persistence and refusal to allow these obstacles to turn into permanent roadblocks.

Determining whether you have a future Mount Everest climber on your hands or an underachiever is a matter of asking the right questions – and avoiding standard interview questions that most job candidates can answer with an Oscar-worthy performance.

Add these to your interview questions repertoire:

“Describe a goal you achieved that no one else believed you could. Why didn't they believe in you, and what made you want to keep trying?”

“What does failure mean to you? How would you define success?”

“In the past two years, how have you upgraded your work skills and abilities? Tell me about any classes, extra reading, or training you have taken part in.”

“Would you prefer to work with a group of people who are less accomplished than you, or a group of people who are just as, if not more successful than you?”

“What is the most disappointing feedback you received in a performance review? What changes did you make as a result?”

“What type of initiative have you taken in previous jobs? Have you ever approached a manager with a new idea or task that you wanted to work on?”

You can take the Ambition Test here:

If you’re interested in using Employee Attitude and Personality Test (EAPT) or other tests for HR purposes, request a free trial for ARCH Profile here.

Want to learn more about using psychological tests for hiring, leadership development, career development or talent retention? Download our free eBook loaded with down-to-earth information about psychological testing for HR purposes. 

Ready for a test drive of ARCH Profile, the delivery system for PsychTests’ assessments? All you need to do is ask!

Request your free trial of ARCH Profile!

Topics: HR Tips, Employee Attitude, Hiring, Interviewing, Goal Achievement, Personality Assessment, Pre-employment Testing, Motivation

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