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The BreakLine Bar: How We Determine Excellence


Thought Leader


Hiring a new employee is a substantial investment, and the decision to hire often feels weighty. According to the Small Business Administration, it typically costs 1.25 to 1.4x the salary to hire or replace an employee. Even when a sufficient level of talent is circulating for any given opportunity, it takes time, skill, and a curated process to find the right teammates.  

Time, in particular, is a resource that few hiring managers and recruiters have. When there is a need to move quickly, it is common to resort to shortcuts and familiar proxies for excellence, such as specific degrees, alma maters, or recent job titles and companies.

At BreakLine, we understand the factors — time pressure, a need for efficiency, a requirement for top talent — that tend to lead to these shortcuts. But the unintended consequence is that relying upon a particular university or experience at an specific tech company as a proxy for success artificially diminishes both the quality and the depth of your candidate pool. These and similar shortcuts work against DEI goals and rob your company of exactly the type of employee you want — a standard-setter, one with grit, integrity, and a proven track record of success who will drive results for your business.

Instead, considering sustained professional excellence coupled with lived experience can help attract these prospective teammates to your applicant pool.

This lens has helped BreakLine create the BreakLine Bar: a threshold of excellence that delivers exceptional candidates to our partners — people who will help your company grow and exceed your expectations.

The BreakLine Bar is grounded in two core beliefs: that excellence is transferable and that both a superb professional track record and lived experiences matter. These tenets help us find and select candidates with diverse backgrounds and match them with our partners. The data is persuasive. In a recent survey, 89.1% of BreakLiners received high-performance reviews in their most recent formal evaluation. Further, the average tenure of BreakLiners hired by our partner companies is 3.2 years and growing.

Here are some of our methods that help recruiters and hiring managers pinpoint determined and resilient high performers. Our approach can help you efficiently hire amazing people and diversify your team at the same time.

Curating for Professional and Personal Excellence

When BreakLine evaluates our applicants — mid-career women, people of color, people with disabilities, and veterans — we use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to find outstanding candidates. We look for sustained excellence in the applicant’s field, and we also give credit for their lived experiences described in interviews and essay questions. After all, the life lessons we earn outside of the office often become important skills that we bring into the office.

Professional awards, accelerated promotions, acceptance into elite programs or roles (not just elite universities or workplace alma maters), consistently attaining or exceeding quota, being the first in one’s family to achieve something significant, overcoming significant personal challenges, and military stratifications are all signals from candidates who perform at a distinctive level in their prior fields. These accomplishments  are common amongst  BreakLiners who want to learn and develop in their roles and who are interested in environments (i.e., growing companies) that offer that type of experience. In a recent survey, BreakLine alumni told us growth potential was the top reason they accepted their current jobs.

Placing value on lived experience is also crucial because so many of the traits that drive success in the workplace — tenacity, flexibility, perseverance, ingenuity — are forged in our personal lives. The ability to get the job done, and get it done exceptionally well, is always valuable, but particularly so in uncertain economic times and periods of rapid change. When someone climbs their way out of turbulence through hustle and determination, we see it as a powerful leading indicator that they can dig in when needed, find solutions to difficult problems, pivot with confidence, and strive for greatness in all facets of their lives. 

Considering the whole person in your evaluation process will help you zero in on folks with the capacity to uplevel what performance looks like in your company. 

Deconstructing Roles to Find the Right Candidates

After admitting candidates to BreakLine and providing access to our program, our next step is matching these outstanding professionals with roles where they are likely to contribute and to thrive. To that end, we work with both our partner companies and BreakLiners to decipher positions based on hard and soft skills. This enables us to look at the underlying qualities that lead to success in specific opportunities, such as collaborative teamwork, relationship building, leadership, intellectual horsepower, analytical thinking, and problem-solving agility. We combine this deconstruction with our BreakLiners’ skillsets, strengths, and passions — from specific products and technologies to company missions to the type of work they love doing — to find the roles in which they will excel.

We also clarify hard skills and work with partners to eliminate unnecessary hiring barriers so candidates can show they’ve got what it takes. For example, technical assessments are often given later in the interview process, and candidates from unfamiliar backgrounds are sometimes inadvertantly filtered out before they  get that far. We encourage companies to give technical assessments earlier to validate technical proficiency at the outset of the interview process.

One former U.S. Coast Guard Data Scientist achieved the highest score on a technical assessment her company had seen in 12 years. Another BreakLiner, a U.S. Navy Nuclear Engineer, taught software engineering for three years but was overlooked since he had not worked professionally as a software engineer in a tech company. He ended up completing an outstanding technical assessment and was hired and promoted quickly.

The BreakLine Bar in Action

Using the BreakLine Bar as our guide for translating professional backgrounds, we compile information about our candidates and open roles at our partners as thousands of data points in our proprietary alignment platform. This empowers us to efficiently and exactingly curate the talent our partner companies need; so that they can find, hire, and retain outstanding employees quickly and at scale. 

Here are a few recent hires from the BreakLine Talent Portfolio:

  • Anisa Ray, an accomplished painter and illustrator, earned her bachelor’s in rhetoric. She decided to combine her love for languages and creativity into a Master’s in computer and information technology. She is now a software engineer at Palo Alto Networks.
  • Eniola Okeowo, a second-generation Nigerian immigrant, took her experience in the construction, consulting, and project management worlds (as well as her two master’s degrees) to Google as a program manager.
  • Michael Israelitt transitioned from a seven-year military career, including two deployments in Afghanistan, to become a mission operations engineer at Anduril Industries.

Importantly, the data supports our approach: Our partners typically hire BreakLiners in 6 weeks. They hire one BreakLiner for every four who are phone-screened, which is 4x more efficient than the industry average.  Once they join the team, BreakLine participants drive stellar results — 89.1% received top marks in performance reviews in 2022 and they stay with their original employer for an average of 3.2 years and counting.

To learn more about what makes BreakLiners exceptional teammates and how to become a BreakLine partner, connect with us today by filling out our partner inquiry form

© 2022 BreakLine. All Rights Reserved.
© 2022 BreakLine. All Rights Reserved.