What Is Topgrading and How Can I Use It to Hire The Best Employees?

Would you be surprised to hear that out of every 12 people hired, that 3 are C players (mediocre to poor performers), 6 are B players (average to good performers) and only 3 are A players (consistently excellent performers)? This means that only 25% of the people your business typically hires, are at the top of their game. This is kind of scary, particularly when you consider that the cost of mis-hires is multiples of a person’s salary. And it does not get any better if you use outside agencies to help you hire talent.

So what is an A Player? Well, they tend to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • They are smart in terms of intellect and business savvy
  • They are passionate and driven to succeed
  • They are trustworthy
  • They are consistent high performers
  • They are able to adjust to many different personalities working with them
  • They surround themselves with other high performers
  • They work really hard
  • They are resourceful and are great at overcoming obstacles
  • They are effective leaders
  • They are down to earth, well-grounded, self aware and humble

So why do common hiring practices fail?

  1. Dishonesty – C players in particular lie on Resumes/CV’s and in interviews
  2. Incomplete information – This results from shallow competency interviews
  3. Lack of verifiability – Most reference calls are useless due to bias

Topgrading – the game changer

Topgrading techniques, put forward by Bradford D. Smart, increase the number of A players hired to between and 80 and 90%. This is a massive shift from the typical 25% achieved by most businesses using traditional hiring methods. Although I can summarize the steps in the Topgrading process here, I am unable to show it visually for copyright reasons.

Step 1 – Use the TORC technique. TORC stands for Threat of Reference Check. This very simply tells the candidates at every stage of the hiring process, that they will have to arrange personal reference calls with former bosses and others just prior to a job offer. It is a really effective way to ensure that candidates tell the whole truth and you will find that C players that over-inflate their resumes, or talk up their achievements in interview, will quickly drop out of the hiring process of their own accord.

Step 2 – Use the Topgrading Career History Form to produce the Topgrading snapshot. This is an extended version of a typical online application form that results in a multi-color picture of the most revealing aspects of a candidate’s career history, as well as crucial information including dates & job titles, full compensation/salary history, accurate boss ratings and the true reason for leaving each employer. It achieves a high level of honesty by highlighting the TORC technique in the instructions for filling out the form. The graphical nature of the Topgrading snapshot immediately alerts the hirer to anomalies and inconsistencies or alternatively to consistent career and salary growth, making it easy to screen candidates for interview or rejection.

Step 3 – Use the Starter Topgrading Interview Guide. This is a full interview question set with room for you to record answers on the form. Ideally, you should do interviews in tandem with another person in your organization and both of you should fill out the form and alternate the questioning. All you have to do is read the questions, take notes and ask follow-up questions.

You start again by letting the candidate know that they will have to arrange phone calls with previous bosses before a job offer can be made. If they are still employed with a company from which you would like to get a reference, you can instead ask them to arrange for you to speak with a former boss or executive in that business that has moved on to a different employer.

You will use the guide to ask the candidate to describe every job in chronological order and to specifically describe every success, failure, key decision, and key relationship, including guesses as to how all bosses will rate them. Ask candidates to arrange personal reference calls with their former bosses as well as others you may choose. No phone tag – they must present you with agreed dates and times.

12 Topgrading Steps to Hiring 90% High Performers

I have summarized the 12 steps in sequence, along with the Topgrading skill required and the end result, in the Mind Map Below.

Topgrading-12stepstoHiringHigh Performers

You can access sample documents discussed here by purchasing the book “Topgrading, 3rd Edition: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method That Turbocharges Company Performance”, for about $24 on Amazon.com or you can get the onlne versions by visiting http://www.topgrading.com/topgrading-software/what-is-tols/. These are a little bit more expensive but provide a suite of video/DVD tutorials that show you how you can implement Topgrading within your organization. There is also a software product that can do the analysis for you. In my opinion, any of these products are worth the money, which is well spent if you can avoid a single mis-hire during your hiring process.

I have no connection with Bradford D. Smart or his organization and do not receive any compensation for summarizing his work in this article.

Niall Strickland
CEO HowsMyBusinessDoing.com