How to Make the Right Hires: Author of ‘Topgrading’

GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: How to Reduce Costly Mis-Hires by Dr. Brad Smart author of "Topgrading, 3rd Edition: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method That Turbocharges Company Performance," and President, Topgrading, Inc.


Extensive research shows that most companies only hire 25% high performers in managerial jobs. The three biggest hiring problems are dishonesty (low performers can hype their resume and fudge their interviews), lack of thorough information (Forrest Gump could fake competency interviews), and lack of verifiability (reference checks are too often worthless).

But many leading companies like General Electric, Honeywell, and American Heart Association, plus hundreds of small/growth companies too, have more than tripled their success hiring not just “okay” performers, but high performers throughout their company.

How did they do it?

They used methods which might strike you as “just common sense” and they are – common sense on steroids.

Step #1: Inject the Topgrading “Truth Serum”

Simply tell candidates that a final step in hiring is for THEM to arrange reference calls with former managers. It works and companies know it works because they of course conduct those reference calls and know whether candidates gave accurate estimates of boss ratings. The Topgrading “truth serum” has worked extremely well for over three decades.

Step #2: Conduct the Topgrading Interview – for Thorough, Honest Candidate Information

With honesty assured, it’s worth your time to ask a lot of questions about every job. Start with asking for high and low points during the education years (activities, grades, work experiences, key influences) and then go to work history. Topgraders ask 16 questions about every job, but the most important questions you can ask are: successes (and how they were achieved), mistakes/failures, key decisions, key relationships, talent inherited and any changes, rate the boss, guess how the boss would (or WILL) rate you, and reasons for leaving the organization. Then ask for a self appraisal and plans for the future.

For managerial jobs, ask an "A Player" to be your tandem interviewer. His “small” addition to Topgrading has enabled companies to improve from 50% high performers hired to 80% and higher.

Properly interviewing managerial candidates might take four hours. That might seem daunting, but it zooms by and you’ll conclude that your very first one was the most revealing interview of your career.

Step #3: Ask Candidates to Arrange Calls with Former Bosses – and Conduct Those Reference Calls

It’s easy – no phone tag because candidates do all the work. High performers DO get their former bosses to talk. "C Players" generally drop out of the hiring process early (good!), knowing that fiction in their resume will be discovered and figuring that their former bosses will not talk with prospective employers.


If talent – or problems with it – is your biggest managerial headache, you’re in good company, but that is hardly satisfying, is it? Follow the simple steps above and you will reduce costly mis-hires because you’ll get honest candidate information, complete candidate career information, and … for frosting on the cake … you will verify your conclusions and what candidates told you when THEY arrange reference calls with former bosses and others you want to talk with.

BRADFORD D. SMART, PH.D., is the president of Topgrading, Inc (formerly Smart & Associates, Inc.), a group of professionals who assess candidates for executive positions and train managers to implement Topgrading. A well-known industrial psychologist and consultant, he has personally helped hundreds of companies of all sizes dramatically improve their talent. His other books include Topgrading for Sales. Brad lives in a suburb of Chicago.

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks