What is the topgrading interview process?

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4 mins, 15 secs read time

Topgrading was first developed by Brad Smart as an interviewing philosophy to seek out the highest quality workforce by ensuring that talent acquisition only focuses on the most talented and well-rounded performers.

This is a technique for interviewing new hires and company employees who are being considered for promotion. Topgrading, in its simplest form, relies on detailed chronological interviews that help recruiters and hiring managers learn about job applicants based on patterns which have emerged from various rounds of interviewing and competency questioning. Learn more about Topgrading and how to bring it into your interview plans.

Leading up to the interview process

To be a successful recruiting department, you first have to know what you’re looking for in your hires. This starts far before the interview process. Having a clear vision of the candidate that fits your open role will help you source the right profiles and structure your interviews to properly evaluate the candidates, their experience, personality, competencies and so on.

Before you can even begin looking for that perfect employee, work with the hiring manager to define what a successful hire will look like. With this in mind as you comb through candidates, you have a sketch in your mind of what that ideal candidate looks like, rather than having to decipher if he or she is right or wrong when they land on-site.

After you’ve kicked off your sourcing plan and have some high quality candidates in the pipeline, you have a number of options when it comes to interviewing and how you want to approach the process. This is where the method of topgrading can come into play.

It’s important to note that before you even begin interviewing for top talent and using the topgrading techniques, you must define what the A-player looks like within your organization, so that you can use the topgrading approach to see if the candidates patterns of behavior match-up with the necessary experience, skillset and personality to fit the open role.

Topgrading interview process

The topgrading interview process first starts with a job description that properly portrays the candidates skills, experience and personality needed to be successful at the open position within your company. Writing an accurate and detailed job description will help save your recruiting team plenty of time on the back-end, as being due-diligent about what you’re looking for can help weed out the unqualified candidates.

Many companies then choose to begin the topgrading interview process with a preliminary introductory meeting to get a feel for if the applicant is generally suitable with the company. Beyond that first meeting, each candidate will then fill out an extensive history of their career and experiences that helps employers understand their professional experience dating all the way back to high school. After the employer receives the candidates historic profile, it is most common for a two-person team trained in the topgrading approach to conduct a follow-up interview that usually lasts anywhere from 2-3 hours and covers everything from the candidates education, previous work, career goals, past troubles, and so on.

Topgrading should allow your hiring managers to make well-educated and evidence-based decisions on applicants. This technique will help you to evaluate competencies more clearly, and will ensure that you’re not relying on just the applicants resume when it comes to hiring the right talent.

What makes topgrading such a unique approach to interviewing is the structure and specific goal related to the method and that is helping your recruiting team evaluate talent to make sure candidates have the skills and attributes that are needed to perform at the top level within your company.

Not only do the various steps included in the topgrading approach allow you to uncover true characteristics and experience of a potential employee, it can help you trim down the number of candidates who are selected for a phone-screen or in-person interview, saving your company both time and money.Although many recruiting departments differ in what they include in their topgrading interview process, one of the foundational principles of Smart’s philosophy is striving to create the highest-quality workforce by retaining the highest performing people in the industry.

Implementing topgrading at your company

It’s no secret that topgrading has helped companies improve their overall performance of and that is directly tied to the top talent walking through the door. It’s important to keep in mind that although this approach to interviewing has been proven effective for many companies, it is not the only method of interviewing and may not be the perfect fit for every companies current workflow and process.

Because it has been used to propel companies forward to excellent performance, Brad Smart and his team of topgrading experts have made it fairly easy to implement the approach. Small companies are ushered to send all key managers to the two-day Topgrading Workshop in Chicago, Illinois to receive maximum content and education on the full interview process. If you’re part of a larger company with far more employees, Brad Smart and his team request that you send two key managers to the aforementioned workshop, while also running internal workshops conducted by Topgrading experts.