What is Topgrading?

The Company. Topgrading, Inc. is lead by Dr. Brad Smart, who created the methods of Topgrading.  The company, based in Chicago, trains managers in the Topgrading methods, consults with companies to roll out Topgrading, and Topgrading Professionals conduct the famous Topgrading Interview of candidates for key jobs.

The Vision. The vision of the company is to “Topgrade the World,” to become the accepted global best practice in hiring, to help all companies survive and create jobs, to assure that the vast majority of people hired are successful, and to dramatically cut the cost of mis-hires.

Best Hiring Method. Topgrading is proven to be the world’s best hiring method – it has more than tripled hiring success in dozens of leading companies and hundreds of small/growth companies.  At www.TopgradingCaseStudies.com read dozens of case studies with these unparalleled results:

Impact of Topgrading (new)

No hiring method, no interviewing method, no testing method has even case study showing a fraction of these typical Topgrading results.

Why are Hiring Results Typically Poor? Research shows that large and small companies alike hire about 25% “High” Performers, 50% “Good” Performers, and 25% “Low” Performers.  But “Good” is not good enough, is it?  Would YOU want to hire someone who says, “I’ve had 8 bosses and not one would rate my performance Excellent, and not one would rate my performance Very Good; I guess they would all rate me Good.”  Does that sound like a high performer?

Research shows that why 75% of hires are disappointing, NOT Very Good or Excellent:

  • Dishonesty. Low performers get away with faking their resume and interviews, because reference checks are generally worthless.
  • Shallow Interviews. So-called competency or behavioral interviews (“Tell me about a time you were well organized.”) are so easy to fake they are NOT revealing.
  • Poor Verification. Low performers list their buddies as references.

Topgrading Assures:

  • Honesty. Candidates know THEY will have to arrange reference calls with former managers and others you choose.
  • Thoroughness. The famous Topgrading Interview covers every job in every respect.  No stone is unturned.
  • Solid Verification. Reference calls arranged by the candidate are conducted, to verify everything the candidate said.

How Topgrading Works:

Topgrading Online Solutions (TOLS) is the software that powers Topgrading.  As an example: candidates complete the Topgrading Career History Form, with its strong motivator to be totally honest.  The Topgrading Snapshot is produced:


Even before talking with a candidate, you know that the honestly motivator caused low performers and those with fictitious resumes to drop out, saving a LOT of screening time.  And as with the Smith Snapshot, you can tell at a glance:

  • If the candidate is a job hopper (Smith is not)
  • If the candidate is not too high or too low in salary
  • ACCURATE estimates of how all managers would rate Smith’s overall performance (Excellent and Very Good are A Player ratings)
  • If the candidate was fired for cause (Smith was not – it was his choice to leave)

After screening candidates with the Snapshot there is typically a telephone screen, and then the famous Topgrading Interview, by far the most revealing interview method – FAR more revealing than so-called behavioral or competency interviews.  Then the candidate arranges reference calls with the people (bosses, direct reports, etc.) YOU choose; you conduct the reference calls to verify everything the candidate told you.


Topgrading, Inc. is an internationally renowned consultancy to many Global 1000 companies, but also to hundreds of small, midsize, and growth companies.

brad-headshotThe company was founded by Dr. Brad Smart, who completed his Ph.D. in organizational psychology at Purdue University, entered consulting, and after two years launched Topgrading, Inc. (formerly Smart & Associates, Inc.), based in the Chicago area.

Before launching Topgrading, Inc. Brad was appalled at the poor results of his peers’ recommendations. Only 1/3 of the managers assessed and recommended for hire turned out to be high performers. Brad attributes typically poor hiring results to the reliance on ineffective methods still commonplace today — the use of personality tests and behavioral interviews, both of which are easily faked.

In his first year of consulting Brad created two of Topgrading’s key principles. One is the Threat of Reference Check (TORC) Technique in which candidates are told from the start that THEY will have to arrange reference calls with former managers and others. This motivates low performers and those who fake their resume and lie in interviews to drop out. With nothing but honest, high performing candidates remaining in the candidate pool, Brad’s famous Topgrading Interview becomes extremely revealing. It’s a chronological Interview in which candidates reveal all their strengths and weaker points as they describe, for every job, their successes, failures, key decisions, and key relationships throughout their career. Of course, finalists DO arrange reference calls, which the hiring manager makes in order to get highly credible verification of what candidates have said in interviews.

jack-headshotIn the 1980s and 1990s Brad consulted with CEO Jack Welch at General Electric. Brad contributed to many of GE’s talent initiatives, but the greatest impact was in training thousands of managers to use Topgrading to hire and promote people. GE’s success hiring and promoting A Players soared to over 90% and GE became the most valuable and respected company in the world. Hundreds of companies have embraced Topgrading as the best practice in hiring.

Today Topgrading, Inc. professionals continue to offer in-depth interviews of senior candidates (where the cost of a mis-hire is extremely high), and have products and services to train all levels of management in Topgrading. World-class Topgrading software provides online tools for pre-screening and interviewing candidates, and it connects to HR systems.

As Topgrading, Inc. grows it remains committed to providing user friendly, legally defensible hiring methods that are shown in dozens of named case studies to be the only hiring approach to double and triple hiring success.


Topgrading Professionals

Topgrading, Inc., helps companies Topgrade by assessing candidates for top positions, where a mis-hire is extremely costly.  We also assess and coach management teams, conduct Topgrading workshops, and provide books, handbooks, and videos to help clients Topgrade on their own.

Because of increased demand, we are expanding our team of Topgrading Professionals, serving clients all over the world.  Team members have all been carefully selected using Topgrading methods (of course!).  And all have extensive Topgrading experience before joining our team. The resulting improvements in our clients’ company performance have been featured on the cover of The Wall Street Journal, in many Fortune articles, and on CNN.

“Brad and three of his team have all conducted Topgrading workshops for our managers, and all four received top ratings.”
– Dr. Kevin Silva, SVP Human Resources, Argo Group

Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO, Topgrading, Inc.

team-bradBrad completed his doctorate in Industrial Psychology at Purdue University, entered consulting, and since the 1970s has been in private practice as President and CEO of his own company, now called Topgrading, Inc., based in the Chicago area. Brad is frequently acknowledged to be the world’s foremost expert on hiring. The company consults with many leading companies and hundreds of small and growth companies. Brad has conducted in-depth interviews with over 6,500 executives. He is author of seven books and videos, including Topgrading 3rd Edition: The Proven Hiring And Promoting Method That Turbocharges Company Performance; The Smart Interviewer: Tools and Techniques for Hiring the Best; and the training series Topgrading Toolkit, featuring the 12 Topgrading hiring steps and demos of all the interviews. In addition, he has co-authored the following books: Topgrading for Sales: World-Class Methods to Interview, Hire, and Coach Top Sales Representatives, with Greg Alexander; and Smart Parenting: How to Raise Happy, Can-Do Kids, with Dr. Kate Mursau.

Chris Mursau

Vice President, Topgrading, Inc.

team-chrisChris serves as Vice President of Topgrading, Inc., and has been practicing, consulting on, and teaching companies and individual managers how to pack their teams with A Players since 2001. He has conducted over 2,500 in-depth Topgrading assessments for internal and external candidates, helped hundreds of people achieve their A potential, and trained thousands of people in all things Topgrading. His client list is broad and diverse, including some Fortune 500 companies, small to medium-sized businesses, and non-profit organizations. Chris completed an undergraduate degree in psychology at The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and earned an MBA at The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He currently lives in the suburbs of Chicago and is married with two daughters.

Ranjan Sinha

team-ranjanRanjan Sinha has founded and directed a number of software and service companies in the area of social media, human resources, email, and web search technology. He actively advises CEOs of high growth companies in the area of Social Media technology, HR technology and global service delivery models. He serves on advisory boards of various venture fund and private equity companies.

Chris Freiburger, Ph.D.

Human Capital Management

Since 1985 Chris has consulted with organizations ranging from small, family-owned businesses to Fortune 100 companies across a wide range of industries. He specializes in executive selection and development/coaching, talent valuation and management, leadership development, team building, and aligning talent management systems and company cultures with business strategy and targets. He has conducted more than 2,000 Topgrading assessments and coached hundreds of executives across numerous industries. Chris completed his undergraduate education at the University of Michigan and received his doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Kathryn Wainwright

The Talent Consultancy

team-kathrynKathryn delivers leadership assessment, individual and corporate culture assessments, executive hiring strategies, team development, leadership coaching, training and facilitation. She serves as coach and advisor to HR Directors on talent and resourcing strategy creation, implementation and integration with business unit leaders as well as personal coaching for succession. Kathryn has worked as a consultant since 2006 following 18 years experience in Human Resources at Barclays plc, Accenture, Cable & Wireless as well as in start-ups and recruitment consultancy. Kathryn is qualified and accredited numerous psychometric tools (principally for team development), Corporate Transformation Tools (CTT) for individuals, team and corporate levels, and an Associate of the International Coaching Federation. Kathryn is a graduate in Business Studies from Oxford Brookes University.

Kevin R. Hummel, Ph.D.

Lighthouse Consulting Group

team-kevinSince 1985 Kevin has helped companies Topgrade by assessing and developing talent. He has worked with CEOs of companies in all industries including healthcare, life sciences, technology, publishing, communications, hospitality, and consumer goods. Kevin holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from University of Georgia. Prior to founding Lighthouse Consulting Group, Kevin held senior roles in two international consulting firms. Kevin is a frequent speaker and workshop leader.


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We are growing rapidly and continuously in need of top-quartile performers with experience in technology and professional services to join our team.  Click here to learn more about our current opportunities! 

Become an Authorized Topgrading Agent (ATA)

You can become an Authorized Topgrading Agent (ATA) which will allow you and your firm to connect your clients with Topgrading tools and services, so they can pack their teams with A Players.  ATAs receive commissions and their clients receive 5% discounts.  Click on Become an Authorized Topgrading Agent (ATA) to learn more!

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