Category Archives: Blog

Candidate Dishonesty in Resumes and Interviews: The Solution – Blog 4 of 4

You’re skeptical, right? I’ve made the case that human nature makes lying on resumes and in interviews “understandable” and widespread, so how can there be a solution?

Well. ‘ol Doc Smart has just the potion for you – a “truth serum”.

Blogs aren’t supposed to sell stuff, so I guess I have to give to you for free. Forgive me for saying that Topgrading Online Solutions (TOLS3.0) administers the truth serum automatically, but that’s all I’ll say. Except that I hit on this amazingly simple, and amazingly powerful (scares away the low performers), and amazingly inexpensive (free). You can start using it today and you will start hiring better today.

After decades in the industry, I’ve found that candidates have a common tendency to not be entirely honest during the application and interview process. They may hype their experience in resumes and interviews, and conceal mistakes made in their careers and jobs that didn’t work out. If you’ve been a hiring manager, in HR or a company manager, no doubt you’ve encountered this. If these individuals do get hired, they are more likely to repeat past mistakes or behaviors, causing frustration and costing the company money and time. So how can you get candidates to tell you the whole truth?

I’ve developed a technique that’s worked for 30+ years, infusing honesty in hiring for leading companies like UBS, Honeywell, the American Heart Association, and thousands of other companies. This “truth serum” has prevented millions of mis-hires and saved companies millions of dollars.

At my company Topgrading, we teach managers what is called the Threat of Reference Check (TORC) or “truth serum” to separate potential mis-hires from the rest of the candidates.

We recommend informing candidates that a final step in the hiring process is for them to arrange the reference calls with their managers. This puts the responsibility on the candidate to contact those they’ve reported to and anyone else you want to talk with (peers, customers, division leaders, etc.) I hit on this technique early in my consulting career and it quickly became a game changer to the hiring process. It motivates low performers and those that have inflated their accomplishments to drop out. They don’t want you to talk to the people they have reported to, for fear those bosses would give a negative reference or illuminate information they were trying to withhold. They also know that it’s very unlikely bosses would agree to talking with you, for fear of a law suit if they told you the truth about their poor performance. Through this threat of reference check you save your company both time and money by weeding out these candidates before they move ahead as a potential hire.

High performers are VERY willing to arrange the reference calls because they have nothing to hide and know their managers will agree to talk with you and sing their praises. In Topgrading’s Career History Form, candidates are asked to give their full salary history (except where prohibited by law), the true reasons for leaving jobs, and how they think every boss would rate their overall performance (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor).  Hundreds of clients have said knowing these ratings before even talking with a candidate is a huge time saver and the best candidate screening tool imaginable. Do you agree?

Time Tested: Leading companies and SMBs have used the TORC technique for decades with 100% success rate. Over the years clients consistently report that the actual ratings correlate highly and match the candidate’s assessment of their performance. These calls provide another data point and are a terrific way to verify what candidates said in their interviews.

For more information, download the free eGuide.

Have you encountered candidates who have not been entirely truthful during the hiring process? Share your experience below.

Candidate Dishonesty in Resumes and Interviews is Costly: Blog #3 of 4

After a brief hiatus where our blogs focused on Building Your A-Team in 2018, we are back to finish off a series on candidate dishonesty.  Blog #1 in this series suggested that 40% of candidates lie to get jobs and Blog #2 showed the various lies that are told. This blog presents our research on the costs of mis-hires. We’ve helped hundreds of companies calculate their costs of mis-hires across various jobs, and in all of the thousands of Topgrading Workshops we’ve conducted, attendees fill out our Cost of Mis-Hire Calculator. This could be a 20-page white paper but here’s the bottom line(s);

                                         COST OF MIS-HIRES

Clerk:      1 x Salary

Sales Rep: 5 x Salary (based on extensive research for Topgrading for Sales)

Supervisor:  8 x Salary

Mid-Manager: 10 x Salary

Executive: 15 x Salary

CEO: 27 x Salary (Cover story of CEO Magazine)

Wow – the numbers seem high, right? Then take a look at the Topgrading Cost of Mis-Hires Calculator. Take 10 minutes – think of one of your mis-hires, fill in your estimated costs, and …. Wow!

And note at the bottom a very interesting question: how many HOURS did the mis-hire cost you and others? That number always exceeds 200 hours for Sales Rep and above.

So what’s the point: you owe it to yourself to use the best practices hiring because a) 40% candidates lie, and you’ve hired some of them, and b) the costs of mis-hires in money and wasted time are huge.

Four Actions to Create Your A Team in 2018

My New Year’s promise to you:  follow the 4 steps in this blog and you will have a dramatically better team in 2018!

This is the 3rd in the series on how to create your A Team.  Blog #1 explained how to rate your team members A, B, or C Players.  Blog #2 took it one step further – how to convert those ratings to a solid ranking of your most valuable team member the least valuable.


  1. Inject the Topgrading Truth Serum. Let all candidates know at every step in the hiring process, that the final step before a job offer is for THEM (not you) to arrange personal reference calls with former bosses.  For decades this little tidbit has brought honesty to a basically dishonest approach in which C players easily hype their positives and conceal their negatives.
  2. Conduct a Basic Topgrading Interview. Ask for complete career information for the past decade.  The Topgrading Interview is the most important Topgrading step.  It’s a chronological interview covering education years, ALL jobs, and plans for the future.  But if you haven’t used it, maybe start with this basic version:  Tell candidates, “Let’s start with your job at Acme, which you joined 10 years ago and come forward to the present.  For each job tell me:

a. What you did – your responsibilities and accountabilities

b) How you did – details about every major accomplishment and success as well as failures and mistakes

c) What your boss was like and how he/she would, in a call you might arrange, describe your strengths and weaker points and overall performance, and

d) Exactly why you left.”

 To learn even more, use a second interviewer.  General Electric under Jack Welch improved from 25% to 50% high performers hired; they embraced the tandem Topgrading Interview (2 interviewers) and their success shot up to 90% … and these were the years when GE became the most valuable and most respected company in the world.

  1. Make those reference calls.  Ask the candidates you’re still interested in to arrange confidential, personal reference calls with former bosses and any others YOU want to talk with.  A Player candidates email you within a day saying, “Done – the six people will be happy to talk with you and here are their available times and mobile numbers.”
  2. Use the Topgrading Snapshot.  The Topgrading Snapshot tells you the MOST important information you could possibly want about a candidate before even talking with them. Here is how it works:
  • Candidates are asked to provide information about their most recent 2 jobs. (Takes them 5 minutes).  Of course it contains the Topgrading Truth Serum you just learned about.
  • You get the Topgrading Snapshota 1-page, multi-color picture (“snapshot” if you will) showing how bosses would rate their performance, the real reasons they left jobs, and their salary expectations (unless prohibited). You quickly screen out candidates who:
  • are too high or low in comp,
  • are job hoppers,
  • have low supervisor ratings, and
  • who have been fired more than once.

Best of all, you screen only the best candidates for interviews.  The result is more efficient hiring (you don’t waste time screening low performers), hiring better performers, and a huge reduction in the costs of mis-hires!

Note: Almost all of you reading this have at least some understanding of Topgrading.  But if not, you might want to download the free eBook Topgrading401.  Or if you want to skim through the most dramatic case studies in hiring history, the hiring method that has enabled hundreds of companies to more than triple their success hiring high performers, go to for dozens of examples.

I’d love to hear about your Topgrading success stories or if you have any questions about the Topgrading solution.


Improve your talent in 2018: A Quick Talent Assessment Blog #2 of 3

I hope 2018 is off to a productive start.  Based on the positive response I received on last week’s blog, improving talent and establishing better hiring practices is on top of the list for resolutions in the New Year. Blog #1 in this series provided descriptions of A, B, and C Players.  Understanding how A, B, and C players perform across critical competencies is essential for the Quick Talent Assessment, the topic of this blog.

Regardless of company size, you probably spend dozens of hours each year following or discussing your company’s method of assessing talent in the company.  After all, your company needs that information for succession planning – does the company have the talent to achiever the strategic goals?  And they figure that YOU need to know how good your team is in order to lead it to achieve your goals.  These processes can be complex and time consuming!  There are “6-box” and even “9-box” models in which you are asked to rate your people across dimensions such as competencies, skills, knowledge, actual performance, culture fit, and a lot more.

Fortunately, decades ago we at Topgrading hit on a very simple method which can give you a remarkably accurate “bottom line” on who are your A, B, and C Players.   We HAD to find a quick method because in Topgrading Interviews we ask managers to assess their teams in all their jobs, and we can do it in only a few minutes.  YOU can use the same method to get a quick overview, to get a sense of just how loaded with talent you are … or if your team is “talent challenged,” what you’ll have to do to improve talent … to meet your goals.

Step 1: Understand the differences among A, B, and C Players.  Done – this was the first blog in this series.

Step 2:  Rank your highest performing/most valuable employee to the lowest, and then rate them all using the categories: A Player, A Potential, B Player with/without A Potential, C Player, C Player with/without A Potential.  The only 2 “good” categories are A Player and A Potential.  All the others are people who do not meet your expectations.  They are not high performers, not A Players, not people you’d enthusiastically rehire, and not showing the potential to become an A Player in any job.  So, draw a line under the lowest ranked person WITH A Potential.

Here’s a brief example:


Joe YES 1 A Player YES
Pat YES 2 A Potential YES
Sue YES 3 B Player NO
Jim NO 4 A Player NO
Chris NO 5 C Player NO

If your goal is to have an A Team, you’d draw the line under Joe and Pat, and then you have several choices:

  • “live with” them
  • “Replace” them
  • Fire but not replace them
  • Develop them

As for Sue, Jim, and Chris, you might want to let them go – maybe replace them, maybe not. But like so many managers we’ve worked with, if your success hiring A Players is only 1 in 4, the odds of replacing someone with an A Player are not very good.  That is the big spoiler of New Years’ Resolutions to improve talent in your team.


The “bad news”: almost all managers are successful hiring high performers only 25% of the time. If your hiring success is only 25%, 2018 doesn’t look like a talent improvement unless replace or fire your Cs.

The “good news”:  Blog #3 (the next one) will show you how to hire 75%+ high performers, to help replace not only your C players, but also any Bs that lack potential.

Improve your talent in 2018: Who are the A, B, or C Players?  

This is the time of year to make New Years’ resolutions.  On a personal level we might commit to working out more and communicating more with relatives.  On a business level we systematically go through our annual budgeting and planning processes, committing to increase revenue, drive down costs, and launch initiatives that will turbo-boost our profits.  And every year we set goals for improving our talent mix and commit to increasing the percent of high performers … but setting talent goals is agonizing because we rarely succeed in achieving them … right?

I’m guessing “right” because we at Topgrading, Inc. have interviewed tens of thousands of executives and regardless of the time of year we’ve heard details of their personal and professional goals, and their “resolutions” to achieve them.  And as you can imagine, we have heard from almost every manager that a major annual frustration is dealing with that chronic problem: talent.   We usually hear, “I want an A team, but more than half of my team are NOT  A Players, and it never gets much better than that because only 1 in 4 people I hire turns out to be an A Player.”

This is the first in a series of three blogs to help you improve your team in 2018:

  • Blog #1: How to Rate Your Team A, B, or C Players
  • Blog #2: How to Decide Who Are Your Most (and Least) Valuable Members
  • Blog #3: Four Actions to Improve Your Team in 2018

Of course you want everyone on your team to be an A Player, but let’s be clear about the distinctions among As, Bs, and Cs.

In the next blog we’ll look at a quick but effective method for determining your current talent level and your 2018 talent needs.

What are some of your New Year’s resolutions?