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?

Candidate Dishonesty in Resumes and Interviews – Blog #2 of 4

The most common areas candidates falsify

The first blog in this series presented research on the extent of dishonesty through the interview process. At Topgrading, Inc. we’ve conducted over 6,500 interviews and in our experience about 40% of resumes contain fiction and those 40% lie in interviews. This blog presents our findings on what candidates lie about.

While the research around this topic at times lacks academic rigor, various articles state that resumes contain intentional inaccuracies 25%-86% of the time which, in turn, convert into lies:

  • Claiming unearned education credentials (e.g. college or advanced degree)
  • Concealing criminal records (but be careful, there are all sorts of laws making it legal for candidates to conceal some offenses)
  • Inflated salary history
  • Exaggerated accomplishments or results (taking individual credit for a group success, for example)
  • Altered employment dates (to hide times they were unemployed or to hide short-term jobs that did not work out)
  • Falsified professional license credentials (it’s unfortunate that companies do not do background checks)
  • Made up experience at “ghost” companies (I once interviewed a candidate for Sales VP who, under pressure from me) admitted, “Almost all of my resume – education and jobs – is baloney.”)
  • Fake references

Are some lies okay?  After all, everyone bends the truth sometimes.  Some “little white lies” like hiding failed jobs don’t really reflect my true capabilities, right?  Wrong!  We’ve interviewed candidates prescreened with a “truth serum,” so that our clients hire impeccably honest people.  In all of our combined years, with 17,000+ interviews, clients have almost never felt blind-sided, or conned by candidates.  We only recommend hiring people who are rock solid in integrity – otherwise, how in the world could you trust them?

We’ll pick-up this blog series early next year with how costly mis-hires are (blog #3), and how to get the truth from candidates (blog #4).

I welcome you to share your experience or comments on this blog series.

Candidate Dishonesty in Resumes and Interviews – Blog #1 of 4

At some point in our career, we’ll be won over by a candidate who conceals their low performance by exaggerating their qualifications and performance on their resume and in interviews.  We eventually realized we were conned because they failed to perform even close to how they portrayed themselves in the hiring processes.  Candidates may bend the truth to get better jobs, of course, but the more important point is this:  reference calls are almost worthless.  While there are noted exceptions, most books I’ve found on how to get a job reinforce to candidates that hyping their accomplishments and hiding their mistakes are key to getting hired.  Some books even teach readers how to do it.

This blog series shares evidence of just how extensive the lies are (blogs 1), what the most common lies are (blog 2), how costly mis-hires are (blog 3), and how to get the truth from candidates (blog 4).

Statistics on Dishonesty

A few years ago, at a conference in Hawaii, I heard that 90% of candidates admitted to lying on their resume.  Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt’s book “Freakonomics” states that over 50% of resumes contain lies.  As a Ph.D. in organizational psychology I’ve acquired a strong interest in NOT being taken in by misleading stats. Below are listed a number of statistics that support the level of misleading and dishonesty in the interview and hiring process, but CAUTION:  these stats lack scientific rigor.

For Example:

  • 57% lied on their resume
  • SHRM:  86% of 4,000 HR members surveyed found lies when they vetted resumes, up from 66% five years ago
  • Employee Screen IQ:  50% discrepancies on job history
  • Time Magazine (2006) article:  43% lies on resumes
  • HireRight:  27% serious lies on resumes
  • 53% of resumes and job applications contain falsifications
  • Stanford U. experiment:  92% of students lied on both resume and their LinkedIn profile when offered prize of $100 for creating the resume best fitting a job they wanted

How do you interpret all of this?  We at Topgrading, Inc. have a collective best guess and that is:  at least 40% of resumes contain deliberate falsehoods.  Because we’ve interviewed over 15,000 candidates for hire, our “best guess” is that all of those 40% misrepresent their accomplishments and work history in interviews, too.

Don’t miss my blog next week that sheds light on what candidates are lying about.

Have you come across any additional sources that support these stats do you have stats or experiences of your own to share?  Please leave a comment.