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A Complete Guide To Topgrading Interviewing Technique

Finding the ideal candidate can be challenging and quite time-consuming but an essential part of a company's success in today's digital world. This process ensures that the most capable candidate works for the organization. The process of hiring top performers is called Topgrading. It is a comprehensive approach to assessing candidate credibility for a specific organization. In this blog, we will provide you with the topgrading interviewing technique. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of using upgrading to identify and hire the right candidates.

“Topgrading is the practice of actively seeking out and hiring the most talented candidates while reassigning (internally or externally) those with lower performance or ability. In more detail, we define upgrading as using only A players.”

Understanding Topgrading

A hiring methodology that evaluates a candidate’s work and life experiences and hires the best talent. It helps in identifying the best candidate for a specific role in an organization. The purpose of Topgrading is to hire top-performing employees and reduce the risk of hiring mistakes.

This helps recruiters identify candidates who have a track record of success. Using Topgrading, organizations can also ensure that new hires are a good cultural fit and have a positive impact on the company's performance. It works by using a structured interview process to evaluate a candidate's entire career history, starting from the earliest job.

The interviewer reviews all the positions held by the candidate and the accomplishments achieved in each role. The interviewer also evaluates the candidate's competencies and values, such as communication skills, problem-solving ability, and cultural fit. The aim is to identify patterns of success that can predict future job performance and cultural fit.

Importance of Topgrading

Topgrading is highly important when it comes to finding the right candidate for an organization. The three main benefits it offers are:

1. Better Hiring Decision: Hiring the right candidate reduces the chances of making a bad decision, it eventually leads to better business performance and increased revenue. A study conducted by Harvard Business found that a top performer can generate 400% more revenue than an average performer.

2. Cultural Fit: Identifying candidates who are not only skilled for the job but also fit well with the company culture. A motivated employee tends to work with the company for a long time.

3. Improved teamwork: Members of a team who perform well and those who possess skills are a good fit for the upliftment of the company. This internally improves collaboration and productivity.

4. Cost Saving

  • Reduced turnover: Reducing the chances of making a bad hire, which can lead to reduced turnover and associated costs such as recruitment and training.

  • Improved productivity: Increased productivity as you are hiring the best candidates for the job.

5. Productivity: Ensuring that the candidates have the required skills and experience for the job leads to improved productivity and reduced training time.

6. Reduced turnover rate: Identifying candidates who are a good fit with the company culture and have the required skills for the job leads to improved retention rates as employees tend to be satisfied with their work. This eventually leads to cost savings related to recruitment and training.

Preparing for Topgrading Interviews

Initially, to prepare for a topgrading interview, you should understand the job requirements and competencies. Then prepare a scorecard to define the role, responsibilities, and other requirements. The next step is to create a job requirement matrix to evaluate the candidate's skills and compare them against the job requirements. Prepare some interview questions to evaluate the candidate’s experience and accountability to the job. For conducting a thorough background check prepare a list of references. Also, include setting up the interview location and other necessary schedules during the interview. By following these simple steps, recruiters can ensure they hire the best candidates for their organization.

Job Scorecard

The following are the steps to create a scorecard:

  1. Initially, define the role and responsibilities of the job

  2. Outlining the necessary skills and experience required for the job

  3. Setting clear expectations for the candidate's performance and goals

  4. Creating a list of competencies required for the job

  5. Developing a list of behavioral and situational questions that align with the job requirements.

Job Requirement Matrix

The Job Requirement Matrix involves the following criteria:

  1. Identifying the core competencies required for the job

  2. Defining the level of proficiency required for each competency

  3. Developing a matrix that aligns the candidate's experience and skills with the job requirements

  4. Using the matrix to evaluate the candidate's fit for the job.

Background Check

The background check involves a thorough analysis of the candidate which includes:

  1. Gathering information about the candidate's previous employment, education, and professional references

  2. Contacting previous employers to verify the candidate's employment history and performance

  3. Checking the candidate's educational credentials and certifications

  4. Conducting a criminal background check and a drug test, if necessary.

The Topgrading interview process

The following section explains in detail the different stages of the topgrading interview process.

1. Screening interview: The topgrading interview process typically begins with a screening interview. An initial discussion between the recruiter and the candidate to assess the latter's fundamental qualifications and interest in the position. Usually lasts for 15-30 minutes, it is conducted either online or offline.

2. Competency interview: A competency interview evaluates a candidate's abilities, knowledge, and skills. It determines one's skills and abilities for specific job roles. Questions are likely to be open-ended and concentrate on particular scenarios.

3. Preparation of the Career History Form (CHF): A comprehensive document that provides an overview of a candidate's career history and accomplishments. It includes a chronological list of positions held, job descriptions, responsibilities, achievements, and performance metrics.

4. Chronological in-depth interview: A detailed interview that takes the candidate through their entire career history, from their first job to their current position, in chronological order. Specific questions about each job, including the candidate's responsibilities, accomplishments, and reasons for leaving are interviewed to analyze the work pattern of the candidate. Competency review and focused in-depth interview.

5. Reference check: A reference check is a crucial step in the topgrading interview process that involves contacting the candidate's references to verify their claims and gain insights into their work history and behavior. It helps to confirm the accuracy of information provided by the candidate and provides additional information to assess their fit for the role.

6. Hiring decision and offer: The topgrading interview process ends with the recruiting choice and offer. The hiring committee determines if the applicant is the best match for the role after carefully weighing all the data obtained throughout the interview process. The group then extends a job offer, talks through the details, and verifies the applicant has accepted.

Common Topgrading Mistakes

Topgrading is a complex and thorough interviewing technique that requires careful attention to detail to be successful. Here are some common mistakes to avoid during the topgrading interview process:

1. Not sticking to the procedure: Topgrading focuses on identifying the best candidates for the job, so it's important to stick to the process and not deviate from it. Skipping steps or rushing through the process can result in hiring the wrong person.

2. Not training interviewers adequately: Interviewers must be trained in the topgrading process and how to conduct interviews effectively. Lack of proper training can lead to inconsistent interviewing techniques, making it difficult to compare candidates fairly.

3. Failing to evaluate cultural fit: Cultural fit is an important factor in hiring, and topgrading interviews should include questions that assess a candidate's fit with the company culture. Failing to evaluate cultural fit can result in hiring someone who doesn't share the same values or work well with the team.


In conclusion, adopting topgrading as a hiring strategy is crucial for companies looking to improve their hiring processes and build a strong workforce. Companies may boost their chances of selecting the proper workers, leading to cost savings, increased employee productivity, and lower turnover rates, by avoiding typical topgrading mistakes such as not adhering to the topgrading procedure or failing to assess cultural fit.

Topgrading is a powerful tool that can help companies make better hiring decisions, leading to long-term success and growth. We highly recommend that companies consider adopting topgrading as a key part of their hiring strategy. For more information visit the DashHire website or drop us an email for more details.


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