“You know, as most entrepreneurs do, that a company is only as good as its people. The hard part is actually building the team that will embody your company culture and propel you forward.”
– Kathryn Minshew, The Muse
Whether you own a boutique company, run a huge conglomerate, or manage a department, hiring issues are probably not uncommon in your world. Most managers mis-hire at least three people before they land their high performing A-Player!
Each mis-hire can prove to be costly not just in monetary terms but also in wasted time and effort.
You probably want to spend more time helping your A-Players achieve even more, but chronic low performers are taking up too much of your time and your high performers’ time, dragging down your entire organization.
Trying to coach the low performers rarely works — other than to create more frustration. Most managers live with 25% high performers (A-Players), about 50% “adequate” performers (B-Players), and 25% poor performers (C-Players).
You want to be able to hire the best people for the job. But most of the time you end up not getting the high performer you paid for. And this makes talent challenges one of your biggest headaches.
So despite your best efforts, how to hire the right person?
- Recruiters are not presenting quality candidates.
- Almost 50% of resumes contain lies — C-Players hype their resumes to look like A-Players.
- Your competency (“behavioral”) interviews are not very revealing.
- Reference checks are generally worthless.
So, What Is An A-Player?
What do high-performers actually "look" like? The term A-Player (and high-performer) gets tossed around a lot and causes a lot of confusion. I’ve broken down three of the most useful definitions for you:
An A-Player Is A High Performer
Most managers can relate to the term “High Performers” without much explanation, however bear in mind that their definition of a high performer might be a lot higher (or lower) than yours.
This definition is really that simple. Just ask yourself, "Who on my team is a High-Performer?"
Whichever person or people come to mind, those are your A-Players.
Many companies think that A-Player refers to someone highly promotable. Topgrading defines A1s as promotable 2 levels, A2s promotable 1 level, and A3s not promotable.
You want ALL A-Players. Even if your receptionist is a part-timer with no interest in being promoted, that receptionist is the first contact for a prospect who might spend over $100,000. So the image must be first class: friendly, professional, outstanding listener, reliable, and adroit at pairing the prospect with a sales rep.
An A-Player Is Rated An Excellent Or Very Good Performer
How do we know this? It's because of the “truth serum” built into the Topgrading methodology.
Early on in the Topgrading hiring process, candidates are told they will be expected to personally arranged the reference calls you have with their previous bosses. They are also asked to guess how every boss would rate their overall performance on a scale of:
- Very Good
Because they know that they will be the ones arranging those reference calls, we find that candidates are consistently incredibly honest about these guesses. So the ratings they give are highly accurate.
Across hundreds of companies and several decades, we’ve learned that A-Players consistently get rated as “Excellent” or “Very Good” by their previous bosses. Being rated “Good”, is not enough.
An A-Player Is In The Top 10% Of Talent
If you are a company hiring dozens - or even hundreds - of people for a job like Store Manager, then this is a practical definition for your company: An A-Player is someone in the top 10% of talent available for any job, at a given salary level.
In these kinds of jobs, you have lots of employees doing the same job and performance is measured quite objectively. Numeric accountabilities are clearly defined - making it easier to predict the competencies needed to achieve measurable results.
So, if you think about the results and competencies needed for the job - and the salary it pays - the A-Players are the top 10% of performers you can hope to acquire for this role.
What Are A-Player Competencies?The Topgrading Interviews reveal all the important competencies for the job.
A-Players Tend To Be:
- Smart, intellectual and business savvy
- Driven to succeed; passionate about success
- Consistent high performers
- Adaptable to adjust to many different personalities
- Surround themselves with high performers
- Very hard workers
- Resourceful; overcome obstacles
- Effective leaders
- Down-to-earth, well-grounded, self-aware, humble
We’ve analyzed over 20,000 reports following Topgrading Interviews of managerial candidates, and one competency stands out as the most important.
This is the uber-competency of RESOURCEFULNESS.
-Players have resourcefulness in spades. They are resilient and don’t give up, and when challenged by opportunities or seemingly hopeless setbacks, they look for ways to overcome.
A-Player CEOs show resourcefulness in all aspects of their job. A-Player stockers in grocery stores constantly tell their department managers their ideas for stocking more efficiently and for serving customers better. Anyone mediocre in resourcefulness is just doing the basic job and taking a paycheck.
Finding talent is a huge and critical challenge anywhere. But there are certain areas where it can become an even bigger challenge. And that's where you want to ensure you have a consistency and reliability.
So, how can you consistently get to the A-Players and identify, hire and keep high performers only? Topgrade!
The Simplicity of Topgrading In A Nutshell
"The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few organizations are very good at it."
- Peter Drucker
Topgrading is a 12-step process for hiring that my team and I developed to ensure the hiring success of the best people for the job you are looking for.
I started Topgrading Inc. because I was appalled at the poor hiring results of almost all companies. Most companies rely on ineffective hiring methods — the use of personality tests and behavioral interviews, both of which are easily faked.
Most importantly, they do not address the 3 biggest reason for poor hires: dishonesty, unrevealing interviews, and poor verification (worthless reference checks).
Topgrading solves all these problems through the inclusion of 3 key elements:
- Letting candidates know THEY have to arrange reference calls with former bosses, a simple but effective truth serum built into our methodology, assures honesty. Low performers just drop out, knowing they can’t get bosses to talk with you.
- A thorough chronological Topgrading Interview covering every job is extremely revealing, in part because candidates know they will arrange reference calls with bosses.
- Reference calls (arranged by the candidate), to verify that everything the candidate said was true are conducted. This is the very best form of verification imaginable.
The reason these elements are so effective is because they enable Topgrading to deliver honesty, the most revealing interviews, and solid verification. This combination is what enables you to hire A-Players 90% of the time and to avoid common hiring mistakes.
Why MarineMax's CEO Insisted On Prioritizing A-Players
Before MarineMax, one of the largest boat dealership companies in the world, switched to using Topgrading methodology to hire their store managers, they were operating with only 25% of high performing store managers or A-Players. The rest of their employees consisted of B and C Players.
“Our average boat sold is about $110,000, so you can’t afford to hiccup on it. B- and C-Player managers cost us a million dollars because they don’t close the big sales,” explained CEO Bill McGill.
MarineMax rolled out the Topgrading methodology to cover the hiring of all employees. They improved hiring from 25% to 95% A-Players. McGill said:
"Topgrading has absolutely been a gamechanger for our company. [It] will be key in our culture forever.
We do not hire a store manager unless a Topgrading Interview is performed. Our biggest challenge rolling out Topgrading was convincing regional managers to take the time – maybe 3 hours – for Topgrading Interviews of store manager candidates. But they learned quickly that their 75% mis-hires cost them days, weeks, and months trying to salvage low performers, so why not spend the time, perform due diligence up front and make sure you’ve done it right. A-Player interviewees love the process, too."
How To Attract Your A-Players
When it comes to hiring A-Players, attraction is key. And most of the time, we tend to put the attraction piece on the back-burner.
In order to find your A Players, you’ll need to have at least 30-50 candidates to pick from. So here are a few methods to recruit this number of candidates.
- Recruit from your network of A-Players. A Players usually know other A-Players. Your company should be offering terrific monetary and appreciation awards for A-Players who refer A-Players.
- Ensure your company LinkedIn profile is 100% up-to-date and advertise open positions on LinkedIn.
- Use Social Recruiting, notably Linkedin, but to a lesser degree (and only for low level jobs) Twitter and Facebook.
- Make the Careers section of your corporate website exciting and attractive. If you’ve received honors such as being listed among the “Best Companies to Work For” in your area, brag about it.
- Advertise on major and/or industry specific job boards; Indeed and ZipRecruiter aggregate job boards and are the leaders. You will be sure to receive many resumes from them, so use the Topgrading Snapshot to narrow these down to the resumes that are most likely to be A-Players.
- For high-level positions, engage an executive search firm, but require it to use Topgrading methods; its reports should show failures, not just successes, and what bosses will say are candidates’ weaker points, not just strengths.
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