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The Game-Changing Magic Of Hiring A-Players For Your Organization

by Dr. Brad Smart

5 minute read

    “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).

    So despite your best efforts in hiring, how does this still happen?
    • 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.
    How can you consistently get to the A-Players? Topgrade!


    Topgrading In A Nutshell

    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. 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:
    1. 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.
    2. A thorough chronological Topgrading Interview covering every job is extremely revealing, in part because candidates know they will arrange reference calls with bosses.
    3. 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.
    In short: Topgrading delivers honesty, the most revealing interviews, and solid verification — thus helping you hire A-Players 90% of the time.


    MarineMax and 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. Topgrading 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.

    Click here to check additional case studies.

    What’s An A-Player?

    The term A-Player has been 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.

    Just a quick note though: 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, and even if the MarineMax 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? Our methodology has a “truth serum” built in. Candidates for hire are asked to guess how every boss would rate their overall performance on a scale of:
    • Excellent
    • Very Good
    • Good
    • Fair
    • Poor
    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: Someone in the top 10% of talent available for any job, at a given salary level.


    What Are A-Player Competencies?

    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
    • Trustworthy
    • 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, the uber-competency: RESOURCEFULNESS

    A-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.


    How To Attract Your A-Players

    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.

    1. 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.
    2. Ensure your company LinkedIn profile is 100% up-to-date and advertise open positions on LinkedIn.
    3. Use Social Recruiting, notably Linkedin, but to a lesser degree (and only for low level jobs) Twitter and Facebook.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.


    Are You Ready to Stand on the Shoulders of Giants?

    If you’re ready to take your business further and succeed, I invite you to stand on the shoulders of today’s industry leaders by joining Business Growth Lab — a series of free webinars about business topics with top business experts and thought leaders, including many of the people I mentioned here and myself.

    During your journey with us you will learn about new opportunities about scaling your business, developing processes and finding best ways to win new markets.1

    Subscribe to Business Growth Lab for free << here >>

    Dr. Brad Smart

    Dr. Brad Smart

    Brad 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.

    Brad completó su doctorado en Psicología Industrial en la Universidad de Purdue, ingresó como consultor y, desde la década de 1970, ha ejercido en el sector privado como Presidente y CEO de su propia compañía llamada Topgrading Inc., con sede en Chicago. Con frecuencia, se le reconoce a Brad como el principal experto en contratación del mundo. Brad ha realizado entrevistas en profundidad con más de 6,500 ejecutivos. Es autor de 7 libros y videos, incluida la tercera edición de Topgrading: El método de contratación y promoción que acelera el desempeño de la empresa; The Smart Interviewer: herramientas y técnicas para contratar a los mejores; y la serie de capacitación Topgrading Toolkit, que presenta los 12 pasos de contratación de Topgrading. Es coautor de Topgrading for Sales: Métodos de clase mundial para entrevistar, contratar y asesorar a los principales representantes de ventas, con Greg Alexander; y Smart Parenting: Cómo criar niños felices y capaces de hacerlo, con la Dra. Kate Mursau.


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