Topgrading – Hiring For Attitude

I recently had the privilege to share the Topgrading Process for a group of business leaders in an Executive Forum meeting and one of the participants asked a question about the interview process. “Why doesn’t Topgrading ask questions that probe for the person’s attitude?”

You may have read Kids Say the Darndest Things – Formula for Human Potential on how attitude is so critical to achieving our unrealized futures.  We agree with this person’s concern for assessing candidate’s attitude.

It’s an insightful question. When asked this I reflected on the process and then asked the audience, “What’s the single biggest predictor for future performance?” Someone answered quickly, “Past Performance!”

What Is Topgrading?

Topgrading is a process that improves the recruiting, hiring and development of teams within an organisation. Whether your company is searching for a new leader, replacing an executive team member, promoting a manager, or bringing on entry-level employees, using the topgrading system gives you the methods, tools and training to help you hire with confidence.

Topgrading invests up to three hours with the final candidates for any position by reviewing their most recent positions to determine their performance levels.  Did they perform in the top 10% of what you would expect for their position? Are they “A” player potential performers?

For each job in the past 15 years (Approximately 2 hours 40 minutes):

  1. What were they hired to do?
  2. What were their accomplishments?
  3. What were their low points?
  4. People (Topgrading and TORC – discover Boss’s rating and their rating on their bosses).
  5. Why did they leave?

Topgrading asks many questions to verify the candidate’s demonstrating their attitude. Questions repeatedly drill into their performance, asking specific questions related to results in each of their jobs in the past 15 years.  If performance is a result of a good attitude, then their performance should reflect their good attitude.

Attitude Competency

What I failed to offer to the person asking the question is Topgrading specifically addresses ATTITUDE in the Competencies Interviews immediately preceding the CIDS Interview (Chronological, In-depth, Structured).

Topgrading suggests the following formula for Competency Interviews:

Four 1-Hour Competency Interviews

  • Select 4 competencies or more for each interview from your job summary scorecard
  • Assign each of your 4 interviewers these 4 or more competencies to interview for during their one hour with the candidate.
  • Interviewers choose questions to ask from Competency Questions directed to their specific competencies from the Topgrading Interview Guide (DOWNLOAD GUIDE HERE)
  • Conduct 1-hour interviews, allowing 15 minutes for interviewee to ask questions

Prior to your competency interviews you would have selected 12 to 20 competencies for the position you are hiring for, including them in your Job Summary Scorecard.

Competency And Behaviour Ability To Change Chart

(From “Topgrading” by Brad Smart)

As you can see from the picture some Competencies are harder to change than others.  If any of these competencies (and several will be) are in your Job Summary Scorecard for this position you will want to make sure to address these.  If your candidates don’t possess these critical competencies for the position it’s doubtful you would want to hire them for the position.

There are several competencies that might address the attitude issue but none more important than Enthusiasm/Passion.  Topgrading’s definition for Enthusiasm/Passion is: Exhibits dynamism, excitement, and a positive can do attitude.

Enthusiasm/Passion is one of the competencies listed under the column NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  In other words this competency, if it’s not present already, is not going to suddenly or even eventually show up in a candidate.  IF it’s not there already move on, if this is a critical competency for this position.

In regards to any competency and what can or cannot be achieved, this comes from an article by Topgrading notes;

People who, in job after job, overcome weaker points are usually high potential people with accurate self-awareness, self-objectivity, and a high level of ambition and energy.  They show a pattern of soliciting feedback, welcoming coaching, and actually turning weaker points into strong points.  Aah – these are the A players you want, the high performers who will welcome your coaching and actually improve!

Another aspect to this question occurs naturally, given the time invested in interviewing a candidate; you will discover the natural disposition of the candidate.  No one can successfully hide who they are over 4-8 hours of rigorous interviewing.  That’s precisely why you invest the time to discover who they are.

Cost Of Mis-Hiring

One of my clients, the CEO of a ESOP company did the Cost of a Mishire Exercise (which you can do online at Cost of Mis-Hire Calculator). After doing this exercise, he said that it had cost his company close to $1.250 M to “free up their future” employee who had worked for the company for several years.  Getting rid of an employee in an ESOP is particularly expensive due to their vested interest in the company.

What does it cost your company when you hire incorrectly?

People wince when they hear Topgrading recommends interviewing final candidates for a position for up to 3.5 hours.  Yet when you calculate the cost of hiring the wrong person it’s a relatively minor inconvenience to get it right the first time.

Evaluating your team on a regular basis to determine the number of “A” players you have is a best practice we coach our Scaling Up customers to perform at least semi-annually.  Sometimes an employee who exhibits the company’s Core Values isn’t performing in their present position.  Sometimes reassigning them can be exactly the right move to keep a good employee who just needs to find a better fit for their talent.

My good friend, Doug Wick – Gazelles Coach in Cedar Rapids Iowa is the author of this insightful article.

To Scale Up your business! Take our Scaling Up/Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

Ted Bonel – Strategy & Execution Advisors

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