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Topgrading Interview Questions

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As a recruiter, you need to be on the top of your game to be able to onboard the best talents in the market. This includes using advanced recruiting software, keeping track of hiring trends, and employing various techniques to win over candidates. However, there’s what we call “topgrading” which can also greatly help you in your endeavors.

In this article, learn what topgrading is, how it can help your hiring efforts, and what type of questions you can ask throughout the process.

What is Topgrading?

Think of topgrading as a more in-depth interview technique to truly reveal a candidate’s character, experience, values, and more. It is more thorough and comprises several processes as compared to regular screenings.

Through this series of interviews, recruiters can see recurring themes in their answers-- revealing a consistent pattern in their speech and way of thinking. Ultimately, it is conducted to guarantee a powerhouse team if done properly.

What are the Benefits of Topgrading?

Although it is very tedious and taxing, there are many benefits to this technique. To name some:

  1. You can ensure a clearer and more detailed job description. This helps recruiters find a better fit for the position needed to be filled.
  2. The interview process will be more organized and rigorous. This lets recruiters find top talents that can truly make a difference to the organization.
  3. Topgrading reveals so much more information beyond resumes. You will be able to see complete career history, compensation history, and others that can lead to better hiring decisions.
  4. You will benefit from the transparency coming from character references. You will know from a candidate’s previous employer firsthand how they were at work. This is vital because you would want to hire somebody who, at the very least, left their last post on good terms.
  5. … and many others!

What is the topgrading process?

With all those undeniable advantages, you might be wondering: how exactly is topgrading done? The topgrading process varies, but here is a 10-step guide that most recruiters adhere to.

Step #1: Re-evaluate the hiring process

First and foremost, you would want to re-evaluate your hiring process. How effective is it? How many bad hires have been made for the past year? Write down bottlenecks and pain points.

For example, you might need to improve job descriptions. These are the main doors to any application. If it’s poorly written, you can expect that not a lot of people will apply or there will be a mismatch in skills, values, experience, etc.

Step #2: Make a job scoreboard

Create certain criteria that you would want candidates to fulfill. What is your ideal candidate? They should be able to check all these boxes.

You can do this manually or you can also rely on features like our AI Recommendation System where candidate scorecards are automatically provided.

Step #3: Recruit, recruit, and recruit

Now, it’s time to do the actual sourcing work. Gather a talent pool based on your targets. You should make use of various platforms to do so like job boards, career pages, social media, etc.

Our Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can be of great help if you want to get better candidates in a short period of time.

Step #4: Provide an employment history form

An employment history form is a list of all the jobs a candidate has taken along with detailed information about each of them. This includes the name of employers, dates of employment, job description, compensation history, the reason for leaving the job, thoughts about the company, and more.

Although some of these may already be in the CV, you can extract more details through this form (usually to be taken online at the company’s career pages).

Step #5: Do initial phone interviews

After screening the candidates who have filled up the form, set up a phone interview with successful applicants. You can ask about what they know about the company, their understanding of the job description, salary expectations, goals, and more.

This saves more time rather than going directly with face-to-face interviews. They might not be the right fit, and you’ll just waste valuable time and effort sitting down with countless people.

Step #6: Conduct competency interviews

After that round, conduct a competency interview where you can figure out how an individual behaves and thinks when faced with real-life situations. It is very systematic and targets specific skills needed for the job.

These can test decision-making, critical thinking, social skills, etc.

Step #7: Proceed with the topgrading interview

Now, we’ll go to the main act. Topgrading is very intensive as you ask about the candidate’s background and work experiences in chronological order.

You start with asking about their high school life, university (if any), and work experience up until the last. This lets you fully comprehend what their goals were, motivations, and everything in between that made up who they are today.

This creates a roadmap, which you can utilize to draw smart hypotheses on where you’ll see them in your company in the future-- if they have a place in it at all or not.

Step #8: Review your interviewing skills

This may be internal, but after those series of interviews, it will be a good idea to review how you fared.

Was the interview smooth? Were the questions spot-on? Collaborate with your team and give feedback to each other. You can even ask for it from the applicants themselves. Then, improve for future reference.

Step #9: Arrange reference calls

It’s time that you get firsthand information about the individual. Arrange reference calls with the applicant’s previous employers and ask what they were like, how successful they were at the job, and more.

List down the things you would want to find out first and then have a meaningful discussion on whether or not the candidate suits the job that they are applying for.

Step #10: Summarize everything

Last, but not least, list down everything you have gathered and analyze them carefully. Usually, most recruiters consider the top 10% of the applicants.

Involve other recruiters, the hiring manager, and other superiors (if needed) and talk amongst yourselves about who can be the best fit for the role.

Topgrading Interview Questions

Step 7 is about proceeding with the topgrading interview questions. Here’s a template that you can use during this phase:

Early Background Check

These questions are mostly about their experiences in high school, but you can also apply them to their university life.

  • What was high school like for you?
  • Where did you excel in high school? Where did you have a hard time the most?
  • Who did you look up to back then?
  • What were your dreams back then?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • (For university) What degree did you take up? How did you pursue this?

Work Background Check

  • These questions should be asked for each job the candidate has taken in chronological order.
  • What was working in that company like for you?
  • What did you like about it? What did you dislike?
  • What notable accomplishments have you achieved during your time there?
  • What major issues have you encountered during your time there? What was the outcome?
  • Were there any lessons that you have learned from that company that you have brought with you forward?
  • How was your relationship with your direct manager? What was it like working with them?
  • Would you be comfortable for us to talk to your direct manager for a reference check?
  • Did you have a managerial position? If yes, how did you lead your team? What was the outcome?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?

Future Plans and Objectives

These questions will reveal what they want to do in the future and if it matches what your company needs.

  • What is your dream?
  • Where do you see yourself 3 years from now? 5 years from now?
  • How do you plan on contributing to this company that you’re applying for?

Need an email template to move forward with your next steps? Whether it’s an acceptance email, rejection email, or more, you can find them here!

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