I found this interesting: in the past couple of months the top keyword search strings that lead people to this blog were often about preparing for a Topgrading Interview. The irony is that you can't really "prepare" for a Topgrading interview. Yes, journaling about your career history, reflecting back on the praise you received or the criticism that challenged you, thinking about your Boss and what you liked or disliked about them - these are all good ideas.

According to Brad Smart, the Author of Topgrading, "[The] methods are common sense, very thorough, and they inspire candidates to be totally honest."

Author's Note: A couple of months ago I blogged on the dumbest interview questions that people ask and pointed to some of the websites where you can review those questions (and read the canned answers that make candidates sound really sincere).

What's so different about the Topgrading interview is, from my experience, that it not only inspires candidates to be honest but forces them. My mother taught me that lying is really tough because you have to always remember what all of your previous lies were. As those lies pile up you really end up in a tough place.

That early lesson has proven itself to be very helpful. When I've worked with some clients directly and helped them conduct a 4 Hour Interview, I've picked up a few things that seem to apply across all industries:

  • Executives can easily dupe you in a 30 minute interview
  • They can often lie their way through a 1 or 2 hour interview because they've likely been on the hot seat before
  • In hour 3 it's fairly easy for the Interviewer to recognize if the Candidate is lying or has a track record of blaming others, not delivering on commitments, etc.
  • By hour 4, the Candidate is "naked". They're either (a) being honest and feel more trusting of the non-judgemental atmosphere or (b) they've lost track of the fabrications they made up 2 hours prior and are wrapped up in a web of lies so large that they're exhausted from trying to keep up with themselves.

With all this said, the Topgrading Interview is also the fairest and most objective interview I've ever conducted or observed. Its structure (Comprehensive, In-Depth, Structured or CIDS) is straightforward, no questions come out of left field ("Why are manhole covers round?") and it gives the Candidate the chance to brag about themselves as equally as they reveal their mistakes or times of regret.

Wrap Up: If you're being asked to take part in a Topgrading Interview, go in with a clear conscience and a willingness to show vulnerability. But above all: BE HONEST.

P.S. Just in case you have ever been asked the question "Why are manhole covers round?" and you want to be argumentative, you

might use this picture below to build your case. --- JD

Views: 28556

Comment by Paul Alfred on December 14, 2010 at 6:49pm

I have learnt something new ... Over 15 years in the business Big 4 Client Group included and I have never arranged a 4 hour interview  ... Panel yes, 6 month interview cycle yes ...  These guys being interviewed must be atleast at the $250k level..  Id love to learn more ...

Comment by Thabo on December 16, 2010 at 1:47am

I so dig this! It is mind blowing how people misunderstand what is required in "preparing" for an interview as for some reason they think there is a "how to guide" with cheat sheets. It is like getting a guide on "preparing to live your life", it does not exist. I wrote a similar Blog earlier only at the time I had not looked into Brad Smart's work (which I have just signed up for so thanks for the article Jonathan). http://fit4thabo.blogspot.com/2010/09/prepare-to-ace-job-interview....

Comment by Paul Alfred on December 16, 2010 at 5:32am

Great Thabo ... Perhaps you can explain which companies do 4 hour interviews - alot of my work is with the BIG  4 Management Consulting Sector -where you don't get through the door without a B.Sc or a MBA and more importantly core specific industry knowledge. I tried to get JD to explain when and how this type of interview is used in the real world since he's read the book ... Can you elaborate ..

Comment by Thabo on December 16, 2010 at 7:29am

Paul, I am going to have to put you on hold. I literally signed up to their (Topgrading) newsletter while reading the article (had to research it as the concept by definition was foreign to me). I am happy to share once I have more insight but as at now, did some quick reading and will go through their website in more depth. Happy to share once I am the wiser, but chance are you will read up before I even get there. Of my clients, none have a four hour straight interview session. The process may be long in terms of number of interviews, and sessions that long in one slot are their chosen assessment centers for psychometric testing so would also like to know.

Comment by Paul Alfred on December 16, 2010 at 5:39pm

Thanks ... It looks like a good read ... I checked it out on Amazon ....

Comment by Jonathan D. Davis on December 17, 2010 at 2:01pm

@Paul: I'd encourage you to read WHO first. If you like it, then read Topgrading.


@Thabo: Yes, true Topgrading Interviews are really exhausting.  From my experience it is the #1 reason why it fails when companies try to implement it.  However, when implemented properly, it's AWESOME!

Comment by Mark Bregman on January 7, 2011 at 3:35pm

I really believe in the principles of Topgrading, and have cited it and Brad Smart many times in my own writing, BUT the candidates I’ve seen subjected to CIDS interviews have NOT had wonderful or even fair experiences.  I have three issues with CIDS:

1.       It doesn’t apply context.  The behaviors analyzed in a CIDS interview can be from 20 years ago, and don’t get asked in a way that aligns with the current goals for the position.  I advocate performance objective based questions that elicit the specific skills and experience needed today from the candidate, in the context of the specific job, not in a vacuum.

2.       CIDS provides too much ammunition by which to DESELECT a candidate.  Not every behavior or lack of behavior from someone’s past is relevant to what is needed today.

3.       CIDS interviewers are often inexperienced, and don’t know how to really use the tool to best advantage.

That’s my two cents!

Comment by Jonathan D. Davis on January 7, 2011 at 4:04pm
Mark - that's AWESOME!  I'm actually going to devote an entire blog post to your thoughts next week and share my thoughts and hopefully get the opinions of a lot of other people too.  Thanks for the inspiration.
Comment by Mark Bregman on January 7, 2011 at 4:22pm
Jonathan, Please see my earlier blog on performance vs. competency based interviewing, on this page:  http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/performance-vs-compet... 


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