Candidate's Book Reviews

[ Topgrading ]


“Topgrading” by Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D. (Prentice Hall Press)

This book, written by an industrial psychologist, is the best book that RecruiterGuy has read on selecting “A” performers.  It is also one of the best books that I have read on becoming an “A” Player yourself.  Brad Smart's clients include General Electric and Allied Signal.

If you are considering a job change, or just improving your skills, I strongly suggest that you read “Topgrading.”  

What is an “A” Player?  An “A” Player is someone who is in the top 10% of those available for any given position.

Consider – Most managers have not been taught how to successfully interview candidates.  Generally, they began in a staff position.  When they are promoted to Manager, their first job is to replace themselves.  However, some managers have been through Brad’s course on a “Chronological In-Depth Structured” (CIDS) interview.  Wouldn’t you like to be prepared for this interview?  More importantly, wouldn’t you like to be considered an “A” Player wherever you work?

In this book, Brad devotes four chapters to “Topgrading for Individuals”.   I would suggest that you read “Fixing Your Weaknesses: The Straightest Path to Success” with either a highlighter or with a pen.  He talks about the 11 career derailers related to needed competencies.   He suggests “A Fix My Weakness Plan”.  Then he lists 50 management competencies with advice on either how to improve on that competency or change to another job.  Yes, Brad is that blunt.  However, sometimes that is the message that needs to be delivered.

This is an honest book that puts things into perspective.  During my talk on “Secrets of a Successful Job Search”, I suggest that you think of a time when you were happiest doing whatever you were doing.  It doesn’t matter what you were doing, whom you were working for, or when or where you were.  What were the elements that made you happy?  Now boil those elements down to the two basic elements.  Aren’t the two basic elements “Am I making a positive, measurable impact?” AND “Am I having fun doing it?”  If either of those elements is missing, you will not be happy.  I guarantee it.  Read what Brad says on “Balance in Life” on page 178.  It may jar you, but isn’t it true?

Additionally, this book covers coaching in Chapters 9 and 10.  Brad defines coaching as “a one-to-one dialogue in which the coach helps a person understand his or her strengths and weaker points and build commitment to improve performance.”  As Brad states in “Topgrading”, most managers are lousy coaches.  He uses his “Chronological In-Depth Structured” interview process as the basis of his coaching.  As he says in his book, “It’s a lot easier to be a super coach when you’ve done a super job of CIDS interviewing and have hired an A Player.”

From a candidate’s point of view, what are the downsides of this book?  From my point of view, there are no downsides.  It helps you improve as an A Player, become an A Player, or realize that you are not in the job that plays to your strengths and need to change.

As a Contract Recruiter Consultant, RecruiterGuy has the opportunity to meet many candidates. Our suggestion? Buy this book.  Use it first as an instruction manual and later as a reference guide.  “Topgrading” by Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D. is available from and Barnes and Noble.


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