Career History Form

Career History Form.

I’ve learned many management lessons the hard way, but one of the most important was the realization that I can make things a lot easier on myself and achieve far better results if I hire the right people in the first place. That’s where the Topgrading methodology made a huge difference for me. I learned to follow a disciplined hiring methodology to help ensure I only hire A-Players for every role.

What is an A-Player?

I define an A-Player as a person who consistently:

  1. achieves the agreed standard for RESULTS in their role, and
  2. demonstrates BEHAVIORS aligned to the Core Values.

In essence, there are 2 dimensions to an employee’s performance. RESULTS + BEHAVIORS. Both requirements must be met consistently to be considered an A-Player.

Filter out the tire kickers.

In a previous article, I described the importance of using Role Scorecards to reduce hiring mistakes. I recommend creating Role Scorecards for every functional role in the company and using them as the basis from which you construct your job posting for each role. When jobs are posted with this level of specificity it will deter many unsuitable applicants from applying right from the start, which is a good thing. You only want A-Player candidates applying.

The next step is to put another filter in place to refine your applicant list still further. I personally don’t look at resumes anymore. A resume is a generic document that may be sent to hundreds of other employers and is biased to show the applicant in a favorable light. Rather than have people send you their resume, instead, you send them a survey called a “Career History Form” that asks the applicant to tell you exactly what you want to know.

Using a Career History Form extracts the exact same information from every applicant so you can compare them side by side. The survey form will take the applicant about 45 minutes to 1 hour to fill out. This hurdle filters out the tire kickers because only high caliber A-Player candidates who are genuinely serious about applying for your role will complete this step.

Career History Form.

I learned about Career History Forms via the Topgrading methodology. To be fair, the methodology was designed for large corporate entities like General Electric and in its pure form is very complex. So what I have done over the years is adapt and simplify the process to make it more suitable for Small-Medium sized businesses.

In broad terms, the Career History Form I have developed for my own use asks applicants to provide the following information about their employment history over the last 10 years and/or for each of their last 3 roles: 

  • Education and grades (only where applicable e.g. for junior, entry-level roles)
  • Employment history (for each of their last 3 roles)
    • Job title
    • Start date, and finish date
    • Starting salary, and ending salary (note: in some jurisdictions, you cannot legally ask this question)
    • Duties they were accountable for 
    • Results and achievements quantified with numbers
    • Failures or mistakes they experienced and what they learned from them
    • What they liked most about the role
    • What they liked least about the role
    • Reason for leaving the role
    • The name and contact details of their supervisor 
    • What their supervisor would say their strengths were
    • What their supervisor would say their areas for improvement were
    • Permission to contact the supervisor and their willingness to assist me to arrange this

The survey also indicates that I will require full reference checks and that I will choose the referees I wish to contact (which are not necessarily the names of the advocates they put forward on their resume). A-Players have nothing to hide and will have no problems with this.

If I am recruiting for a management position, I also want to know the following information about each of their previous managerial roles:

  • Description of the performance of the team they inherited
  • What changes they made as a manager to improve the team’s performance
  • What style of manager their employees would say they were
  • Permission to contact past employees and their willingness to assist me to arrange this

Can you imagine how much easier it is as a hiring manager when you receive this comprehensive information from every job applicant? Now you can compare the applications side by side and have a far better basis to decide who is likely to be a good “fit” for your role, and with whom you will spend your valuable time interviewing at the face to face tandem interview.

As you can see, this comprehensive process is designed to draw out the truth and filter out the tire kickers. And we haven’t even gotten to the interview stage yet!

The quality of your business execution depends greatly on the quality of people you hire. You take hiring shortcuts at your peril. Discipline yourself to do it right the first time, and save yourself the time, money, and heartache that comes along with making bad hiring decisions.

Hiring is too important to get wrong!


Until next time…