This 4-Part Process Helps One Firm Vet Top Talent

This 4-Part Process Helps One Firm Vet Top Talent
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This story appears in the June 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When firms like Google, Ideo, Airbnb and even Pfizer need a freelance Java expert or UX designer -- and they need it, like, yesterday -- they call Toptal. The $80 million company has developed a rigorous, four-part screening process: “We get thousands of applicants every month,” says cofounder and CEO Taso du Val, “and we take the top 3 percent.” Here’s how Toptal vets its freelancers.

Hurdle One: Soft-Skills Screening

“We have to screen for adulthood,” says cofounder and COO Breanden Beneschott. “You need to be able to work across the world and still get stuff done. So, do you have a certain energy level? Are you disciplined? If you’re one minute late to the call -- literally 60 seconds late -- it’s an automatic fail.” 

26.4 percent of original applicants make it to the next round…

Hurdle Two: Coding Challenge

Applicants are given 90 minutes to solve three coding problems. Even developers with decades of experience face-plant under the pressure. “And if there’s a hint of cheating, you’re never going to get into Toptal,” says Beneschott.

7.4 percent of original applicants make it to the next round…

Hurdle Three: Big-Brother-Style Exercises

Toptal hopefuls have to share their screens so an evaluator can watch their every keystroke. This is as much about creativity and collaboration as speed and intellect, so candidates are encouraged to talk through their thought process. 

3.6 percent of original applicants make it to the next round…

Hurdle Four: Faux Project

Test projects can take 30 or more hours to complete. “People at the very top are so much better than everybody else -- they’re endlessly hungry, endlessly talented,” says Beneschott. “It’s hugely valuable to find them.” 

That’s how 3 percent of original applicants make it into Toptal.

Check out more companies on the 2016 Brilliant 100 list

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