Argo Group has nearly doubled its hiring of topnotch, “A”-level managers over the past five years, using a hiring protocol known as Topgrading—a rigorous process designed to eliminate much of the mystery involved in screening résumés and vetting candidates’ statements about their strengths and weaknesses.

Executive Summary

Argo Group has nearly doubled its hiring of topnotch, "A"-level managers over the past five years, using a hiring protocol known as Topgrading—a rigorous process designed to eliminate much of the mystery involved in screening résumés and vetting candidates' statements about their strengths and weaknesses. More recently, Aon and some of its insurance clients have started to use Aon Hewitt's LEADeR program—a Web-based, day-in-the-life simulation—to screen new hires and develop current employees by putting them through challenges and interactions they may face on the job.

So far, the approach is working—at least for this insurer.

Bermuda-based Argo Group International Holdings Ltd. is an international underwriter of specialty property/casualty insurance and reinsurance products. The organization offers commercial specialty, excess and surplus lines, and international specialty coverages and provides global property and non-U.S. liability business as Lloyd’s Syndicate 1200. Its U.S. retail operation, based in Portland, Ore., offers insurance and risk consulting services to niche clientele including grocers and convenience stores.

But until a few years ago, the percentage of high-performing, top-echelon management-level employees the insurance group was recruiting was a mere 51 percent—a better record than many other global, household-name firms have produced but still a disappointment to executives at the highest levels of the firm.

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