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8 Tips to Prepare for Your Toptal Freelance Interview

If you want to join Toptal, you need to pass through their tough screening process, including a live interview. Here are some tips to prepare Toptal freelance interview.

The freelance world is expanding at an astonishing rate. With more and more people pouring in, the talent is brimming. Most beginners research before jumping into the world of freelance work.

In parallel, many freelancing websites are emerging to treat the world with new freelancers’ talent. Some renowned ones are Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, among others.

However, when the talk is about the creme of the freelancing community, that’s when you need to head over to Toptal.

In this blog post, we will discuss Toptal, its screening process, and how you can prepare for your Toptal freelance interview.

What is Toptal?


Like all freelancing websites, Toptal is a platform and a marketplace where clients can find and work with freelancers.

The platform provides a network of software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project managers from around the globe.

However, what sets Toptal apart from the significant rest is its claim to hire the top 3% of freelancing talent. To make its claim a reality, Toptal has put in place a pretty tough screening process.

Interestingly, other top platforms, such as CrossOver and BairesDev, also claim to have the best of the best freelancers from around the globe.


But, people who’ve applied in them, as well as in Toptal, often say that Toptal pushes you over the edge like none other. Once you are a newbie and know other platforms such as Upwork, you will ask which one is better: Toptal or Upwork? It boils down to what the person has to offer and learn to upgrade skills to be marketable to clients.

There are also other freelancing platforms such as Fiverr and Freelancer. You can not determine which is better not unless you already have tried it yourself.

So what exactly is part of Toptal freelance interview? Let’s have a look.

Toptal Freelance Interview: The Basics

Toptal’s screening process is designed to thoroughly measure and test your communication, personality, professionalism, expertise, and skills aspects of what clients are looking for developers.

The entire process takes anything from about two to five weeks. It is divided into four steps, which are as follows:

Language and Personality

This is the first of four phases of the Toptal freelance interview a way to screen and hire freelancers at the right rate. It is a semi-formal Skype interview where you have a chat with the interviewer.

Skype Toptal Freelance Interview

Your language and communication skills are analyzed, particularly your command of English.

They judge how passionate you are about being part of Toptal and the motivation behind this application.

They tell you about the company and cater to any questions you might have. You’re also asked about your hourly rates and past experiences.

While this one’s easy, Toptal still claims that only 26.4% of total applicants clear this stage.

In-Depth Skill Review

In this second phase, you are given a link where you need to fill three algorithmic challenges. The time limit for this is an hour and a half.

They assess your technical skills and problem-solving ability in this phase. Time is a crucial factor, and questions range in their difficulty level.

This is why many candidates consider this phase to be the most challenging of all.

According to Toptal, only 7.4% of applicants with an exceptional level of skills go past this stage, achieving success in Toptal.

Live Screening

This is the third step where you and the screener share a screen, and you’re asked to solve two coding problems, each with a time limit of around 15-20 minutes.

The screener also asks you initially to describe your solutions to the second phase test.

What they’re assessing in this stage is your problem-solving abilities, niche-related skills, communication skills as well as the depth of your experience.

Your onscreen confidence while solving the questions live is also observed. About 3.6% of the total applicants go clear this stage.

Test Projects

When you’ve crossed the first three steps, and the interviewers are gaining confidence in your skills, they test your real-life application skills by assigning you a project.

For this, you get around two to three weeks, where you set the deadline yourself as a freelancer. You are required to work on the project like you would be performing every day at work.

The passing percentage goes from 3.6 to 3.2 here.

After that, you have your final discussion with the team to finalize your hourly rate and availability. This is the point where you receive the much-awaited ‘Welcome to Toptal’ message.

Continued Excellence

Toptal works to maintain its integrity and professionalism. The work of all clients and freelancers is tracked for excellence.

This way, only 3% of the total applicants actually stay on board with Toptal.

Toptal Freelancer

Through this entire rigorous screening and checking procedure, Toptal has maintained its status as a top-quality marketplace. The company takes the responsibility of vetting freelancers.

  • For clients, it is a very appealing budget to bid. They’re only looking for top-quality deliverables, without the hassle of going through million of proposals to find the right individual.
  • For freelancers, however, this entire process can get a bit intimidating. Even at your best, you can’t claim to be among the top 3% of freelancers worldwide – not until you’re picked.

So, when you decide to take the stab and prepare for the Toptal freelance interview, you’re definitely in need of some valuable tips and tricks to cut the score.

And, even if you don’t, it’s always worth a try. After all, there’s no such thing as leaving without learning. Nevertheless, if you adhere to the following Toptal freelance interview tips, you will definitely succeed.

How to Prepare for Toptal Freelance Interview? 8 Vital Tips

Make no mistake as these tips are coming straight from the horse’s mouth. Let’s delve in!

Polish Your Communication Skills

This is the first baseline required to qualify for the next round. They’ll put to the test your English communication skills.

Polish Your Communication Skills

You don’t need to be a native or sound like one to qualify for this one. You should be able to present your ideas and thoughts clearly and effectively – such that it gets across the board effortlessly.

If you leave your interviewers guessing about what you precisely meant, that’s a straight loss. Furthermore, it would help if you aim to talk at a balanced pace. Too rushed, and you appear nervous. Too slow, and you sound underconfident.

Remember, they are assessing your personality, too. A few ways to improve your English communication skills are by watching interviews online.

You could also practice your communication skills on your own. Sit in front of a mirror and talk, and talk, and talk. Or read aloud, if that helps you. This applies more to those lacking fluency in English.

Have a Calculated Hourly Rate

Of course, when you’re applying at top remote companies like Toptal, you walk in with an estimation of your per-hour charges. But without realizing it, you may be charging too low or too high.

The former leaves you exploited, while the latter leaves you client-less. None of us want either, do we? For this purpose, we recommend using Hourly Rate Calculator. We created this calculator because most freelancers have a tough time deciding on the optimum rate they should charge.

This calculator works by entering your desired annual income, software or license expense, platform fees, and various necessary inputs.

The calculator then suggests an optimum hourly rate that you should charge as a freelancer. Every freelancer should always remember to know their worth in bidding, making sure that the rate agreed upon can pay the internet and electricity bills which are the primary requirements in working from home.

Research Well

Gaining know-how on the entire screening process is crucial. It will make you aware of the areas you need to work on and places where you’re doing great.

A good place of research would be watching and reading stories of people who made it to Toptal. For the success stories, see how they achieved it. For those who didn’t make it, capitalize on their learnings.

We’d recommend that you go through:

By gaining knowledge about Toptal interview questions, you will learn the essentials of applying with confidence. The more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be when you walk in.

Furthermore, researching the application process of other top companies will also help.

Know Your Tech

As you prepare for your Toptal freelance interview, keep in mind that your technical skills ought to be up-to-date and well-practiced.

If you’re applying as a software developer, you need to be really good with algorithms. Now, you might be thinking that it’s not something you practice on the job.

That’s true, but, to get into any big company, especially tech-related, you need this skill.

Plan your practice. Set aside a couple of hours every day just for practice.

Believe it, you’ll be proud of yourself later.

A recommended resource is AlgoExpert.

It offers you a complete package to prepare for such interviews, including a host of practice algorithm problems.

Codility logo

You can also practice a lot of Codility tests. These will help you be more prepared for what’s coming ahead, especially in the second and fourth stages of the interview process.

HackerRank and Interview Cake are some other great resources where you can practice coding.

Apart from this, you can and should get the study book Cracking the Coding Interview. It will help you get a good hang of the entire thing.

Don’t Let Time Constraint Get the Best of You

The thing about interviews with top-notch institutions is the pressure. When you’ve got limited time and a lot to deliver, it is natural to feel your nerves on edge. However, always try not to let the time constraint get the best of you.

Use time as a motivation and a check, rather than as a quality dictator. Repeat mantras to yourself, such as: ‘I can do this,’ ‘I’ve got this,’ and you will see that you will indeed get it.

Practicing timed problems beforehand will also help you flex your time management muscle.

Read All Instruction Carefully and Be Ethical

This is another obvious one. But, let’s get across the brevity of it. There have been instances where people have been banned from the Toptal freelance interview due to not following instructions properly.

It’s crucial to read all the instructions carefully and not rush through. Be as ethical as you possibly can.

In the second stage, using Google is prohibited. Remain mindful of that. Of course, there’s always the chance that you might not get caught, as is the case with some. But, if the odds fall against you, your months’ worth of effort can go down the hill.

Hence, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Apply to CrossOver to Sharpen Your Skills

If you aren’t already part of CrossOver, apply for it while you apply for Toptal. Reason?

CrossOver comes close to Toptal in terms of quality, integrity, and difficulty of admission.

As you go through a similar interview process and screening and receive the ‘Welcome to CrossOver’ message, you will feel your confidence going up in heaps. That’s how the human psyche works. Understand it and play it to your advantage.

The entire experience will also reduce the fear and intimidation you feel trying to make it to the top 3%. Because while CrossOver doesn’t claim the top few percent, it does possess top-notch talent. You and I both know it.

Believe in Yourself

Believing in yourself and your abilities has the potential to make you reach heights you didn’t know existed.

After all, remember that famous quotation by Lao Tzu?

Watch your thoughts; they become your words;

watch your words; they become your actions;

watch your actions; they become your habits;

watch your habits; they become your character;

watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Thus, if success is what you’re after, make sure to give yourself positive encouragement and reinforcements mentally, all along.

Do not underestimate your skills. Be aware of your failings and work on them. As for your strengths and abilities, own them, be proud of them and show them off with confidence throughout the screening process and beyond.

Is Toptal Genuinely Worth It?

You’ve gone over the application process. You’ve read how to best prepare for your Toptal freelance interview.

At this point, you might be wondering, “Is Toptal genuinely worth all the hassle?’ For some freelancers, Toptal is the dream; they believe it’s the best thing that can happen to a freelancer, while others think differently.

However, one thing that Toptal guarantees more than anything is learning – Immense, intense learning. All those months of practice, research, and preparation will enable you to reach new personal heights.

You might land among the acclaimed ‘top 3% of global freelancing talent,’ but even if you don’t, you’d definitely have landed at the top version of yourself. So, take the shot and test the waters. We wish you good luck!

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