Interviewing for a job is stressful, whichever side of the table you’re on. But when you’re a new hiring manager, faced with the challenge of trying to hire the perfect employee off a piece of paper and hour-long conversation, stress takes on a whole new meaning. Given the high cost of a bad hire, you know you need to get it right the first time to avoid rebooting the hiring process. Having to re-hire, retrain, and retain a new employee costs time and money you don’t have.
Whether it’s your first time hiring or you just need a better process, there are a few key things you need to know to make your hiring process effective. Here are 7 helpful tips to help you manage this complex process and, in the end, land a great new team member!
Define Success Within Your Team and in the Job Description
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you find it? This is not a hypothetical question. Before you ever post an ad or look at a resume, you have to know the requirements, duties, and hard and soft skills necessary for the role you’re hiring for. Understanding the position well is a prerequisite to a great job description.
It helps when candidates know what you’re looking for, too! A clear, accurate, and compelling job description should tell a candidate everything they need to know about whether they are the right fit for the role. Clearly identify the job responsibilities and expectations to help candidates decide whether to apply as well as weed out those people who don’t match your needs.
You’ll appreciate later the time and effort you put in now, as the precise description will lead to better qualified candidates and help you draft focused interview questions.
Create a Clear, Consistent Hiring Process
Once you know what you’re looking for, you can decide how you’ll evaluate the candidates. It’s important to conduct consistent interviews and evaluate all candidates using the same criteria.
We typically recommend breaking the position into three key needs:
- Basic requirements: things like physical location and college degree (if necessary for the role versus a preferred attribute)
- Necessary hard skills: project management experience, critical software knowledge, or language proficiency, etc.
- Preferences for soft skills: level of autonomy, communication style, etc.
Then, you can develop questions or other assessments that identify whether candidates have the required combination of skills and attitude.
Be consistent! Ask the same questions and use the same processes for all candidates. For example, you should conduct phone screen or Skype interviews for both in-state and out-of-state candidates, no exceptions.
How to Screen Resumes Effectively: The Three Pile Method
Once you know what you’re looking for and have developed a method to find it, make sure your process is efficient. Avoid the “I-have-a-stack-of-resumes-but-no-one-to-interview” problem by screening!
You can shorten the process by sorting resumes into three piles: top resumes into one pile, obvious duds in another, and a parking lot for consideration only if the top resumes are not the right fit.
Things to look for in resumes:
- Aesthetics and attention: accuracy, consistent formatting, spacing errors, fonts
- Qualifications: education, experience, skills, measurable accomplishments, detail, increasing responsibility
- Red flags: inconsistencies with LinkedIn profile, unexplained gaps in employment, job hopping
After selecting top candidates, do a little bit of additional screening (look at LinkedIn profiles, etc.) and if all still looks good, schedule a brief phone interview.
The phone interview should be 15-20 minutes and the intention should be to screen out weaker candidates. This is a good time to ask deal breaker questions or inquire into areas that might be red flags. For example, you can ask someone with 15+ years of experience applying for a job that only needs 3+ years: “We’re impressed with your background, which is more experience than the position requires. We want to make sure we’re not wasting your time. The salary range we’ve been considering is this. Does this work for your salary requirements?”
Ask Good Questions
The questions you ask each candidate should generally be the same, unless you are asking them something specific to their background. Good questions will reveal the answer to whether the candidate has the necessary skills and requirements for the role. Don’t rely solely on Google for typical questions.
Go through your job description and questions to make sure you’re still focused on the key skills and responsibilities of the position. Next, with the top screened candidates, make sure you’re going to be asking questions that expand on a specific candidate’s resume regarding important details about the person’s background or focus on concerns you have.
Make sure you go “three deep” in your questions. Don’t allow a candidate to give a generic answer and then fail to follow-up on a key point. Here’s an example:
You: What is the most important benefit you’re looking for in your next job?
You: What does flexibility mean to you?
Applicant: Work from home options.
You: How much do you need to work from home?
Applicant: Two days a week.
See how much more detail you get when you ask follow-up questions?
Lastly, always end with the question: “What questions do you have for me?” The questions the candidate asks will reveal their motivation, personality, and interest – or lack thereof.
Avoid Common Mistakes In The Interview
You want the candidate to want to work for you, so don’t turn them off by being standoffish, cold, or rushed. Smile, be courteous, and use small talk to establish rapport with the job seeker.
Structured questioning and scoring is important, but don’t just stick to the script. Actively listen, pick up on details and go beyond the standard questions when needed—but above all be conscious about judgments based solely on likability (the “Halo Effect”).
Make sure you know which topics are no-gos: don’t ask questions that involve family, race, religion, and in many states including Oregon, salary history! Double check interview questions you can’t ask before you start interviewing!
Also identify common red flags: a candidate stumbles through initial questions (beyond being nervous), has a negative attitude, is overly confident and claims credit for all previous accomplishments, speaks only in generalities, is not prepared, or only asks questions about salary and benefits. If you have a general bad gut feeling, make sure to follow up with additional questions.
If an otherwise perfect candidate says one thing that seems off, don’t write them off entirely. Ask a follow-up question and give them a chance to explain further.
Hire the Best Person for the Job
If you know after the interview who you want to hire, congratulations! However, double check that you’re not just hiring based on gut feelings – justify your decisions with consistent process, taking notes, and checking candidate references. It’s hard to admit, but studies have shown we can be biased even when we’re trying not to be. In the end, the process might be more cumbersome than hiring the candidate you thought was the most fun, but it’ll also be fairer—plus you’ll be more likely to get the best candidate for the job.
If you’re stuck between two great candidates, congratulations! It’s a tough, but enviable place to be. The best question to ask yourself to make sure you’re hiring the best candidate for the job is to ask: “What is the thing I need most in this hire?” Which person will bring that to the table for you?
Make a Job Offer Quickly & Be Open to Negotiation
Once you and your team reach a consensus, you need to move quickly. Make candidates feel wanted and excited to join the team by extending an attractive and competitive offer as soon as possible, or you’ll risk losing them to another organizations. Good candidates usually have multiple offers in a hot job market. Make sure yours is the first and best!
Also be ready for candidates to negotiate. There are a number of things besides just offering a good salary that you can use to sweeten the deal for a top hire – think of PTO, sign-on bonuses, flextime perks, paid parking, or something unique for that candidate.
Armed with these tips, we hope you’ll find that perfect person for your team. If you need additional assistance, Boly:Welch is here to help answer your hiring questions.