How to Hire the Best Job Candidates

There’s a high cost in time and money to hiring a new employee, but these tips will alleviate job-search stress and lessen the risk of a bad hire
by Tony Beshara, Ph.D.

shutterstock-132759020Most business leaders claim that hiring quality individuals for their organization is one of their highest priorities. Nevertheless, many of them tend to think that skilled interviewing and hiring come naturally, and that, because they are good at their jobs, they must also be innately good at interviewing and hiring. The truth is, effective interviewing and hiring skills do not come naturally. In fact, just as becoming a highly skilled professional in any field, honing the skills for identifying and hiring job candidates requires years of experience.

Some of the tricks of the trade can be imparted, but mastering these techniques requires constant practice. It’s comparable to bench-pressing 500 pounds. While it’s not complicated, it does require discipline and repetition — and it’s not easy. Smart managers learn from the experts and follow a handful of simple techniques to build a team of talented employees.

SIMPLE TECHNIQUES

Be specific. First, hiring managers should establish a clear idea about the kind of candidate they need for the job. This requires a very specific definition of the job’s functions matched against a candidate’s quantifiable experiences.

“Good written and oral communication skills” are typical requirements, but relatively meaningless. “Having filed SEC reports” or “attained 100 percent or more of sales quota three of the last five years” are quantifiable, measurable experiences.

Be realistic. It’s important to have a realistic idea about what kind of candidates are available. In today’s market, this can be a challenge. Companies are snapping up good candidates right and left. Still, many managers search for unrealistic or pie-in-the-sky qualifications. Because they don’t have much hiring experience, the qualifications they are looking for might actually be at odds with what the market will bear, especially for the salary being offered.

shutterstock_127525643Avoid an over-crowded slate of decision makers. One of the biggest mistakes companies make when hiring is involving too many people in the process. Unless it’s for a C-level position, companies should involve no more than three people in the process — and make sure to involve those who will be working directly with the candidate when he or she is hired.

When the interviewing cycle gets bogged down in people who have no relationship with the position being filled, it becomes a popularity contest rather than a careful evaluation. Organizations tend to take the crowd approach as a way to avoid making mistakes. Studies have shown, however, that once the number of people in the interviewing and hiring process exceeds three, the probability of a bad hire is greater.

Don’t put too much weight on the resume. Hiring authorities usually rely too much on a resume to determine who to bring in for an interview. Many employers assume they can learn everything they need to know from a resume, and  yet 40 percent of a hiring decision is based on personality and chemistry — critical factors that no resume can convey. The resume should be used as a guide for finding qualified candidates.

Be inclusive. It is better to be inclusive when reviewing resumes, not exclusive. If there is a sense that a candidate would be a good possibility, a brief phone call could tip the scales for or against inviting that person in for a face-to-face interview.

Err on the side of interviewing more people. Most employers fall into two camps: those who interview too few candidates, and those who interview too many. Interviewing the top three candidates leaves few choices, while interviewing, say, 15 only leads to confusion. The bell curve for most professional hires is nine or ten, depending on the level of job and availability of certain types of candidates.

That said, it is typically better to err on the side of interviewing too many candidates, as long as activity is not confused with productivity.

Hone good interviewing techniques. Poor interviewing techniques are rampant in today’s business climate. “Tell me about yourself,” is the first question down the wrong path. Most interviewing authorities start with random questions in order to “get to know the candidate,” make notes on the resume and then, three weeks later, try to compare candidates. This approach simply does not work.

There are three things interviewing authorities should do: create a list of questions and ask every candidate the same questions, record the answers, and compare answers from each candidate. This approach puts the candidates on a more level playing field and makes it simpler to pick out the stronger choices.

Get through the process as quickly as possible. One of the unfortunate consequences of most hiring cycles is that the process takes much too long. Most hiring authorities imagine that it takes 30 days to interview and hire. The truth is, it can take between 90 and 120 days. This happens because people drag the process out in fear of making a mistake. They involve too many people, as previously discussed, and add unnecessary steps. When the process takes too long, good candidates slip away.

Aggressive companies end up with the top candidates. Those who repeatedly fail to attract the best because of a sluggish or sloppy process end up looking inept and, in turn, the position becomes that much more difficult to fill. Keep in mind that, as the economy improves, the shelf life of quality candidates grows shorter.

Sell the job and the company. With every job candidate, try to sell the job, as well as the company. Once they put feelers out, good candidates wind up fielding a number of offers. Therefore, hiring authorities should treat them with professionalism and respect — and not as if they are granting them a favor by considering them. The right attitude and professional consideration go a long way with top job seekers — and can make all the difference in terms of landing the kind of talent that can take a company to the next level.

Provide feedback. Not giving job candidates honest feedback is a mistake, and yet many hiring authorities risk being rude to candidates with the excuse that they are too busy to be bothered. While interviewing is a necessary task for companies, for the candidates, finding a job is a critical priority. Letting candidates know that the position has been filled, or that they are still in the running if enough time has passed, is a simple professional courtesy that takes very little time and reflects well on the company.

Tony Beshara, Ph.D., is co-author of 100,000 Successful Hires: The Art, Science and Luck of Effective Hiring, Owner and president of Babich & Associates, a firm that was established in 1952 and is the oldest placement and recruitment service in Texas, Beshara is also the creator of The Job Search Solution. He has been a professional recruiter since 1973 and has personally found more than 9,200 individuals jobs.

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