Most managers and senior executives would agree that the task of hiring can be one of the responsibilities with the most impact in their organization. There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Many managers simply do not interview often enough to become expert at this function.
  • Many managers feel that hiring is not a logical process such as that used to determine a make vs. buy decision or the adoption of a marketing campaign.

There is no doubt; hiring mistakes are quite costly to organizations, regardless of the size of the organization. In a previous article, I discussed how the business costs and impact of employee turnover could easily equal 150% or more of the base salary of the person who leaves.

Hiring mistakes cause disruption in the workplace. People who do not perform up to a desired standard cause a drain on other staff resources, making that staff far less productive, costing real dollars. In addition, management must devote time to attempt corrective action. This takes away from managers being able to develop new and innovative ways to make or save money, address customer needs, develop plans to grow the company, or take advantage of new market or business opportunities.

Can all mistakes be avoided? No. Can you take steps to significantly minimize them? Definitely. Here is a step-by-step process that will establish a much higher degree of confidence when hiring staff for your organization and provide an environment that will encourage the employment relationship to last for a long time.

Step 1: Define the job in the clearest terms you can. This may sound overly simple, however, this is where many hiring decisions actually start to fall apart. In addition to listing the key responsibilities, duties and tasks, the definition should include key goals or accomplishments you want the person to complete within the first 6 – 12 months. Have all people involved in the selection decision confirm their understanding of the position definition. Test the reasonableness of these position responsibilities. This step is completed when you identify longer-term needs and goals for this position.

Step 2: Define the experience, skills, and talents you want the person to possess in order to be successful in performing the job. Experience is defined as the set of past jobs where people have learned functional aspects of a job. Functional aspects may include items such as sales, product management, manufacturing or accounting. Define how much experience you want to have. Skills are those technical requirements of a position such as specific computer programming, ability to create a budget, good verbal communications, etc. Talents are those attributes that set people apart from one another such as a strong enthusiasm for working on new challenges or motivating others to perform to high standards.

Step 3: Define the culture of the department, division and overall organization. Elements of organization culture include the decision-making process (autocratic or consensus), communication style (informal or formal), and, work values (family friendly or 80 hour work week expectations). The correct definition of the culture will aid greatly in hiring for the long term. People will have a chance to excel when they are in an environment where they can thrive because their values and the values of the organization are in alignment.

Step 4: Identify the personality traits that are valued in your organization along with those that are not valued or detrimental to success. Personality traits include the level of aggressiveness, initiative, sense of humor (this works quite well at Southwest Airlines but not at the Internal Revenue Service), empathy, cautiousness, etc.

Step 5: Define the ways you are going to identify potential candidates. Unless you are paying a retainer to an executive search firm, I suggest you utilize as many possible recruiting avenues as possible, including your own network, employee referral, former employees, advertisements in appropriate places, looking for people at conferences, seminars and industry meeting, internet searches and other avenues. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned.

Step 6: Define your decision-making process for selecting candidates. Make sure all involved in making the decision agree on the selection criteria. Many companies do not take this step up front and wind up missing the opportunity to hire the best candidate because they can’t agree on the selection criteria when that great candidate comes along. Then they are disappointed when they lose the candidate because they have taken too long to make them an offer.

Step 7: Utilize two interview approaches: the first to assess candidates’ experience, skills, and talents. The most effective way to arrive at sound assessments is to utilize an interviewing concept known as behavioral interviewing. The second interview focuses on personality and cultural fit within your organization. See the article entitled “The Art of the Interview.”

Step 8: Conduct assessments in order to verify your conclusions about the top candidates’ qualifications. These include aptitude, style, technical skills, and personality testing that is available for reasonable fees and administered quite efficiently by a few outside assessment firms.

Step 9: Sell the company to the best candidates. They have to be as excited to join your organization as you are to want to have them join. Open your company up to the full inspection of the best candidates. Freely discuss the company environment in terms of team orientation, level of formality and bureaucracy. Describe the plans for growth you have along with the negative press or conditions that the company has recently faced. The good candidates will discover this information in their due diligence anyway, so you might as well be up front about this information. They will be encouraged and impressed by your honesty.

Step 10: Fully understand what your best candidate wants in terms of a complete offer package. Know up front what your company can do in terms of salary, benefits, accommodations, title, vacation, and other elements of a complete offer package. Do whatever you can to put together the best package possible. After all, you have now invested a good amount of time and effort to woo the best candidate and you do not want to lose them based on incomplete information.