It’s natural to be nervous about hiring. Get it wrong and it will cost your business. With these foolproof steps to hiring an employee, you’ll get it right.
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4 Foolproof Steps to Hiring

Your Checklist for Hiring Employees Into Your Small Business

To grow your business, you will have to hire people. There’s only so much you or your existing team can do. The problem is that you find hiring employees more than a little challenging.

If the hiring process leaves you frustrated and fearful that your chosen candidate will turn out to be a failure, you’re not alone. I’ve had hundreds of business owners tell me their hiring horror stories. Others become so frustrated that they take potentially calamitous and costly hiring steps. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • One executive told me that he has practically given up trying to predict who will be a successful hire. Instead, he hires a lot of people and hopes that among them he finds the star his business needs.

  • A former boss explained to me, ‘You can never really know who you’ve hired until they’ve worked here for a few months. Every new hire is a crapshoot.’

I think you’ll agree that neither strategy constitutes great steps to hiring an employee who will be the asset your business needs. Surely there are steps to hiring an employee that will swing the hiring pendulum in your favor?

The cold, hard facts of bad hires

It turns out that hiring hardship is probably more common than you believe. A LeadershipIQ study found that only one in five hires proved to be an unequivocal success. Further, almost half of new recruits fail within 18 months.

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You can calculate the costs of making a bad hire by totaling the following:

  • Hiring costs

  • Total compensation

  • Cost of maintaining the employee

  • Disruption costs

  • Severance

  • Mistakes, failures, missed opportunities

Undercover Recruiter has calculated that a second-level manager earning $62k a year who you terminate after 2.5 years will cost you a colossal $840,000.

The strategy of hiring as many people as possible and hoping one fits is catastrophic for a business. It’s a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping one strand sticks.

But now, turn this equation on its head. How much better could your business be doing if you made great hires every time? Is this possible? If you could replicate the hiring process steps that deliver the one-in-five total successes, then the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Get into the hiring mindset

Before you get started on hiring the best employees, you’ve got to put on your hiring manager’s hat. I know that hiring isn’t ‘your job’, but it is your responsibility. Now you have some idea of how much a bad hire could cost you, getting it right becomes even more important.

It’s natural that you should be anxious about hiring. It’s crucial that you hire the right person, isn’t it? You want to be certain that the candidate who looks great on paper and was so personable at the interview will be the best person for the job.

There’s another demon you must contend with, too. Time. It’s probable that you’ll be doing the work of the person you’re hoping to hire until you hire them. That adds stress and urgency to the hiring process. . Often, it leads you to hiring too fast – and that is almost inevitably going to lead to a hiring failure. Instead of a problem solved, your hiring strategy creates a problem compounded.

So, the first step to hiring great people is to stop focusing on the pain of the hiring process. Instead, think about two things:

  • How hiring the right person the first time will make your job easier. It will make you look good. It will make you more profitable. Whether you’re a business owner, manager, or team leader, all these things are compelling reasons to slow the hiring steps down and make sure you get it right.

  • Now consider the flipside of the coin. How much harder will your job be if you hire the wrong person? Will a poor hire free up your time, or cost you time? Will they make you money, or cost you money?

With consistent processes designed to capture the right talent, you’ll hire way more consistently. Will you get it right every time? Probably not. But you’ll probably flip from one-in-five great hires to four-in-five amazing hires.

Now that your mindset is set to hiring mode, let’s look at the hiring process that I recommend you use.

What are the steps in the hiring process to be successful?

You can condense the hiring process to four steps:

  1. Preparing the job description

  2. Creating the application process

  3. Best practices for interviews

  4. Making the hiring decision

You want to hire candidates who you know will be successful. They need the skills to perform their role and they need the personality and professional traits that make them a good fit for your business. 

You’ll also need to assess them for the intangible traits that will make them successful at your company. Think about factors like common characteristics of your best employees, the traits you most value in your vendors, the best compliment your business could receive from a client, and so on.

Irrespective of the specific skills and professional characteristics you are seeking, it is possible to develop a process that screens for them. This starts with the job description, and a process that requires the candidate to use their traits to progress through each of your hiring steps.

There are many components that can be used, and the way you piece them together will depend upon the specific role and your company. Get this right, and you want to generate as large a candidate pool as possible and then  reduce it down to the best three or four finalists (yes, it is like a knockout competition, in which only the best will survive).

The recommended  steps are as follows (with the absolute required parts marked with an asterisk):

  • Write a through Job description*

  • Write a compelling Job posting*

  • Collected applications and resumes (preferably with an online form). 

  • Request completion of role-specific screening questions

  • Phone screen to eliminate obvious misses

  • First interview (could be face-to-face, via phone or video call)

  • Work sample

  • Personality profile

  • In-person interview (can be done in two parts)*

  • Second interview 

  • Background checks

  • Reference checks

  • Expressing concerns

  • Offer of employment*

Now that you know the characteristics of the person you need to hire, let’s examine the first of the required steps in the hiring process.

Hiring Step #1: Preparing the job description

Writing a thorough job description will help you to be clear about the job you need done and the person that is needed to do it. You’ve got to be clear about the role and the candidate you want to attract. Without role clarity, you are setting yourself up for failure. 

There’s an art to writing a great job description. You can use my downloadable job posting template to make this easier. Before you work on the template, write down all you know about the job, such as:

  • Duties and responsibilities

  • Daily tasks

  • Where the role fits in your company

  • Level of seniority

You will need to consider if there is enough work to warrant hiring a new employee and how the role is different to others in your company.

Now onto  the job posting.

With your job description written, create a compelling job posting. You can use my downloadable job posting template to make this easier. This is the marketing tool to sell the role to potential candidates who are interested in working for you and possess the skills to do the role. It should deter time wasters, leaving you with only relevant resumes to review. In your job posting, you should:

  • Sell your company

  • Sell the job (by focusing on the emotional payback of the role)

  • Unsell the job (describe the primary challenges of the role – this will screen out those who aren’t up to the challenge)

  • Describe the required and nice-to-have skills (be specific here)

  • Specific instructions on how to apply

You should also include a target salary range – you’ll receive more applications than if you don’t.

  • Establish a pay rate

Decide on the pay range before you go further. Do some research to discover what competitors are paying, and search on the websites of professional organizations that often publish average pay rates for their industries.

  • Promote the job

Consider where you should advertise – where your ideal candidates hang out. You may decide to use job boards, or professional organizations, or ask for referrals from your current employees. Don’t spread your efforts too wide, though: targeting will attract the best candidates.

At this point, you should request a resume from interested candidates, sent to you with the answers to between four and six accompanying questions (this can be online on your website or completed via a hiring tool). Make two or three of these questions text boxes, so you can check the candidate’s writing ability.

The worst way to collect applicants is via email. It makes screening them difficult and resumes are not the ideal way to identify talent. It’s much better to ask job specific questions and then use the resume to confirm their skills and background. 

  • Review applicants

A well written job posting will attract 50 – 100 candidates. Reviewing applicants can be a bore and a chore, but you are more likely to attract your ideal candidate when you have a robust applicant pool!

This is why we  recommend an online form, with role specific questions, to make screening candidates faster! Candidates who don’t complete the role-specific questions successfully can be rejected immediately. Plus, many candidates lie on their resumes to get an interview at which they hope to dupe you.

Compare the applicants to your job description. Any that fall short of the professional traits you identified can be rejected. Pay attention, too, to how detail-oriented the candidate has been. If this is the best the candidate can present of themselves, will they really be a great employee?

Hiring Step #2: Creating the application process

You have now reduced your applicants to a list of candidates you might consider interviewing (10% – 15% of the applicants). If you haven’t included an online application form earlier in the hiring process, before you invite them to interview, email them the link to an online form. Some may not wish to go through this step, eliminating themselves from the the job. That’s good news – do you want to employ a person who is unwilling to follow your procedures?

  • Conduct a phone screen

Before inviting candidates to an in-person (or virtual) interview, carry out a brief phone screen interview. This can be done by someone who understands the role and your culture. They should:

  • Present an overview of the role, focusing on the challenges

  • Ask questions to confirm experience and skills

  • Ask questions that compare the candidate’s character traits with your company culture

My experience has shown that when candidates speak to someone who is not the hiring manager, they present more honestly. (I’ve developed a phone screening script to help with this and ensure consistency. You can download this here.)

  • Request work samples

Would you buy a car without test driving it? Hiring a new person is a far bigger investment, so I recommend asking candidates who have come through your phone screen to complete a piece of work that replicates what they would be doing in the role. Test their ability with a ‘real-world’ situation that they may find themselves in should you offer them the job.

  • Test their personality

There are some great online personality tests that you can use to get a better idea of a candidate’s nature. This will help you understand their strengths and weaknesses – and will help you to decide on areas to explore in an interview.

Hiring Step #3: Best practices for interviews

An interview is a crucial step in the hiring process. I advise that you don’t make gut-reaction decisions, and instead follow a specified interview process, designing the interview to discover as much extra information as possible. The more consistent the interview is from candidate to candidate, the more you are comparing apples to apples at the end. 

An interview guide will ensure that you treat all candidates equally and remove unconscious bias from the process. A good interview will not only help to identify a potential hire, but also discover how best to manage them when they join your team.

Remember, your instinct is to want the candidate to be ‘the one’. You must resist the temptation to be swept away – don’t be tempted to fall in love at first sight. A long interview combats this. You should also ensure that the candidate knows honesty is expected. Finally, get out of the mindset of ‘I must hire quickly’. Instead, maintain the mindset ‘I must hire right’.

Here’s how I conduct interviews:

  • Introductions

Break the ice. Offer a glass of water, check how they say their name, and read section 1 of the interview to set the stage for the interview.

  • Discover personal background

Using their resume as a guide, get a little more background knowledge. This is designed to learn who they are as a person and what brought them to where they are today, and to also help the candidate relax.

  • Explore work history

Now, ask the candidate about their last three jobs – using the same questions for each. This helps to identify patterns that even the candidate may not have previously realized existed.

  • Ask general questions

The candidate now expects you to dig deeper, but there is time for this later. Instead, ask more general questions, and perhaps one or two that they may not be expecting. This helps you to see their response to unforeseen situations. 

They should be questions for which the candidate probably has not been able to prepare. This will help you uncover natural personality traits (e.g., defensive, push back, logical, etc.).

Ask, too, what the candidate knows about your company – it’s a great way to gauge their real interest in working for you.

  • Role-specific questions

Now, it’s time to pull back to role-specific questions. These are designed to test knowledge, experience, and skills. Never assume the candidate can do the job just because they say so on their resume.

  • Behavioral questions

These are questions that will help you understand the candidate’s cultural fit, and their capability to be successful in the role and your team. Asking situational questions (in this case, what did you do?) will help you to assess how the candidate may react to similar situations in your business.

  • The future

You must also learn about the candidate’s future plans. Are there other roles to which they have applied, and why? What are the candidate’s career objectives? From your discussions today, does this opportunity look like the one they have applied for?

  • Strengths and weaknesses

Before asking the candidate if they have any questions they wish to ask, throw a final curve ball. Ask what they consider are their strengths and weaknesses. If a candidate says they have no weaknesses, press harder: everyone has weaknesses! Don’t accept fake answers like “I work too hard,” If a candidate is more aware of their weaknesses than their strengths, think long and hard before employing them. I’m not saying don’t, but they could end up having a negative effect on your team.

Hiring Step #4: Making the hiring decision

Now it is time to decide who you should hire: 

  • Think critically and share concerns

Immediately after the interview, read through your notes and apply critical thinking. Look for patterns in their work experience, how they have described previous working relationships and bosses, and how they have worked best. You are probably going to have mixed feelings about the candidate – no one is perfect.

Note any concerns you have and how these may affect their performance and ability to be successful. Save these notes – and follow up with the candidate to discuss them. A candid conversation will help you to set expectations. It also provides a starting point about future performance, and shows that you care about your employees.

  • Contact references

If you are considering making an offer, contact references by phone, and learn to read between the lines. Listen for emotion, the adjectives used, and how specific answers are. If the review is glowing and emphatic, it’s genuine.

  • Make your hiring decision

Don’t make a hiring decision unless you have interviewed at least three people. If you cannot decide between two candidates, have another person interview them. Your final choice will be a balance between the person with:

  • The best combination of experience, skills, and cultural fit 

  • Weaknesses that can be managed, overcome, or mitigated

If you are hiring more than one person, ask if a candidate is better than the average person in your existing team – by hiring above average you will improve your team and your business. Never settle for the best of a bad bunch.

Send the successful candidate(s) a written job offer detailing the role, compensation package, and start date.

You’re there!

Why it doesn’t work to hire friends and family

Some business owners will try to fill vacancies from friends and family. It’s quick, easy, and probably helping someone out. Don’t even go there. You’ll find that they expect extra freedom, give you the ‘benefit of their advice’, and probably won’t have the level of commitment you need. Of course, if you need to let them go for any reason, it’s going to be tough. It’s not worth ruining a great relationship for. You should never hire someone you can’t fire!

You want to speak to a lot of candidates

The hiring process is like a funnel. You should aim to have lots pouring in at the top of the funnel to get a few great candidates flowing out at the bottom. The more applicants you attract, the greater the variety you will see and the greater the chance of hiring successfully.

However, while you want lots of candidates, it is important to make sure that they are right for the role as early as possible. Quantity is great, but never lose sight of quality. Therefore, you should spend a lot of time on crafting your job description and job posting.

A consistent process will produce consistent results

As I said earlier in this article, a consistent hiring process will produce consistent results. By following these four hiring steps, you should boost your hiring success in leaps and bounds. You’re working to a system that I’ve honed over many years and used with hundreds of clients.

It takes time, energy, and commitment to hire. It takes even more energy and time if you make bad hires. My eBook ‘4 Foolproof Steps to Make Your Hiring Process More Successful’ will help you develop your hiring process to be successful. Or you could do what many of our clients do – take advantage of our small business recruiting services

Download the Complete
Hiring Sample Bundle

Get samples of the job posting, phone screen guide, and interview guide we use daily for our job openings and clients we are recruiting for.

Get a headstart and get that new hire in the chair faster.