How to Recruit Better: A Step-by-Step Guide
“What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”; it’s a question you’ve probably heard before. Standard interview and recruitment processes rely on outdated behavioural questions to determine the perfect hire. These scenarios test candidates’ ability to answer an interview question, not how well they’ll do the job. Immeasurable questions also pave the way towards biased hiring decisions, as the final factor often boils down to ‘gut instinct’.
Is there a better recruitment strategy? With over 95% of business leaders saying hiring and retaining talent is one of their top three priorities 1, it pays to find out. Unlock your company’s hiring potential with this step-by-step guide to designing the optimal recruitment process.
Step 1: Know what you want
No one is perfect. You’re not seeking the perfect candidate; you want the safest candidate. Before writing the job description and advertising the position, ask yourself about your negotiables and non-negotiables. How much are you willing to pay? Do they need to be on-site, or can they work remotely? What essential skills do they need? What do you need now and in the future? “In some cases, it may be more appropriate to contract a gig worker to solve the problem and hire an employee for longer-term growth.” 3
Step 2: Create a scorecard
A scorecard isn’t a job description or a laundry list of requirements — such as ‘must have ten years of sales experience, a master’s degree in communications, SCRUM master’, etc. It’s a standardized way of qualifying and grading a potential candidate. Scoring should be a 1–10 rating system, with 9 and 10 being exceptional. People who score 7 or 8 have great potential and should be considered, while anyone below a seven shouldn’t. The values on the scorecard should cover the competencies and characteristics needed to execute the day-to-day task, such as intellectual curiosity, emotional intelligence, ambitiousness or problem-solving abilities.
Step 3: Write a killer job description
A job description should sell your company. It isn’t simply a list of requirements. How your company presents itself in a job description will determine the number and quality of applicants that apply to your job advert.
Our top tips include:
- Be clear about your company’s identity and lead with your ‘why story’.
- Dazzle them with your qualifications, such as awards and critical achievements.
- Tell candidates what it’s genuinely like to work there.
- Be up-front about your non-negotiables, such as location and hours.
- Address common worries, such as a challenging environment that allows for their best work, work-life balance and job stability.
- Hire a copywriter, engage your head of marketing, and include links to videos to make your job ad shine.
Step 4: Tap into your best sources
For every 150 potential candidates, you’ll find 20 viable ones - of those, you’ll get 1-2 outstanding finalists. Quite simply, sourcing candidates takes time and effort.
Here are a few tried and tested routes for finding potential interviewees:
- Explore your network and ask trusted professionals you know for referrals.
- Ask for employee referrals, also known as ‘the holy grail’ of recruiting.
- Post o a job board - it’s worth a try, but you won't reach the illusive passive candidates.
- Advertising on social media; targeting a specific talent pool with a highly-relevant job ad can be very effective, but it’s tricky to get right.
- Use a recruitment agency - niche recruiters specializing in a specific area deliver better results.
- “Acquire companies with top talent — or enter into agreements to borrow and share talent with other companies” 1
Step 5: Create a structured interview
When designing the interview process, it’s vital to be consistent and methodological. Asking the same questions in a specific order will help you outline a candidate’s career story and better compare candidate answers. Keeping the format consistent can help to eliminate bias or unfair advantage. For example, if someone can’t attend the interview in person, consider holding all interviews by video call to put everyone on an equal footing. Be more deliberate with your questions. Review the characteristics you seek and design your questions to measure those qualities. For example, consider sharing your questions up-front to test preparedness, ask open-ended questions for critical thinking and creativity, or ask the potential candidate to teach you about one of their passions to measure their ability to communicate.
When interviewing, consider their cognitive ability, characteristics, competencies and references - and use your scorecard to determine success. Don’t mistake a great interviewee for a great employee. The interview is simply the qualifying round for the test drive - a much better predictor of success.
Step 6: Do a test drive
“The cost of a wrong hire is often calculated to range from 30% to 50% of their salary – or more” 4 . By immersing the candidate in unconventional scenarios and taking them on a ‘test drive’ to determine capabilities, you can increase your hiring accuracy by up to 40% 2. That’s huge. A test drive is “a small test of the primary skill the job requires” 4, and it mimics a real-world scenario the candidate is likely to face on the job. It’s the most predictive measure of success.
When planning a test drive, ensure every qualified candidate gets the same assignment. Write it out, include time constraints and deliverables, and outline the tools the candidates should use. A test drive is time-consuming for all parties. Respect your and your candidate’s time by reserving it for finalists only.
Step 7: Check references
There shouldn’t be many surprises this late in the game, but checking references before making a written offer is still essential to any hiring process. Excellent candidates are eager for you to contact their references because they’ve got nothing to hide and everything to be proud of. If a finalist can’t produce references, cut your losses - it’s too much risk.
Step 8: Make an offer they can’t refuse
Don't lose your ideal candidate at the last hurdle. The best candidates often have multiple offers on the table - and when their current employer learns they’re shopping around, they’re likely to make a counteroffer. Before making a final offer, ensure you’re on the same page about scope, timing, title, compensation, and other elements. Ask them, “presuming everything checks out with the references, are you prepared to accept an offer of XYZ”? Watch how they respond - are they enthusiastic? Do they have any pain points? If so, address them.
Our top tips for closing the deal before putting pen to paper:
- Talk about growth and challenge: Make it known you’re committed to making this position the best it can be.
- Provide context: You could say, “We’ve been looking for six months. We’ve looked at over 200 people. You’re it”.
- Restate the selling points and articulate the responsibilities: Mention the training they’ll receive, the size of the team or the achievements you want them to hit within the first six months.
- As the hiring manager, present the offer yourself: Making an offer marks the first step in your professional relationship and signals the importance of their collaboration work with you.
- Lay out the compensation: Go through fixed salary, variable compensation, stock options, health benefits, holiday allowance, training and other perks - and get a verbal “yes” before you put it in writing.
- Give a deadline: Create a sense of urgency and reduce the likelihood of the processes dragging out unnecessarily.
Step 9: Invest in onboarding
The first 30 days are crucial. While top talent can ramp up quickly, they still need time to adjust. It’s never a good idea to throw a new employee in at the deep end and expect them to ‘hit the ground running’. You need to go slow to go fast.
What you should cover in the onboarding phase:
- The role, responsibilities and priorities.
- Constraints, such as budgets or a hiring limit.
- Priorities for this week, this month and within the next quarter.
- How to communicate with leadership and management, juniors and peers.
- The business: This should cover your company’s mission, vision and key initiatives.
- Company culture: What are your company’s values, and how do you live them?
- Career aspirations: Ask about their ambitions and tell them you are determined to help them learn and grow in a mutually beneficial way.
You may be tempted to skip this, but every hour you invest in onboarding pays off in employee retention. Book weekly check-ins to monitor their performance and help them iron out any roadblocks to their success early on.
Nothing will accelerate your company’s growth faster than a commitment to hiring the best talent. Does all of this sound too expensive and time-consuming? Think about how much money you already spend on your current recruitment method - from the cost of external recruiters to job postings, the time your staff spends on inconclusive interviews, and resources spent on schmoozing lukewarm candidates. You’ll do less recruiting - and spend less money - once your company is filled with the right people.
- 40 Ideas to Shake Up Your Hiring Process by Joseph Fuller, Nithya Vaduganathan, Allison Bailey, and Manjari Raman, Harvard Business Review, January 16, 2023
- Recruit Rockstars, The 10-Step Playbook to Find the Winners and Ignite Your Business, by Jeff Hyman
- Write a Job Description That Attracts the Right Candidate by Whitney Johnson, Harvard Business Review, March 30, 2020
- When Hiring, Prioritize Assignments Over Interviews by Geoff Tuff, Steve Goldbach, and Jeff Johnson, Harvard Business Review, September 27, 2022
- Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash