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Your Guide to Hiring Million Dollar Talent
The FACT-Driven Hiring System includes:
Step 1) Creating the Framework for identifying and attracting your ideal candidates is the foundation of your hiring efforts.
Step 2) Attracting and Engaging Talent effectively by using the best hiring practices and paying attention to employer branding and the experience of your candidates will result in A+ talent.
Step 3) Candidate Assessment with insightful tools that help make screening fast and easy for you to determine who will become your absolute rockstar employees.
Step 4) Training and Onboarding plans are the final step to ensure that your rockstars hit the ground running with everything they need to be successful in creating long-lasting business results.
The smartest and greatest entrepreneurs have often told me, they are not in the restaurant business, the manufacturing business or some other specific industry, they all tell me the same thing…….they are in the people business. They are in the business of serving their customers or clients and their employees are the key to creating and delivering a WOW customer experience no matter the business they are in. It is from this place we set our life’s mission to help our clients our customers, people like you who are in their own people business struggling to find the best talent the market has to offer. We wrote this for you, we wanted to share our unfettered experience of interviewing and assessing literally tens of thousands of candidates and helping our clients in hiring hundreds and hundreds of all-stars!
Hiring is hard, frankly speaking, it takes practice and effort, there are very few shortcuts to doing it right, and I know that I am in the recruitment software business! The quality of these hiring decisions can impact the growth and fortune of the business for years to come. It often means wings of millions in revenue produced or lost when we make or fail to make great hiring decisions
How do you find the right people, and how do they find you?
Following a strategic plan for identifying, attracting, and hiring your ideal candidate is necessary for a successful and long-term hire. There are several steps in this process and at first glance, they may seem a bit daunting. But don’t worry, we have broken them down, removed all the excess, and made it quick and easy to understand.
With that in mind, we will no longer bore you with fluffy introductory but-wait-there’s-more speech and move right into the reason you’re here.
We Start at the Very Beginning
It all starts with developing The FACT-Driven Hiring System. By searching for and hiring A+ talent based on facts you will increase diversity, increase employee-knowledge, decrease scope-creep, and clearly define your company’s needs and goals.
Step 1) Create the Framework to identify your ideal candidate
Step 2) Learn to Attract talent effectively
Step 3) Evaluate your Candidates with insightful tools to determine the best potential
Step 4) Implement a Training plan giving your new employee what they need to contribute
Let’s take these one at a time. Get a pen and paper, you will need to do some work
Creating the Framework
Before you even begin thinking of the type of candidate you want to hire you need to create a PLAN. Ultimately you need to figure out how you are going to manage this process, formulate a crystal clear vision of who you are looking for and what they are going to do for your business.
Start with an in-depth analysis of the position. Once you’ve done a thorough analysis, create a job description that explains the role in detailed Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound terms aka a SMART Job Description. Then build a candidate profile that outlines who your ideal candidate is and put together a candidate scorecard to measure and assess potential matches effectively. Only then can we begin to take on the next steps in trying to Attract amazing talent which begins with the creation of a winning job advertisement to attract well-suited candidates to your job. Let’s now tackle this one step at a time.
The Internal Recruitment Process Strategy
If you decide that your company will kick off your own recruiting campaign to fill your open position, there are several things to consider:
Who will be involved in this process?
Is hiring a process that is left to the HR department with little to no management involvement? Or does everyone have a part in the game? Is it a consensus hire or does one person get the final say? Make this clear from the outset.
Too many clients we work with think it’s one way, when in the end, it actually turns out to be another way. A common example is the CEO who tells his managers and recruiters, “It’s up to you,” and then in the final phase acts as the sole decision-maker, rejecting a candidate that the other managers and recruiters were ready to move forward with. This is perfectly acceptable to do (after all, you DA BOSS) as long as it is known upfront that this will or might happen. Use your words. Draw very clear expectations at the start and communicate often.
What roles will each person assume?
Maybe you have an HR department that can work together on posting ads, screening all applicants, and handling the interviews. Perhaps you will hand off the job description, job advertisements and resume screening duties to one department or individual but still, want to be involved in conducting all of the interviewing for the position.
The goal here is to determine the process flow for how this will work on a day-to-day basis and who will be involved with each step so that you can properly assign responsibility to the appropriate team members. Determining who will do what at the start of the process helps the process operate as smoothly as possible and ensures that no candidates fall through the cracks. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where the ball was dropped collectively by an organization because specific jobs were not assigned.
In-Depth Job Analysis
Taking an in-depth job analysis of the role you’re hiring for will help you understand the position so you can be sure to find a candidate who will meet all of your objectives. These analyses can be complex and detailed or they can be more informal.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What do you want someone in this role to accomplish?
- What goals or metrics are critical in this role?
- What is the person in this position responsible for accomplishing in measurable terms?
- What are the actual duties and expectations of the role?
- What skills, education, experience, or special training is needed?
- What makes this role unique?
- What are the challenges of the position?
- What tools will they be required to use?
Creating a strong job profile from this analysis will help those involved better align with the final outcome for a superstar new hire. Think about it as if you were creating a mission and vision statement for the job, which will serve to create a guide for everyone involved. P.S. make sure that the mission and vision statement for the role is aligned with your company’s mission, vision, and core values.
Now that you’ve analyzed the position in detail, you’re ready to create a formal, technical job description that will be used as a guideline for both your firm and the employee who ultimately assumes the role to stay on track and be cognizant of expectations.
Writing the Job Description
Most job descriptions are poorly written. From entry-level sales positions to executive roles, they all say the same things. Everyone should have high attention to detail and be organized. Everyone needs to be a fluid, effective communicator who can also multitask quickly while managing client and employee relationships effectively. Sure that sounds great, but is it all practical? Is it all necessary? Is it enough to keep your next superstar candidate’s interest? And what the heck does it mean to be a multitasking communicating fluidlike relationship expert? (Besides, no one can multitask effectively. Look it up.) Keep in mind, this job description is not the same thing as a job ad. We will cover that a little later.
While job descriptions are traditionally more formal and technical than a job advertisement, a well-written job description should serve to govern every action and decision we will make in the hiring process, so it should be rock solid.
Here are some ideas to get you on the right track.
When writing your description, remember your company objectives. Offer a brief description of the company and the position, duties, and expectations. Most importantly you want to describe performance expectations; how will this candidate be assessed? How will these objectives offer the candidate the opportunity to grow their own skill-set? How will you and the candidate know if the job was done well? And whether or not they met the goals of the job as they relate to the mission and vision of the company?
The purpose of a job description is to describe the job responsibilities, role expectations, and forecasts a career trajectory with your company. This description can be used as a legal document, which both parties sign upon agreeing to the terms of the job offer. As such, a job description should clearly define each of the responsibilities a candidate can expect in their new position. It might call attention to the company objectives and goals or describe a list of duties this particular role is responsible for managing. It can even be an exhaustive list or summary of every task a candidate can expect to encounter.
Come up with 2–4 critical key performance indicators (KPI) you will use to measure someone’s success in the role. If you don’t have KPIs yet, here’s a little guidance for transforming your responsibilities and expectations into measurable terms.
Making a SMART Job Description
Ensure that your company-wide goals can be measured and you’ll easily be able to hold someone accountable, and they will be able to know where they stand in terms of achieving them.
To create a SMART job description, ensure the necessary components are included:
What is the purpose of the job? Write it out. Make it crystal clear. It should be like a mini mission statement that guides all decisions and actions someone in this role will be making every day.
What is the primary governing metric (tool for measuring and determining success) of this position? If you can’t measure the success or loss of a primary activity, recalibrate. The purpose of the role should be tied to one key governing metric and each supporting role and responsibility should be tied to supporting metrics or KPIs related to each of the core job activities.
What will the employee be doing often? How do they lead to producing specific measurable results? Describe those activities and the desired results. If the employee is expected to stand on one leg and recite the alphabet in reverse to calm the hamster in the corner office, make it known. The activity is clear (stand and recite), the result is measurable (a calm hamster).
Make sure the overall goals of the position are realistic. If none of the aeronautical engineers on your team have been to Mars and back, it’s not likely your new hire will be able to accomplish that either. To determine your realistic goals, take a look at the job analysis you brainstormed earlier. Survey the people already in this role to understand what poor, average, and superior performance looks like in relation to the KPIs or measurable outcomes. Now describe how the good performers go about achieving the outcomes they are producing.
If you’re hiring for a new role with no one currently doing the job, defining the benchmark gets trickier. You will need to use some common-sense techniques to determine if the goals are realistic or not.
For example, if one of the KPIs is to make 1,000 cold calls per day, figure out what typical ranges are for telemarketers using the tools you are providing. You might discover manual dialing telemarketers only make 200 calls per day, while those using an assisted power dialer make 600, and those using a fully automated dialer make up to 2,000 per day. Use this research to determine your measurable and realistic expectations.
Creating goals that are time-bound is pretty straightforward. For larger company goals you will likely use longer timelines, like 30, 90, and 365 days. For more specific activities, the time frame might be hourly, daily, weekly, monthly. For projects and other tasks that aren’t continuous or recurring, you could use milestones with varying time-frames tailored to the situation.
EXERCISE: Think about your next new hire and what role they will fill. Now, list as many measurable outcomes a star performer in this position will produce. Try to use real-life numbers that reflect what other existing star performers actually produce. Be realistic.
Now use the SMART strategy to clarify the mission this job will be tasked with accomplishing.
One last bit of advice when creating your job description. You want to engage the candidate. Don’t lie or hide the truth. Be clear in what you expect and what you are offering. If the job pays only commission on sales, make that understood. If you are trying to sell the position through sneaky tactics or using large words in the hopes of hiding the reality, you will never get to interview the best candidates. If by some chance, you do end up hiring a rockstar, they won’t stay long once they see the hidden truth. Call the duck a duck. Every job has one. Own it upfront and your new hire will be prepared for it when it quacks.
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Creating the Candidate Profile
A candidate profile is a synopsis of the type of candidate you want to hire. It includes information such as a list of qualities, characteristics, past achievements, experiences, or talents you want in a candidate. Each of these should be a quality that is more likely to allow your new superstar to achieve the measurable expectations or goals we outlined in our SMART Job Description.
We begin this process with a brain dump listing out all the possible qualities that could be helpful in achieving the SMART Job Description goals. We let it all out then we begin to think through them critically to narrow them down into a more manageable format.
To make the list of desired qualities easier to assess we structure the list in a way that prioritizes the desired qualities from most important to least important, such as:
- No Longer Important
- Absolutely Not
These are the two or three skills or characteristics that are critical to your position — meaning you won’t hire a candidate who doesn’t check all of these boxes. These are required.
For example, if you’re hiring for a senior accountant position, it’s probably pretty necessary your candidate has experience working with computer spreadsheets and feels comfortable using QuickBooks or whatever program your company uses. If you’re hiring for outside sales, you might want your candidates to be assertive and outgoing.
There will be a lot of temptation to add 47 things to this part of the list, but unicorns and purple squirrels don’t exist, so don’t go looking for them because you’ll drive yourself, and everyone else, mad. (Please don’t go painting squirrels purple just to prove us wrong.)
If you must have more than three qualities try hard to keep it under seven.
List some qualities you would like a candidate to have (5–10 usually does the trick). The nice-to-have characteristics are those that are not required but preferred. If your total number of qualities in both must-have and nice-to-have categories is more than 15, it will be extremely difficult to focus clearly on the specific qualities that drive success. It will also allow the less-important qualities to potentially outweigh the critical ones, causing you to miss the mark for your business.
For example, if you’re hiring for a senior accountant position, you might want the candidates to have 5–10 years of experience working in corporate accounting and tax, but would still consider someone with only 3–5 years if other credentials were impressive enough to justify it. In this case 5–10 years of experience is a nice-to-have (preferred) and 3–5 years is a must-have (required).
No Longer Important
This is where you list all the remaining qualities that did not make the must-have or nice-to-have list.
If you are finding it difficult to cut your required and preferred qualities down, you may want to take another look at your job analysis and description to ensure they are actually realistic.
List characteristics or scenarios that would cause you to pause on a candidate or one that would prevent them from becoming employed with your firm. If you only have one or two things, that’s fine. Try to keep your list to less than 20 items.
For example, if you’re hiring a delivery driver, one of your absolutely not’s could be a failed drug screen or past DUI arrests. If you’re hiring a bank teller you might request a credit or background check. If you find incriminating evidence suggesting fraud, theft, or excessive debt, you might pass on that candidate. Take a few minutes to decide on your absolute deal-breakers.
Creating a candidate scorecard allows you to structure your interview process with a systematic questionnaire you can use to assess all of your candidates for the qualities identified in the candidate profile we just created. This system also allows you to: create structured interview guides by position type, collect objective quantitative interviewer scoring on information collected about the candidate from the interview. It also helps collect qualitative justifications for the quantitative scoring given by the interviewer.
Scorecards are particularly helpful when trying to compare multiple interviewer evaluations in order to more objectively assess candidates among.
These scoring systems should also align nicely with how you will evaluate employee performance post-hire. It doesn’t make sense to be evaluating candidates for one quality or another but not the same qualities once they are on the job, right?
The candidate scorecard addresses several hiring challenges:
- Concerns with Hiring Discrimination & Compliance.
The scorecard allows for hiring managers to use the same line of questioning and criteria for interviews, thus reducing the possibility for discriminatory selection practices and increases compliance.
- Disjointed or Disorganized Hiring Practices
Anyone in charge of interviewing can now use the same language and questions templates reducing personal bias
- Owners Doing All the Interviews Themselves
Allows owners and CEOs to create structured interview guides and delegate the interviewing to their hiring managers
- Interviewer Lacks Understanding of Job
Allows interviewers better insight into the most important components of their position, enabling them to interview for the position specifically
- Lack of Insight in Measuring Employee Performance
A scorecard can be used post-hire to assess employee performance and areas for further growth.
Ultimately the candidate scorecard results in a more compliant, predictive, organized, and effective hiring process.
A simple way to actually weigh the scoring of the different qualities is by assigning a weighted point system to each of the Must Have, Nice to have and Deal breaker qualities:
Must Have qualities: 5 point
Nice to have qualities: 3 point
Not Important qualities: 0 points
Deal Breaker qualities: pass or fail score
You can create an overall grade on a percentage scale or translate that percentage to an A through F scale if you want to measure it in good ol’ grade school terms. By adding up the total possible number of points as the benchmark perfect score and then divide the candidates score by the benchmark score.
For example there a 65 total possible points in the scorecard for the Customer service position and your candidate scores a 55 then take 55 divided by 65 which equals 85% or a solid B
Candidate Scorecard Exercise:
Pick a role you will be hiring for soon. Create a list of attributes the ideal candidate might have. These will be things such as a list Experiences, Skills, Personality traits and other relevant Qualities. Categorize them into the Must Have, Nice to have, Not important and Deal Breaker groups. Use the following worksheet to create your own candidate scorecard. You can create the scorecard for an existing position you’re hiring for or use the sample position below.
Step #1 Brain Dump
Enter below every quality you feel is important for the person to be successful in the position you have in mind. Think about the different qualities needed as qualities related to the categories listed below. Don’t hold back – get it all out! Here are some categories to get started:
Example formatting of your Candidate Scorecard
The top 2-3 items that are absolutely critical for your candidate to possess
|Candidate Nice to Haves
Top 5-10 items you would like your candidate to possess
|Candidate Deal Breakers
What are the deal breakers for this position? While important, make sure you are not creating unnecessary requirements here.
|Pass or Fail||CANDIDATE SCORE|
|1.||P or F|
|2.||P or F|
|3.||P or F|
|4.||P or F|
|5.||P or F|
Here is a sample of what our online candidate scorecard dashboard looks like:
Once you’ve analyzed your job thoroughly, created a job description, candidate profile, and candidate scorecard, you’re ready to move on to the next step; attracting excellent candidate
Attracting & Engaging Talent Quickly
Attracting talent to your open jobs takes a little bit of skill, a pinch of luck, and a lot of planning and strategy. Your strategy should primarily start with creating your job advertisement, then reaching out to your network for referrals. If you already have a solid team of talented employees, chances are they know other talented people who may be looking for — or are interested in hearing about — a new opportunity. Soliciting referrals from your network, other colleagues, and your top employees is a great start to attracting the best talent for your business.
Before sending your job ad out, make sure it speaks to your candidate’s desires, needs, and goals within a new opportunity. It has to be all about them and what they stand to gain from this new experience. In a tight labor market, candidates want to know what they may get out of the opportunity. They are not interested in hearing all about your demands of them. Don’t get me wrong, you are important too, but when it comes to a job ad, you should keep it candidate-focused.
Once you have a killer job advertisement that is likely to get the very best people excited about the job and you have leveraged your network, we can begin to explore other channels such as job boards, headhunting and utilizing recruitment search partners and other techniques for finding great talent to pitch your job to.
Let’s explore the components of what Attracts people to a job!
Write Job Ads that ATTRACT Talent!
When creating a job ad, keep in mind the following:
- They are marketing pieces — your ad literally incorporates Marketing 101 principles and its sole purpose is to entice candidates to your position by selling the opportunity
- You want a good balance of company- and position-profile information
- Always list out the measurable expectations you have of a candidate
- It calls attention to what is expected of the candidate within the first 3, 6, and 9 months of employment
- It outlines what candidates can expect on the job as a whole
- Should be presented objectively not as a list of demands.
- Turn the challenges of the jobs into opportunities
- Should be written in a positive, engaging and captivating tone of voice
- It’s interesting to read
- It sets the scene for the candidate to imagine what “a day in the life” is like with the company
A key part of a good job ad is speaking directly to the candidate’s wants and desires. You also want to properly communicate why your company is such a great choice. In doing so, you want to highlight who you are and why you exist by highlighting your company mission, vision, and core values. To do this, you might want to include social media links so candidates can check out your company to get a better idea about your company’s culture.
Glassdoor reviews are very important in “social proofing” why your company is such a great place to work. Including employee reviews or testimonials go a long way to help persuade candidates to look further into your opportunity.
Make sure your ad hits all these points:
- It’s not too long (3–4 pages is like a novel)
- It’s not too short (less than one page is like a tweet)
- Exhaustive bullet lists (the following is a list of the expected duties and responsibilities that are not limited to … snooze!)
- use them wisely
- It’s not completely unrealistic. You can’t require “a recent college graduate with 17 years of CEO experience to be paid a salary of $28k. Base-jumping experience in the Congo is preferred but not required. But if you have Congo base-jumping experience, you’re going to get the job over the other guy. Just because. Ya know?”
- Don’t use cliché phrases like “willingness to perform other duties as requested” (oh man, they want me to clean the toilets with a parrot on my shoulder) and “multi tasker with attention to detail” (who is this genius six-armed three-brained super-hero?). If you don’t know the clichés, read a few job posts. You will spot them quickly.
Write your ad using the same language you would if you were explaining the job to someone over a coffee. Be honest and clear. Don’t use large words to sound more photosynthesis.
Things to Consider in Your Ad
If they wouldn’t accept the salary posted, they probably won’t apply. What might have been a wasted interview leaves another open slot instead.
Posting a salary range can help you avoid early inquiries about salary. Many companies prefer to avoid discussing salary in early interviews, so posting it gives candidates a general idea typically postponing salary talk until second-round interviews.
Listing salary helps you appear forthright and professional. This helps clarify expectations over a somewhat-problematic issue before you even meet the candidate. For many employers, this is easier than introducing salary in person or at the end of the interview process.
Sometimes, even if you do post salary, good candidates may be discouraged by low amounts. If no salary is listed, a candidate may apply, come in for an interview, and feel that the job is such a good fit they’d be willing to take less than they thought.
Some feel that advertising even a wide salary range can make candidates expect too much. Once they have a number in mind – usually at the high end of the scale — anything less can be a disappointment.
Never advertise your willingness to pay more. A really great candidate may be able to negotiate a higher salary than the amount the company originally hoped to offer, however, advertising an overly-high rate will increase every candidate’s expectations. Even those who may not warrant it
Ultimately it will be your job to effectively assess candidates to determine if they warrant the salary you are paying or that they are demanding. We cover this extensively in the Candidate Evaluation portion of this book.
SEO and Your Job Ads
- The first step to using SEO in your job ads is to research the keywords candidates are using to find positions
- Look up common synonyms as well
- If you call your sales role a “prosperity outreach manager”, people searching for sales rep. jobs aren’t going to find it … photosynthesis, remember?
- Make sure the language you’re using is common and consistent
- Consider including specific technologies or specialized skills and experiences related to the job. For example: “has experience with SAP, Salesforce CRM, CPA license” etc.
- Use keywords in the headings of the job post
- Repeat keywords throughout the job ad to indicate to the search engines exactly what this job is about
We’ve already proven how the most important component to hiring the best talent starts with a killer job ad that serves to market to and attract the best of the best. Now that we have that, it’s time to rally up the troops on our team and in our network who might know someone that would be a fit for the job and match the candidate profile. The absolute best way to find the best talent is through referrals, so let’s jump into that.
Your best employees on the job probably know someone else who is also a rockstar. Doesn’t it make sense to start there first? Especially in a tight labor-market, it’s easiest, and cheapest, to start with referrals because you can easily connect with dozens of potential candidates who are more open and willing to hear about your opportunity because they were referred or told of your position from their friend or family member.
Once source estimates 71% of candidates look to referrals from current employees of a company when searching for a job and as many as 68% look to their network of friends or family members. Another claims 82% of employers rated employee-referrals above all other sources for generating the best potential leads. It is also estimated 30% of new hires come from employee referrals and referred candidates are 55% faster to hire than those sourced through traditional methods. This can save companies ~$3,000 per hire through the use of employee referral programs. Sometimes it really is all about who you know.
You should solicit referrals before posting the job anywhere else. Give your employees a little time to get their referrals in, then move forward with your job advertising.
There are many benefits to hiring through employee referrals. Some of the biggest are:
- Likelihood of quality. Employees generally recommend only quality candidates — no one wants to be embarrassed by the person they refer.
- Save time and money. Saving time and money might be the biggest benefit of a successful referral. Referrals fill positions in an average of thirty days, typically less than other methods.
- Build a network. Even if you don’t have an opening, meeting referrals can create contacts and start building your candidate pool for next hiring period.
- Increase employee desire to stay and do well. Use referrals to get candidates for seasonal and temporary positions. Typically these hires leave before they are scheduled to, but if they were given a boost by a referral, they may be more reluctant to do so.
- Diversity reduction. Referrals may mean you hire people who are very alike. This can decrease diversity of backgrounds, personality type, or beliefs. You might get stuck with the same type of thinking rather than finding employees who will bring new ideas or a different type of energy to your business. This can be a severe drawback, especially if you own a business requiring innovation. You need diversity to avoid programming bias into your work culture and business offerings.
- Personal issues. One problem that can result from hiring people who already know one another is, of course, personal conflict. There’s a history there. Sometimes not a good one. This isn’t something you can control and you will have this issue regardless of the relationship status of your team. It’s simply a matter of employees acting properly.
Below is a great example of an employee referral plan in place. Use this template as a starting point and edit it to fit your own needs.
Employee Referral Program
Internal eMail Communications
Create some simple emails that contain all the information your employees will need to successfully share with the world the good news about your amazing job opportunities.
The email should contain the following info:
The benefit for your employee to recruit their friends and family to come work with them. Maybe it’s something like, “working with people you love is amazing; please help us by sharing this new accounting position with the world!” Or maybe, “wanna impress your friends? Help them elevate their career by sharing the new Business Development position that just opened up in our sales department!”
The complete job advertisement as an attachment and a link to your career page. Don’t make it hard to share the message.
Oh yeah, don’t forget that big old CALL TO ACTION. Make it easy to share the job post on social media. Since 68% of adults in the USA are on Facebook, and the average Facebook user has 338 Friends, a company of 100 employees has a first degree connection with over 33,800 potential new hires.
Social Media Posts
Put a little swagger into your efforts. Get your marketing consultant, team, or social butterfly to put together some great social media posts to draw in those 33,800 friends. Whether you create and post an informative statistic, a helpful infographic, or a bomb-a$$ blog post, make sure it’s something that will attract your network, encouraging them to spread the word. It’s not an easy task, but with the right marketing swagger it is possible.
Hype It Up One-on-One
Nobody rallies around a single email among the thousands they get every day. People are not just going to jump into action after being asked to share recent job openings. After all, at the last staff meeting that was just one announcement amongst the 15 other super-duper important announcements and company initiatives. Each team leader and executive has to make it a point to remind people one-on-one or in small huddles how great it would be for them to share these amazing opportunities. Not once, but all the time. Make it a big deal. Make it part of your company culture!
Contests and Incentives
Hiring is a numbers game. Sure it would be great to have a laser-like target on your ideal candidate, but that is unlikely. Encourage people to refer freely and reward them for connecting you with one of their friends! No matter how well-intentioned or great your people are, they can’t be expected to know exactly what the boss is looking for in the next rockstar hiring. If the system makes team members think twice — is this friend or that friend really a fit — then it becomes easier for them to do nothing at all.
Make the reward, recognition, and incentive to refer people centered around the quantity of people referred and then the quality. Then don’t worry, the cream will rise to the top. You have all the systems in place to ensure that.
What kind of incentives should you offer? It almost doesn’t matter; winners want to win at everything. Here are a few ideas: a raffle, pizza party, a half-day off for the person who refers the most new candidates, $100 or $1,000 for each successful new hire. Get creative. The bottom line is just about anything you offer, that has sincere recognition, is going to make your rockstars feel appreciated. It’s still a fraction of what it would cost you to go out and find this person on your own.
Your Sales and Marketing Team
It is their job to promote your company to world and convince people your product, service, and company is the best ever, so why wouldn’t they be the ideal candidates for promoting your great job opportunities.
Marketing teams should know how to get the word out about anything your company is doing. They also know how to expertly craft engaging messages. All they have to do is tweak what is already in place from the customers’ perspective to the potential new hires’!
Follow up, Follow Through, and Stick With It
Look, nothing is so easy that one email or social post will change the world — unless you are some international Instafamous celebrity-type with a bazillion followers. Stick with your program. Keep trying. Once it becomes part of the culture of your company, it will become as easy as drinking your morning cup of coffee.
Now that you have successfully implemented a referral machine we can begin to think about how we can utilize other methods for attracting a wide audience of potentially great new team members.
Once you have mastered the art of maximizing referrals and created a job advertisement you’re proud of, you’ll want to get it posted on some of the most popular job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Monster, and CareerBuilder because you will reach a wide audience by using these platforms. Be sure to also engage with niche job boards in your industry too, such as a CPA-specific or college boards, where your ideal candidate might be looking for a new opportunity.
Job boards are what we consider traditional job marketing and is the most common technique for finding new talent. If we have invested the time to create strong job descriptions, candidate profiles and advertisements then we can easily take advantage of large pools of candidates the job boards have to offer.
The advantage of job boards is we can quickly and relatively inexpensively attract high volumes of candidates. Job boards are great for low to mid level jobs, high and low volume hiring campaigns roles such as customer service, retail, hospitality jobs, production roles, sales positions and administrative roles. Job boards are only somewhat helpful for highly specialized jobs such as Accounting, legal, medical, Science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), executive and other niche industry specific management roles.
The challenge with the use of job boards is they require a significant investment of time and energy to sort through the masses of people interested in our open positions. It also requires the person tasked with sorting through all these resumes has been properly trained and practiced at effectively evaluate candidates on their resume alone to make smart decisions on who to move forward in the hiring process. You don’t want to overlook high potential performers because of misunderstanding about their past work history, and most hiring managers are reluctant to invest time getting to know a lot of candidates which is a necessary part of getting the best results for job boards. It takes effort and skill to get great results from using the big job boards.
There are several factors we will consider at this point is where to invest our advertising budget and which job boards should we use to produce the best results.
Choosing the Right Job Board
Selecting the right job boards to use can make and break your hiring effort results. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of options these days, so choose carefully! Most job boards these days offer free or very low cost options, which seem great, but like anything else you get what you pay for, and free options usually produce minimal results.
If you are using a decent applicant tracking system (ATS), it will normally help you quickly and easily take advantage of all the best free job postings out there, which is just one more reason to make that small investment into an ATS. Since the results are usually minimal you will likely find out pretty fast why there is a need to start paying for the premium job posts.
The two job boards you should invest most of your time and money on are Indeed and ZipRecruiter. If we stopped here, that’s really all you need to know. For the sake of being thorough, let’s explore this some more. Internally our professional search firm has used all the boards out there and run independent tests for years supporting the claim Indeed delivers 65% of all new hires from online sources leaving minimal results for all the rest. We have seen very significant results from ZipRecruiter which is quickly moving up this list of best job boards into a strong #2 spot, if not over taking Indeed soon. We feel this trend is one that should not be overlooked and is worth using or testing for sure.
Each have different pricing structures. Indeed runs on a pay-per-click model giving you some flexibility to try different bid strategies and control you costs. Indeed has been the market leader for producing the high volume of candidates for many years now. They have done this by scraping the internet and reposting every job in the world on their site. This is an attractive proposition for a job seeker looking for all their options in one place. Since there are so many jobs available it requires employers to pay a premium to compete for the top spots and best presentation. The nice part is you can set your own budget and start and stop your advertising efforts as you need to which does give you some control of the cost. You should generally expect to spend $350-$450 per 30 days of advertising to get the best results in a competitive market. Indeed for sure is the best place to get a high volume of fairly qualified candidates. All job boards will bring some nonsense with them.
ZipRecruiter sells job slots that can be switched out as needed, which is nice because you can rotate between two, three, or more jobs during a 30 day period, which is helpful when you have many jobs to collect candidates for. They also offer highly targeted messaging directly to candidates who are more likely to fit your job description. This is just another reason to make sure you write a thorough job advertisement that accurately depicts the most important candidate qualities. Both of these job boards have free options that work okay, but their paid options produce significantly higher volumes and better quality of candidates.
We post hundreds of positions each year and independent research by SilkRoad clearly identifies Indeed and ZipRecruiter as the vast majority of hiring sources from online platforms.
Job Boards to Watch Out For
Google Jobs – Like anything else Google does, their jobs feature is quickly moving up the ranks as one of the most competitive into the job board game. They have a distinct advantage for employers as they scrape the web for job postings just like they do for everything else. It is also quickly becoming the first place people search for jobs especially for Millennials and Gen Z job seekers because it’s as easy as any other Google search. Go ahead try it out yourself right now!
Google pulls job postings from places like Indeed and ZipRecruiter, but more importantly, they pull them directly from company career pages, which is another incentive for creating and maintaining a strong company career page with well-optimized job advertisements. As we discussed earlier, company career pages are an ideal way to promote your opportunities. You might be thinking, “oh boy, I have to create a sophisticated careers section for my website that is going to cost a lot of time, money and effort.” Fret not, again, low cost Applicant Tracking Systems have this down for you a low cost. Investing in an ATS will produce a good career portal for your company in the blink of an eye. A good ATS will also allow you to post videos, customize job alerts and a whole lot more, so make sure you choose a provider that has a robust set of career portal features and that is set up to share your jobs with Google, as not all of them are there yet.
Glassdoor – Is best known as the Yelp! for job seekers. In a candidate’s market that means people have their choice of employers like never before. Even in bad times people want to work for great companies not a slave driver. With the vast majority of job seekers doing their homework on their future employers they are increasingly ending up at employer review sites such as Glassdoor. So far Glassdoor has done the best job of aggregating lots of jobs just like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and Google has but they turn around and show these jobs to people doing their homework on your competitors or other similar jobs. If you have a great Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) take advantage of the power of great employer reviews by getting your existing people to review your company regularly on Glassdoor. With a strong employer presence then you can take advantage of Glassdoors paid advertising options improving your ability to attract the very best talent.
Facebook- With over 68% of all US adults on this platform they are also making a splash in the hiring game. Facebook is great for targeting very specific types of candidates with paid display ad’s. So far the best results are with entry level type jobs such as hospitality, production, healthcare and other volume hiring campaigns. Aside from the use of highly target ad’s utilizing Facebooks groups is highly effective way to network and promote opportunities who have an interest in things related to your jobs.
Take the Solar energy industry for example, there are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to the solar revolution and green energy initiatives if you are looking for people passionate about alternative energy sources take advantage of networking with these groups to promote your Green energy jobs.
All the rest.
Are seriously almost not worth mentioning but many of you will be familiar with them and be asking but what about LinkedIn or Monster or Careerbuilder? As we see in the research based on 13 million job applicants, each of these other job boards produce less than 15% of all new hires from online sources each. I recommend using these only in the most desperate of times in conjunction with the use of Indeed and ZipRecruiter.
Passive Candidate Recruiting Strategies
The Sniper Method (AKA: Headhunting)
If you’re going to attempt the job of hiring on your own, you should know the sniper method technique requires work and effort, but is totally within reach of the average company using the resources available today. It can also produce the very best results when targeting highly specialized talent and high level executives. This strategy is not very productive or worth the effort for low and mid level talent unless these folks have very specific skills.
Most clients come to us requesting their candidates have a very particular list of past experiences, skills and credentials. Before we go running off looking for these people, we must think carefully about these items, making sure they are properly prioritized. Remember the Candidate Profile?
The more layers of mandatory requirements, the more likely your list of potentially qualified candidates will be very small and maybe even 0. This could be ok to have a super short list of target talent, sure makes it easier to deal with. However it greatly reduces your chances of landing the ideal new team member. Start with your very detailed list and carefully note how many people actually have these required skills, experiences, etc. Once you know for certain there are only 100 Sr. Level tax professionals in your area then you can use this information to guide your talent acquisition strategy. The challenge now becomes how do you attract 1 or 2 of these specialized people and why would they want to come work for you.
This part about attracting specialized talent is key if these people are specially trained and are being successful in your competitors, vendors, or customers businesses then why would they want to leave? If you have someone thriving in your business with specialized skills you probably take pretty good care of them and they probably enjoy working in your business and they are probably highly unlikely to make a move. Unless…… they are offered a significant step up opportunity, great people are looking for 3 things in their careers.
- Professional growth and challenges
- High quality standard of living
- Great culture and leadership
Everyone including yourself is looking for these three things, each of us might put a slightly higher level priority on one or the other but all three of these drivers are in each and every one of us.
When implementing the sniper method it is critical to consider if you can offer these things. If you can’t you may want to adjust your requirements to target talent that you can provide a significant step up for.
Once you have thoroughly assessed your need and your offering it’s time to start systematically identifying all the potential matches and collecting their contact information.
Data Mining Techniques
If your target candidates generally hold a certain type of role in a certain type of company, then it’s relatively easy to use a number of data mining services to systematically identify all the target companies and all the target people in those companies and their contact information to quickly reach out and promote your open position to. Whether you use one or multiple of these headhunting techniques you will need an easy system or tool to organize and manage outreach and communication with these people.
Ideally, over time, you will collect a wealth of data on potential job candidates with varying degrees of fit and interest. Each level requires a different level of attention. For example, let’s say you find someone with direct Mechanical Design experience in the Aerospace sector for your aerospace manufacturing company, but the candidate hasn’t demonstrated an ability to keep a job for longer than three years. It’s without a doubt this candidate has the familiarity and relevant experiences for your position, but the history of job-hopping is a clue this candidate may have other additional undesirable qualities.
We don’t want to mix this candidate in with our most desirable candidates that we plan to put all our effort into connecting with. Separating the people you find into buckets by level of priority will help make the top priority people easier to go after. Instead of chasing 500 people down, you now have 50 ideal fits, 150 pretty strong fits, and approximately 300 potential fits that show a partial match to your role.
There are 4 main basic techniques for building a super-targeted talent pool fast:
- Search for keywords in profiles
- Search by job titles
- Search by competitors
- Search by just about anything that is specific and well defined
A more advanced technique includes systematically identifying every single qualified candidate, which takes the LinkedIn prospecting technique to a whole other level. This technique involves three simple steps and a little bit of work to execute, which is why we generally recommend outsourcing this to a data miner from UpWork or another freelance-type contractor. A best practice we follow is to use multiple data miners to do the same job, then check the accuracy of their work against each other until we find a data miner we like the best.
There are 3 main advanced techniques for building a super-targeted and complete list of every qualified candidate in your market:
- Identify all companies who have the talent you are looking for
- Then identify all the people in those companies using the skills you need
- Execute a cold email and calling campaign to generate interest in your role
Resume databases, like those from Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Monster, and Career Builder that we mentioned earlier, can be good for a less-focused approach to the headhunter model and are best used for finding candidates who are actively looking for a new job, helpful for mid-level less specified talent and for high-volume hiring of low-level workers.
Recruiting Search Partners
Some of the most common reasons companies seek external search agencies — staffing or search partners — is they don’t have the resources to execute a new search campaign themselves. In some cases, a company might believe they don’t have the right tools, skills, or process in order to properly execute a search campaign effectively enough to find the ideal candidate.
A search partner can execute and guide the recruitment process including some of the most challenging components of the process, including finding qualified candidates, administer pre-employment assessments, conduct interviews, and even complete background checks with a high degree of focus and attention. A good recruiting company will work closely with you and treat your talent-search as if it were their own.
From beginning to end, they should pay attention to your needs. They should also understand the latest research in effective hiring-practices and use a variety of tools to assess potential employees. They should then share this process and their expertise with you, teaching you to take advantage of the latest insights and tools to create a better talent recruitment system.
Some of the most important requirements for the service you choose should be:
- They understand your industry and the roles in that industry
- They specialize in your industry (or the industry for which you are hiring)
- They use multiple methods to find and assess candidates
- They emphasize their clients’ needs
- They are willing to share their process and results with you
- They will help you improve your hiring process
A recruiter can only find your ideal candidate if they have a solid understanding of who they’re looking for, so creating a proper job profile will be critical in having a successful partnership with a search company. The best search firms will help you with this but taking the time to create a strong job analysis and description like the ones we discussed in the Framework step. Doing these critical analysis will immediately improve your chances of having a third party be successful on your behalf.
Communicating regularly through the process and providing detailed feedback is critical to keeping your partners engaged, treat them like you would treat an employee sitting in your office and do the following:
- Maintain solid communication
- Don’t ghost or ignore them
- Respond quickly to all communications
- Above all else, treat them the way you want to be treated
The three main types of service you can use for an external recruitment campaign are contract talent agencies, staffing companies, and headhunters or direct placement firms.
Contract Talent Agencies are typically best for very specialized skilled talent that is needed for a particular project or for relatively short periods of time 3 to 24 months
Temporary or Staffing Companies are typically not a good choice for highly-skilled or highly-paid employees and instead work best for low-skill or high-volume hires when you need a quick turnaround time.
Headhunters and Direct Placement Search Firms are the best for more specialized or advanced positions in your company. These searches could take 30–90 days (or longer) to fill based on position, experience, and location.
Choose your recruiting partners carefully just like you would any new hire. Having a great long term partner who knows your company it’s needs and delivers amazing results will save you tons of time and money having to replace the talent they send, hire and on board a new partner and save you wasted time from poor results. Every day your position sits open you are losing money due to lost productivity so getting the job done right and fast are critical to your business success.
Be sure to pay attention to your company branding, like monitoring your website — especially the career page — check online review sites you may be listed on like Yelp! or Glassdoor, and watch your social media platforms carefully. Nothing scares away candidates faster than negative reviews about your company, especially when they come from previous employees who all have similar experiences to share. Similarly, nothing is a better attractor of candidates to your business like a strong online presence showcasing your collaborative company culture, winning environment, and culture of teamwork. Other types of positive company branding isn’t just good for business in terms of sales from customers, it also works to attract and retain talented employees, so leverage all the great feedback from clients as well.
A study by CareerBuilder reveals that nearly 64% of candidates are checking you out before they apply for a job with you, so you should be aware of what your branding says about you. Candidates are also looking for reviews and information that may shed light on other candidates’ or employees’ experiences, which may help them determine if your business is worth their time.
Another report put together by Glassdoor (the Godfather of employer reviews) further details the importance of employer branding and reveals that nearly 40% of women and 33% of men report that a company’s reputation or brand is very important. Here’s another finding; 32% of women and 22% of men claim that a company’s social cause is very important. Your reputation, often delivered directly from the mouths of previous and current employees, is one of the best ways for potential employees to picture themselves working with you or deciding to go work with your competitors.
So what are you doing to increase your company’s positive online presence? Do you even know what that looks like? Let’s start with a Google search. Go ahead, we’ll wait …
What’s out there about you or your company? Did you find anything bad, any negative reviews from clients, candidates, or employees? If you do find negative reviews, you’ll want to do some damage control before running any job ads. The best way to deal with negative reviews or comments is to respectfully respond to them. At the very least, you’re showing the public that you care about how they perceive you and want to address any harmful publicity or misunderstandings.
Aside from negative reviews, you’ll want to make sure your company is easily found in search engines and on social media channels. Not being found at all is a pretty bad first impression. The same CareerBuilder study reports that 37% of candidates will move on to another company and job opportunity if they can’t easily find information about your business when searching online. In this hard-to-find talent market (or any market really), not being found in an online search is NO BUENO, unless you are a member of the underground Fight Club.
Communicating about your Employer Branding and Online Presence
Your brand communicates to candidates the type of business you are and should work to attract the types of people you want on your team.
There are several ways to best communicate your employer brand to prospective candidates. These include:
- Updating your company website
- Highlighting company initiatives
- Developing a tagline or slogan that people can associate with your company (think McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it.”)
- Communicating about the brand in a way that’s understandable to everyone
- Establishing or updating the company’s core values and mission statements
- Developing in-house communication strategies that develop cohesiveness such as meetings, recognition and rewards, and letters from the CEO
SHRM found that companies who participated in implementing these branding techniques experienced an increase in hiring the right people, a greater number of qualified candidates, improved reputation, increased referrals,
Okay, deep breath, ‘cause there’s more …
lower turnover, increasing number of diverse candidates, increased employee satisfaction, quickly-filled positions, and higher productivity among employees.
Branding is much more encompassing than simply having a presence online and a couple good reviews left by former employees. Your branding can make or break your success as a company in your recruitment efforts. In order to stay competitive, employers should have a branding strategy that serves both a marketing purpose to meet business objectives as well as one that satisfies candidates who are engaged in a job search and may be looking to find out more information about your company before applying.
The candidate-experience is undoubtedly becoming a focus in recent years. Unemployment hovers below 4% and talent becomes more difficult to find. Candidates want to know where they stand when they send out applications, so it is in your best interest to make sure that your application process and communication with candidates is top-notch. The way you interact with prospective candidates all speaks to your values and integrity, which can be linked back to your employer branding. Candidates who have a positive experience with your company online while going through the application process are more likely to refer others than if they were to have had a poor experience, but you better believe they’ll share that poor experience with anyone who will listen, too!
Employer Career Pages
If you don’t have one, get one. Period. Having a place to showcase your open jobs on your website is critical for allowing candidates who are interested in your company to browse available opportunities and keep in touch. Remember that passive recruiting technique we referenced a while back? Having an employer career page on your website also allows you to easily collect resumes, even when you’re not actively hiring. Two birds……one stone.
Your application process should be simple, intuitive, and painless, with no IT requests or live-person or chatbots convo’s necessary. One way to test this is to apply for your own job. You be the crash-test dummy. Is the application easy to fill out? Are you asking for a resume and then also asking candidates to fill out the last 10 years of work history even though it’s basically the exact same information that’s on their resume?
Question: How do you lose a candidate in 10 minutes?
Answer: Make them fill out an application for 20 minutes that repeats the exact same information found on the resume they spent 45 minutes creating in the first place.
Good candidates will generally spend the time to give you what you’re asking for, but it should be reasonable AND it should match the position. In other words, you’re not going to ask someone applying for a Director of Ops position to fill out a goofy form on your website that asks where they went to high school and why they want to work at your company.
Remember, these people are top-talent and many companies would be happy to have them, so don’t make the mistake of turning them off with a cumbersome application process.
I mean, come on people, it’s the 21st century and kids these days don’t even remember a world without mobile technology.
You’re targeting candidates. You want more candidates. Bring me all the candidates. Right?
What are candidates doing with their time? They’re on their phones. All of them. In fact, a study shows that 60% of US college students think they might be addicted to their phones (or know… I can’t tell). Further, cell phone addiction appears to be the #1 addiction of the 21st century. Wow. The point here, aside from that incredibly depressing statistic, is that your application process must be mobile-friendly and easy to use.
After your next superstar swipes right, they just might want to apply for a job, so make it easy for them to do so.
Other Candidate Engagement Best Practices
It’s always a best practice to provide as many resources about your company as you can to your candidates. Attach a job description, your company mission and/or core-values statement, links to your social media channels, a link to your website, and anything else that might be helpful to your candidate. Help them learn about your company, culture, and history.
This purpose is two-fold. Offering as many resources to potential candidates as possible shows you have your stuff together. It’s also a great segway into your interview. You might break the ice with a question about what the candidate knows about you and your company. If they don’t have an answer, you know they didn’t bother to do their research even when you handed it to them on a silver platter. And they deserve a wedgie.
When you’re hiring and advertising your job to the world, you’re bound to get some resumes from candidates who don’t fit the role you’re hiring for. Can you fault the burger flipper for applying to a Pharmacist position with no experience, education background, or relevant training? Not really. Especially in a tight market or recession.
Occasionally, you will get a really good candidate application that doesn’t fit the job you’re hiring for but looks fantastic otherwise. It seems almost criminal to simply dismiss this person. So, as a best practice in recruiting and hiring, save their information. Put them in the system. Keep in touch with them. You never know …
According to a job seeker survey, CareerBuilder found that 54% of employers re-engage with candidates who were not offered the job the first time around. It makes sense then, that when it comes time to revisit your own hiring needs and want to reach out to these people, chances are they’ll be much more receptive and welcoming to your inquiries since you’ve maintained a connection with them regularly. But never suggest there are openings when there are none and don’t build up a reputation of stealing employees.
An intuitive, easy-to-use screening process will keep candidates engaged. If you are using an ATS and multiple people are involved in the process, be sure that everyone is on the same page — keeping the candidate experience a consistent and positive one.
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Utilizing an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
Hiring professionals are using a variety of channels to spread the word about their open positions, but 79% of them find it challenging to post to multiple job boards simultaneously. With an applicant tracking system you can create custom-messaging templates for each stage of the process and integrate any pre-employment testing you want to use when screening candidates pre- and post-interview. A great ATS also makes automating reminders, providing easy-to-share job post links and videos, and keeping track of your top referrers so easy you could practically do it in your sleep. It will also organize your potential-hire resumes.
Typically, applicant tracking systems are equipped with features that allow you to post your jobs to job boards, which is a stupid easy way to attract talent with the click of one button. You can simultaneously push your ads out to multiple sites with little effort, saving you more time to focus on other parts of the hiring process.
Using an ATS helps you streamline the process for all involved in the hiring and screening process allowing you to work collaboratively throughout the duration of the process. Ultimately, an ATS can greatly reduce your time to hire, improve your passive recruitment results, ensure compliance with EEOC, improve the candidate experience, and simplify your onboarding efforts.
Your Candidate Assessment Strategy
When you run a hiring campaign, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it, you’re going to have to assess your candidates to determine their fit for the role. If the campaign is successful, you’ll hopefully have several resumes and candidates to review. It’s not realistic you spend hours upon hours reviewing candidates though, you need a system to move applicants through the process efficiently. The applicant tracking system helps a lot in this but how you review and assess candidates will either save you a lot of time or waste your time often resulting in hiring fatigue which almost always ends with a poor hire.
There are several variations on how to go about the screening process and it’s up to you to decide which ones fit best where. You might follow different procedures for different positions depending on recruiting needs and resources.
Those who pass your initial screening processes will move on to the next step, and those who don’t should get some sort of “thank you, but” letter, letting them know that you’ve decided to move on with other candidates. At every stage of the process, you should update candidates on their status, and notify those who are moving on what the next step is.
Someone will have to evaluate all the resumes you receive and set the timing and scheduling for managing your new-talent pipeline. Since there is pretty much nothing more to your business’s success than great people, I strongly prefer the actual hiring managers do the resume screening and be involved every step of the hiring process.
Since you also have to run a business and manage your other employees, this is where you might consult with your HR department to have them help you screen the resumes, and that is better than having an admin do this task. Setting a timeline and having a plan is your first line of defense against a slow hiring-process, and helping you figure out how to manage your time involvement.
Since the cost of hiring increases and the loss of production revenue goes up the longer your jobs remain open and unfilled, it’s crucial that your initial evaluation happens shortly after receiving qualified applications. The more time between a candidate application and the time they hear back from you, the greater the chances they will drop out of your process or get picked up somewhere else.
Here are the steps for an efficient screening process:
- review resumes
- reach out to interesting candidates
- phone screen
- in-depth assessments
- in-person and in-depth interview
- reference checks
- Working interview / sample work products
- salary talks, offers, and acceptance
- background checks / drug screening
I know it seems like a lot and it is basically each step is critical to making a successful hire, and most of these steps don’t take very long. With intentionality I shoot to complete these steps in 10 – 15 business days. This is totally achievable for most mid to lower level roles and even some high level executive positions if you make it a priority.
The process of reviewing resumes can be cumbersome for some hiring managers. You may be bombarded with so many that it seems impossible to get through them all. At minimum it is a pretty tedious task! On the other end, you may not have enough to sort through to establish any kind of baseline or talent-pool from which you want to draw. In any case, there are some key steps to reviewing a resume that you must consider:
- Read them from the bottom up
- Identify their professional journey and what they learned along the way
- Pinpoint growth in positions
- Look for significant achievements or training
- Direct relevant or parallel experienc
- Pay attention to dates — longevity in roles is still important
When reviewing a resume, you want to learn how the candidate arrived where they are today. Understanding their timeline of experience and achievement will help you better evaluate the candidate in relation to your candidate scorecard.
Also don’t take what you read as gospel recent research shows that 85% of all candidate have embellishments or flat out lies on their resumes.
Think back — way back — to the beginning of your professional journey from the very first job you ever had. At each juncture, highlight in one sentence the following:
- What you achieved
- How that experience led you to the next experience
- What motivated you to take on the next challenge
- Where are you today because of those decisions and achievements
This is the structure that you want to elicit from your candidates both when reviewing their resumes and during interviews.
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When screening candidates, you have many options. You can evaluate their work experience and qualifications with short screening or more in-depth interviews, or both. Short screening interviews are really just mini versions of the longer interviews.
There are a handful of goals we want to focus on when interviewing candidates:
- Obtaining references from past supervisors
- Achievement Interviewing for understanding the impact the candidate made in their previous roles
- Understanding the reality of the candidate’s past experiences – NO ASSUMPTIONS
- Understand the reasons a candidate had for leaving previous roles
- Get specific details about required key skills and experiences
- Address position deal-breakers head-on
- Maybe most importantly is to determine what will make this a significant step-up opportunity for the candidate (remember the Sniper Method section)
Ultimately we’re trying to understand:
- What motivates the candidate?
- Do they have a history of being a strong achiever?
- Do they match the key qualities required for success on the job as defined by the candidate scorecard you created for this role?
You are also trying to give the candidate the opportunity to get to know you so they feel like they have an idea whether you’re the type of company they can see themselves working with for a
long time to come.
The 4 Main Interview Techniques to Master
- Achievement-Based Interviews
- Collecting Relevant References
- Mastering Probing Questions for Digging Into Specifics
- Behavioral Interviewing
Past achievements are great for determining if a candidate’s past experiences relate to the performance outcomes of the job we’re offering this person. They also help us understand if our candidate has a track record of being a high achiever throughout their career. High achievers tend to continue to be high achievers. When past significant achievements are explored correctly we learn a lot more about the true magnitude and relevance of their achievements. We will also learn more about how the candidate operates, deals with other people, what their strengths are and where they may have areas for improvement.
All of these things generally will relate directly back to the candidate scorecard items and provide us the facts that support our assessment of the candidate. Most importantly, the context for comparing those past achievements to the SMART goals for the job becomes much clearer.
There are two ways to investigate a candidate’s significant achievements:
Let the candidate choose what to share, The Adler method
Simply asking directly in their opinion in each role they have held what was their most significant achievement? This allows the candidate some freedom to highlight what they personally felt was the most impactful moment in their career. This provides some nice insights about what the candidate perceives is important and sets them into a comfort zone to discuss the significance in greater detail.
Variation of the most significant achievement question
In many cases, letting the candidate control the context of their most significant achievements can be misleading. In roles that are highly likely to have had strong measurable outcomes and KPIs associated with their performance, we really want to know how well the person performed in relation to what was expected of them in the job.
We learn many of the same things as the other question but the context will be better defined while going into the conversation. Sometimes you can ask both versions of the questions to gain a better context and to allow the candidate the opportunity to share what is most important to them. If the past roles are similar and have many parallels to this role we are hiring for, then understanding how the person performed in relation to their goals and expectations in previous roles helps us estimate how the candidate might do in ours.
The question variation is fairly simple but can come in a number of formats:
- “What were the top 1,2 or 3 expectations or KPIs for you in your role as X at Y company?”
- “How was success measured at Y company for your role as X?”
- “How did they determine if you were successful in your role at Y company?”
- “How many others were there in the X role like yours at Y company?”
- “How did you compare to the others in X role?”
Now we can ask the follow up who, why, what, when and how questions to learn more about the context of the expectations, the performance in relation to these goals and how the candidate performed.
Practice asking these questions during the exploration of each role on the candidates’ resume. You will find, with some practice you can naturally insert these into the context of the conversation and interview process. We will use the findings of this format and the more open-ended format of the achievement questions to help gather evidence and FACTS to support our assessment of the candidate on the scorecard.
Ultimately, here is what we want to find out:
- Understanding the context of what experience was gained in great detail, with no assumptions
- Digging into and gaining a thorough understanding of the significance of their achievements at each stage of their life and career.
- Are their achievements relevant to what we need this person to achieve in our company
We can learn this all with a variation of just one simple question or variation of this question, “While you were in that role, what was your most significant achievement?”
Collecting Relevant References
Solid academic research shows that collecting references from past direct supervisors is a major predictor of on the job success as significant as cognitive ability.
Determining whether the candidate’s achievements were actually significant can be done effectively via checking candidates’ references.
Set the stage to collect meaningful predictive references
- Getting previous supervisors on the phone
- Getting them to open up and be honest with you
- What questions to always ask
- Address specific concerns and verify skills and experience
- Get their opinion about the candidate’s readiness for a new role
- Thank them
Like many of us, I am an avid Amazon user. A few years back after the recent move, I went to the freezer for ice…darn no ice trays…So like most of us, I jumped on Amazon to buy some ice cube trays. Not a super special piece of necessary life equipment but a critical creature comfort. Naturally, I immediately sought out the least expensive ice cube trays, which were a whopping $4 dollars, I was halfway to clicking “Buy Now” in order to skip the checkout process when I noticed these ice cube trays had over 100 reviews with an only 2.5-star rating. This confused me, so I had to pause and investigate. After reading a half dozen hilarious reviews about how these poor ice cube tray owners would rather bang their heads against walls or eat nails rather than use these trays I promptly bought the $8 ice cube trays with the 5-star rating! By the way. the trays I have are still effective and I’ve not attempted to jump off a building yet from using them.
The key to references is they are coming from the direct consumers of the product or service. Many employers neglect this little detail when collecting references. We ask a candidate to please provide 3 professional references typically, which is an ambiguous request. It could mean send me a previous customer, an old coworker or anyone you have interacted with at work in the past. Sure, all of these people have consumed our behaviors and work products in some way but only one person has truly been the most significant consumer of our services, and that is their previous direct supervisors.
These people are the ones most significantly affected by their on the job performance. If their customers are not happy they deal with the complaints; if their coworkers don’t like the employee, they’re the ones to hear about it; and most importantly if the candidate didn’t execute or produce the desired work outcomes, they’re the ones to enforce consequences for it. There is no more credible reference than the candidate’s past manager, making this the only type of reference we should be seeking prior to hiring a candidate.
Again rigorous undeniable hard evidence studies have proven that references are a leading predictor of on the job success. One of the biggest factors simply comes down to can the candidate get a reference or not. It is hands-down proven that if the candidate cannot get people to speak on their behalf, especially past supervisors, then it is an extremely high likelihood that the candidate will fail on their next job. So please, whatever you take away from this book make it this one thing and learn how to do it!
How to Collect Meaningful References From Candidates
How do you get meaningful references from candidates? It’s not difficult but it takes a very particular way of asking for these references. We tell people all the time if we only had one interview question it would be the reference question. The reference question is the single most revealing and insightful question you could ever ask, it becomes the very first meaningful question we ask every single candidate in an interview and sets the stage for all future questions we will ask the candidate. It will help us make fast decisions about the candidate saving them and you tons of time and energy in the hiring process.
TopGrading, written by Brad Smart, calls this technique the Threat Of the Reference Check or T.O.R.C. This is a bit aggressive of a term but it makes the point. The purpose of threatening to check references according to Smart is to administer a “truth serum.” Administering this “truth serum” is critical and best done right off the bat. Why wait to some later part of the interview process to administer it? We want the most honest answers from the very beginning of our interactions. We have practiced and executed this technique over 8,000 times. And the academic studies support our findings without doubt. With all this experience We have learned the “reference” question does a lot more than encourage the candidate to be honest throughout the hiring process, it also opens the door to learning more about the candidate’s past achievements, performance, strengths and weaknesses, all in a more quantifiable manner. Most importantly it predicts on the job success.
Properly collecting references is a series of questions that must be asked in a very particular order. It begins by setting the stage. First, we want to understand the context of what your candidate was doing in a particular job.
- What was the name of the company you were working for?
- What product or service does this company provide?
- What was your role at this company?
- When did you work at this company? Get specific, when did you start (month and year) and when did you leave (month and year).
These questions help create and understand the context for us to be able to understand without any improper assumptions about what we are about to learn from the reference questions. It also helps keep the candidate in their comfort zone talking about their past experience on their own terms and without judgment. It is a natural, conversational way to set the stage for a series of questions that could make the candidate a lot more uncomfortable.
Now we can advance the silver bullet questions:
- Who was your supervisor at X company when you were in Y role?
- What was their name? Ask them to spell it if needed
- What was their title or role at X company?
This question is critical for understanding the organizational relationship between the candidate and their past supervisor. Make sure at this point that the supervisor is a credible source. For example, you’re interviewing a customer service person and they say this person was their team lead, the credibility of a team lead is a lot less than that of the Customer Service Manager. If needed, course correct and ask for the candidate’s supervisors manager by going back to the first question.
Now we can begin to get to the meat of the story.
- Will this person (past supervisor’s name) provide you a reference?
This is a simple yes or no question, but from experience, it gets pretty sticky here. People will not directly answer the question and they will begin to tip-toe around it. They answer almost always in one of the following ways:
“Uh, not sure they have a company policy of not providing references.”
“I can give you HR’s contact information”
“This person doesn’t work there anymore”
“They have passed away”
“I am not in touch with this person anymore”
“I would prefer you not speak with that person”
“I am still employed and they are not aware I am interviewing for other jobs”
And the ideal answer…
“Of course would you like their contact information right now?”
Candidates will come up with a whole bunch of redirecting responses to this simple yes or no question, so the trick is learning and practicing how to keep them on track to directly answering this question. Whatever the response, help them overcome the objection and direct back to asking them to answer the question directly with a yes or no.
Once we have the conversation back on track we can start getting to the interesting part:
- What will this person (past supervisor’s name) tell me about your performance and the time you spent working for them?
Generally, you will get some pretty generic responses such as:
“They won’t have anything bad to say about me.”
“They will have good things to say.”
And on and on.
These are all fine but what does it really mean when they say their past boss “….will have good things to say?” Strong persistent follow-up questions are critical here:
- That is great, what kinds of good things will they say about your performance?
- Tell me more about what they mean when they say you were reliable?
- Why will they say these things about you?
- Tell me more.
These follow up and clarifying questions are key to really begin to understand what made this candidate great, just ok or a sub-par performer. Don’t skimp on this part keep digging encouraging the candidate to elaborate and discuss the details to support their claim that the old boss will say they were great. Now we need to quantify all this information and dig a little deeper leading us to our next question:
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being perfect compared to others how will they (past supervisors name) rank your overall performance?
Depending on how much detail you got in the prior question you are likely to get a response of something like 8,9 or 10 and occasionally you will get a really honest answer of some lower score.
8’s and 9’s are the ideal responses. We have all heard the line that no one is perfect and that is true for the most part there should always be some constructive improvement feedback on our past performances.
10’s are generally problematic responses but they can be valid. There are plenty of bosses who have modest expectations and perfection is being great while still being imperfect. You will see this more often when past roles were more entry-level or lower-level roles. We can also use this question to investigate candidates with little to no work experience by asking for references from past teachers, coaches, and even parents.
Whatever the answer is it begs the next question:
- What will they (past supervisor’s name) say you could do to get to the next ranking, 9 to 10, 10 to 11,etc.?
This is a much friendlier, insightful and truth-seeking method for learning about some real insights about what this person could do to improve. This is a much better way of asking the age-old question of “what are your weaknesses?”
Again whatever the answer is probe further. Our favorite probing response to their past bosses constructive criticism is:
- How did that affect your performance or ability to achieve the goals set for you in this role?
If the response is something like I could have been more detail-oriented then it begs some context.
- How did your need to be more detail-oriented actually manifest itself on the job and why was this particular challenge or weakness actually an issue?
Or many times the first response to this question can be very superficial and lack any real significance at all. Simply go back to the original question and ask for more examples of how the candidate could have reached the next level of success in their past roles.
The Reference question outlined above is the ultimate interview question. Through the exploration of their previous supervisor’s assessment of the candidate’s work, we begin to learn a lot more about what made this person great, how they may have been quantitatively scored on their performance and constructive criticisms of their performance. Ask this question about their past 3 supervisors or 15 years of past work history and the trends in their performance will really come to light.
There are 3 things to keep in mind while perfecting the power of this interview question.
- Great people leave a path of happy interactions and create meaningful relationships with the people they work with. The success is infectious and much like the best restaurant in town people will be eager to tell you all about these top performers.
- The follow up and probing questions are the key to gaining truly insightful information from any interview question. Never accept the first response just as is always seek to understand exactly why and what the person means by their response. Probing questions add context to what are normally very ambiguous responses we receive from most interview questions.
- Practice makes perfect. This interview question must be asked as descript as possible, with no shortcuts, and no deviation. With practice, you can make asking this question flow more naturally. You will also learn how to deal with the different roadblocks the candidate will throw up to defend themselves from having to answer this question honestly and most importantly with practice you will begin to learn more about your candidates than you ever have before using any other single interview technique.
And for those candidates struggling to produce meaningful references from their past supervisors just remember what our mothers taught us, “If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Do this for each piece of someone’s career and you will have a clear picture of their ability to achieve in your role.
Learning how to ask this question hit all the points mentioned and do it naturally is the trickiest part of The Reference question. With practice, you too will see the light and become a believer in its power. It will feel more natural and less like an inquisition and make a lot more sense. I can’t say this enough, research definitely shows this is the most productive interview technique and is the single most important interview question you can ask. Period. Drop the mic.
Now, let’s get into the art of interview question archaeology, or learning how to dig deeper with probing questions.
Digging Into Specifics About Career History
Questions focusing on a candidate’s career history help you figure out who your candidate really is and probably most importantly what motivates them. There are a handful of decent strategies for this, but the first is a career history interview with purpose.
Think back on your own life and career progression. How did you get to be where you are today? What has made you successful? What did you have to do to achieve what you have achieved?
There is a story, it’s your life’s story, it’s your life’s work that has lead you to this moment in time and level of success. This is what we want to know about our candidate. Does their life’s work and history reflect achievement related to the key qualities associated with your candidate profile? Have they demonstrated excellence for perfection and organization or have they proven to move mountains and people to action or maybe do they lack the key success indicators required to prove their excellence.
Achievers leave a trail of success behind them they are not average and they don’t leave a trail of failure. Sure, we all fail and that is a major part of becoming successful. As much as we study the best hiring practices, we have been forced to study marketing too. We kind of suck at marketing. In fact, we suck so bad we’ve failed more times at marketing initiatives than all of you have ever failed at hiring combined.
But with all that failure came persistence. With persistence came some degree of success, which is why we’re here today, to convince your people to give us a chance to stand up here and share our message. We are still not the best marketers but we are much better than the average marketers because we learned to fail and never give up.
Malcolm Gladwell nailed it when he observed; Winners don’t give up. They put 10,000 hours of effort into being excellent. Hire achievers who have failed 100 times and are humble enough to admit it. Hire people who have a proven track record of success. So how do you know when you have one of these people?
They don’t job hop, period. They stick with things long enough to become good or great at what they are doing. Forget the millennial myth. Anyone who has been doing the same thing passionately since they left high school and college are millionaires…the rest are left behind picking up our leftovers.
The Art of the Follow up Question:
The next critical piece to becoming an expert assessor of talent is the art of the follow up or probing questions. We have touched on it several times already but some more thought should go into this. Most interviewers make 1 single critical mistake. They take what someone has to say at face value and fail to understand the context and the nuance of the candidate’s embellished statement. This should not be an inquisition though, it should come from a place of genuine interest and curiosity. Being curious is a whole other skill, but we have to begin practicing it now to become excellence interviewers.
Do not ASSUME anything ever, because that makes an Ass Out of U and ME.
In the art of conversation, we have to learn how to ask probing questions in a non-threatening manner. No one is ever truthful when they are being interrogated or put on the defensive.
When we are genuinely curious, like for example when you meet an interesting person at a party, we ask probing questions like:
- Tell me more
- I am not sure I understood that last point, could you clarify it for me?
- Why did you do that?
- How did you accomplish that amazing thing?
- What else can you tell me about that?
- Help me understand the context?
- What was expected of you?
- How did this compare to others in the same position or before you?
- In quantifiable terms explain the magnitude of your achievement in more detail?
- Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more…..
Greatness can be described in detail with authenticity. Embellishments and exaggerations of excellence almost always lack substance and detail to back it up. True achievers will authentically share all the details of success with humility.
We need to master the art of probing questions to become excellent communicators and to get great at hiring. This takes awareness, tact and lots of practice. It’s critical for understanding the truth or the reality of the candidate’s past experiences since they will be shared from the candidate’s perspective how do you uncover the perspective of those they interacted with. Probing, clarifying and not making conclusions based on assumption or incomplete information is critical
Behavioral Interview Questions
NEEDS TO BE ADDED
Different interview methods you can use to achieve these goals:
If you used skill tests to screen out the masses, and have then gone through and reviewed the resumes of those who passed your tests, you’ll want to get them on the phone for a brief career-review and initial consultation.
An initial phone interview will be very similar to an in-depth interview or traditional behavioral interview, except a bit shorter. You might only review the candidate’s last position or two in order to get a sense of their most recent relevant experience and if they are someone you ultimately want to move forward with. Keep it simple and brief.
The most effective phone interviews go straight for The Reference question and dig into the measurable achievements for at least the last 5 years of work history which is hopefully 1 job 2 maximum. For less experienced candidates I can sometimes get a complete career history interview done in 30-45 minutes and get all the required references from all their past supervisors, ultimately allowing me to spend more time doing behavioral interview questions and working interviews faster in the process. The biggest upside to this is that I can make a more complete assessment of the candidate way faster than a long dragged out process.
You might want to consider group interviews — similar to an open house — in order to meet with a large pool of candidates and maximize your time. Group interviews provide unique insight that might not be gathered from a one-on-one interview or phone screen. If conducted appropriately, you should come out of the experience with a better understanding of your candidate’s interpersonal skills, initiative, and assertiveness.
Invite favorable candidates for further in-depth and one-on-one interviews later in the process.
I generally only do this when there is a lot of interesting candidates or with lower level jobs. It’s also good for tricky jobs such as commission only roles. This method is highly effective for insurance, real estate and financial services sales positions where the candidates will have a lot of questions you can take care of all of them at the same time.
Conducting a panel interview can yield great results. When it’s a team effort, each person gains different insight and perspective that can be helpful in making a final decision, and save a lot of time.
Panel interviews offer great benefits, such as:
- You have more motivation to stay on track.
- You avoid letting personal feelings affect judgment.
- Panels mean that others hear the same responses, but in their own way. Others may catch something you didn’t, or better understand some technical responses.
- Panelists learn techniques from each other. This will improve overall hiring efficacy.
- A big time saver when lots of stakeholders are involved in the decision making process
Some hiring managers avoid panel interviews, thinking they are less-effective than one-on-one interviews, they lead to disagreement and tension, or it’s not worth the time or trouble scheduling everyone to be in the same place at the same time.
One of the easiest ways to make a panel interview go wrong is to go in without a plan. Panel interview difficulties often come from the interviewers’ dynamics rather than issues related to the candidate.
Avoid personal conflicts and confusion by discussing the following in advance:
- Identify a primary moderator. One person needs to take the lead.
- Get an idea of who asks what, and when. As you interview, candidate’s responses will inspire new questions. For your main questions, however, there is no reason you can’t make a general plan with your fellow interviewers. Define your roles and distribute a list of questions.
- Understand the job description, candidate profile clearly and agree on what you’re looking for. Discuss the key requirements of the job. This is especially important if some interviewers are unfamiliar with the role or department in question. Use a structured candidate scorecard to avoid unfounded factless assessments like that candidate seems good! (what on earth does that mean!?)
- Agree on etiquette. Surprisingly enough, simple courtesy and timing issues cause many panel interviews to go poorly. Basics like not interrupting each other (or the candidate), arriving on time, and making smooth introductions are important. They improve the chance of getting good information and presenting a professional image.
- Decide who will answer candidate’s questions. It may be obvious who will answer a particular question. For others, everyone may have a desire to respond. If you want to answer or be in charge of directing non targeted questions, make it clear before the interview.
Panel interviews can offer more accurate timely assessments of candidates and help you avoid interview pitfalls. Create a plan, discuss the job thoroughly with panelists, and avoid simple mistakes that might result in confusion. With these steps, you can make the most of panel interviews.
After you’ve evaluated a candidate’s resume and screened them for the basic skills you’re looking for, it’s time to schedule a more in-depth interview. This is where you get into the details of each of their previous positions and run through a complete work history. This is also a great time to use behavioral based interview questions to hone in on key qualities, skills and experiences.
Previously we discussed the 4 major interviewing techniques we are going to use all of them in this type of interview. We have included a script to our Power Interview guide that will help you through this process.
Proud of and how this was accomplished. This tells you a bit about their problem-solving skills as well.
There are many ways to assess candidates throughout the hiring process. In general, you want to make sure you can objectively verify the candidates have the right blend of skills, experience, and interpersonal characteristics that will help them be successful in your job. When you haven’t met or spoken with the candidate yet, utilizing a combination of skills and behavioral testing can help you screen out the non-fit candidates and allow you to keep your time focused on engaging with those who are a fit.
Skill Tests as a Screening Technique
Skill testing is a quick and inexpensive way to screen candidates. You can find skill tests that measure attention to detail, sales knowledge, logic and critical thinking, computer skills and software knowledge (like Microsoft Excel and Outlook), data entry, math, and reading and writing.
Skill tests are usually made up of multiple-choice questions that offer varying degrees of right and wrong answers. Other types of tests, such as fill-in-the-blank, are left up to the hiring managers or individuals responsible for administering the assessment to grade and determine whether the candidate has the skills required.
Benefits to Using Skill Tests
Utilizing these tests before spending the time to interview someone is a great way to narrow down your candidate pool so you know you’re only meeting with people who are at the skill level you need, and not spending time with those who aren’t. In other words, don’t make bad hiring decisions when it’s so easy to make good ones.
Skill tests can be sent to applicants to narrow down the field. Then, you’ll only have to review the resumes of those candidates who actually passed your dungeon-master test, thereby freeing up like 50 hours of your time to do other things, like, I dunno, run your business, get coffee, play solitaire. Whatever!
Simple skill tests, like attention to detail, math, writing, and Excel proficiency will help you take your hundreds of candidates down to a reasonable number. Even if you don’t have a large volume of resumes, you still ensure you only invest time interviewing candidates who truly have the required set of base-skills you’re looking for.
Drawbacks to Using Skill Tests Before Interviews
Utilizing skill tests before spending the time to interview someone can have its drawbacks as well. Especially in a tight labor market, it’s difficult to ensure that candidates will spend the time required to complete a skill test without having any other kind of interaction or contact with your company. Although it may be a great and time-saving way to narrow down your pool of candidates, it’s also one of the quickest ways to lose candidates because they drop out of the process prematurely.
Behavioral and Aptitude Pre-Employment Tests
Another screening process is using assessment tools to measure general competency, aptitude, personality, work-style, behavioral preferences, cognitive ability, and attitude. These tools are so affordable you can administer them to every candidate who may be a potential fit without having to dip into your piggy bank. Seriously, if you aren’t using assessment testing, #DoYouEvenBestHiringPractices, bro? These tools should be a part of your greater screening and assessment process along with structured interviewing, reference, background, and credit checks, work samples, job shadowing, and ride-along in order to vet your candidates fully.
Choosing the Right Assessments for Your Company
Choosing the right pre-employment assessments for your business will ultimately depend on the types of roles you are looking to fill and what you are looking to measure in your potential candidates. Before selecting the pre-hire assessments look at your job description. What are the most important skills, experiences, or aspects of the position? How are these things usually measured?
The following pre-employment assessments are the most common types of used for pre-employment screening:
Leadership Work-Ability Tests
These types of tests measure competence and skill-level of certain attributes involving dealing with people and navigating roles in interpersonal relationships like communication, listening, understanding others, initiative, and coaching skills. You might learn information about a candidate’s people or interpersonal skills, communication skills, and sales or management know-how.
Ability-test measures allow you to identify areas where your candidates excel and where there may be room for improvement. These are also great for identifying skills in younger employees or recent graduates who have little or no work experience.
Cognitive Ability Tests
Cognitive Ability Tests are a great way for employers to distinguish bright candidates who will come into the job with a strong ability to solve problems, offer creative solutions, and be competent enough to help propel your business forward. Assessments that measure logic, critical thinking, and other cognitive abilities are great as a screening tool for helping a hiring manager choose between candidates who otherwise look identical on paper in terms of experience.
Personality Test and Career Aptitude Test
These tests measure behavioral preferences and natural inclinations that relate to on-the-job satisfaction and performance, which affects employee retention, engagement, and overall success on the job.
When you measure a candidate’s personality fit before hiring, you gain insights into how this person will fit into your company culture, how they might get along with others, and how likely they are to be naturally great at the job you are hiring them for.
A good personality assessment or behavioral test will examine a candidate’s soft skills and emotional intelligence, an important but often neglected aspect of their skillset. Emotional intelligence (EQ) includes the ability to read other people as well as to react appropriately to various work situations. People who have high levels of emotional intelligence are better able to work effectively on their own and especially with others. Empathy, dishonesty, and humility are all traits that affect an employee’s ability to work productively without social friction or inappropriate behavior.
A personality assessment that is designed to examine a candidate’s behavioral traits can be just the tool your business needs to find the right employee.
Emotional Competence & Emotional Intelligence Tests
Is a candidate emotionally mature? Does he or she blame others for their mistakes? Questions like these help you understand which of your potential employees are likely to cause future difficulties or clash with their coworkers. Addressing discord between workers can not only cost your company time but result in stress that negatively impacts everyone’s performance, lives, and emotional well being.
Emotional competency is one of those things that you can’t touch or see, but know it’s extremely important and related to success. Emotional competency suggests that your candidates have the motivation, drive, and focus for high-level achievement. Emotionally competent individuals operate efficiently, understand others, and then use that understanding to get things done. If they don’t see a solution, they make one.
Measuring emotional competency in your pre-hire testing program is a great way to identify those individuals who will push the limits, think creatively, and ultimately help take your business to the next level.
Attitude, Honesty, and Integrity Assessments
Assessments that measure attitude and integrity traits can be a lifesaver when it comes to hiring. Of course, no one is going to be a jerk in an interview — unless their goal is, oh I don’t know, to not get a job — and will most likely put their best foot forward. With everyone on their best behavior, how are you supposed to know who the real jerks are? Because they, unlike the unicorns and purple squirrels, do exist. These assessments can help screen blame, unwilling behaviors, dishonesty, selfishness, greed, and more. You will always have personality conflicts, but by using pre-hire assessments you can save yourself some grief.
Sales Abilities Tests
Sales aptitude tests measure the likelihood that someone is a fit for a sales role based on both skills and knowledge of sales techniques. It also identifies personality suitability for the role by measuring traits like assertiveness, confidence, tenacity, motivation, and work ethic.
These tools are highly tuned to help you identify those with the potential to be great salespeople or to figure out who has the knowledge and experience of a great salesperson.
Since a missed sales quota can literally cost your company millions in lost revenue generated spending the time to hire all-star salespeople should be one of your top priorities.
Other Types of Screening Techniques
You might want to check your candidate’s background, criminal record, or credit, especially if they will be responsible for financial reports or sensitive company information. Driving records and drug testing is also important, especially if employees are handling equipment, driving a company car, or dealing with sensitive client/customer/patient information. Research shows that as an employer you have a strict legal obligation to do a thorough background check on all potential employees, overlooking even the smallest details really opens your business up to serious liability if that future employee does something terrible.
Open House Screening
It’s exactly what you think. You invite any interested applicants to your business for a group meeting where you might give a tour, discuss the opportunities your business has to offer and generate interest in a hands-on style. Your candidates have the chance to see things in action, they’ll meet some of your staff, and get a feel for what the day-to-day experience might be like.
Open houses are less formal than a traditional job interview but offer the chance to get to know your candidates in a less formal meeting, allowing them and you to feel more comfortable and truly learn about each other.
They are great for jobs that have big upsides and potentially large barriers to entry. I think of a friend of mine who helps real estate agents hire new salespeople. Being a real estate agent is a great career but it takes a ton of hard work blood sweat and no or very low pay for a long time to become successful. Not to mention the drive, talent and grit required. Having an open house is a great way to allow lots of candidates to get to know your company and learn more about the opportunity. Each candidate might have a different set of questions or concerns, so when they ask their question they are likely helping all the candidates in the room get an answer.
Reference checking is one of the most important parts of the hiring process because it is where you validate everything you’ve learned about your candidate up to this point. Everything you’ve learned from their resume, phone screen, and pre-employment testing will either be validated or not, with a reference check from their previous supervisor.
So where do you start?
We mean, like, for real reference checks. Not talking about those references the candidate lists at the bottom of their resume. And I don’t want to necessarily know what the candidate’s BFF Charles thinks about him, either. Unless, the references at the bottom of the resume are from a previous, direct supervisor and Charles is a BFF because the candidate-in-question had such a great work ethic and doubled company profitability in like, 5 minutes, those types of references aren’t considered all that relevant.
Think about it: wouldn’t it be great if we could check references before entering into a romantic relationship? Seriously, how much time and tears and pints of ice cream could have been saved had we just sat down to lunch with one of our exes’ previous girlfriends or spouses? Petition to create an ex-boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife referral or reference app!
Although THAT topic is a subject for another time, there is a key point here we want to emphasize. We check reviews on product and service sites like Amazon and Yelp, right? Why shouldn’t the same idea apply for reference-checking candidates? Employers want to know what they’re getting into with a candidate, how well they work, and if there is a return policy (also known as “at-will” employment), and rightly so. Reference checks are like customer reviews; not everyone has something nice to say, but if the candidate did a great job and is considered a pretty decent person, the references will likely be a positive one. We’ve discussed before that candidates are checking your references before they apply, so it’s only logical you check theirs as well.
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Work Samples and Job Shadowing
Other ways to evaluate candidates more in-depth is through the use of work samples, in-house job shadowing, ride-along, and fieldwork. Shadowing and work samples allow candidates the opportunity to give the position a test-run to determine if it’s something they really enjoy and can see themselves doing before anyone actually commits to anything.
The Wynhurst Group cites that new employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58–70% more likely to be with the same organization after three years than the employees who haven’t. To set your business up for success put yourself in their shoes.
Some questions to ask yourself when drawing up an onboarding plan for candidates:
- What happens on day one?
- What do they need to know by week 1, 2, 4, 12, etc.?
- How will you know if they are on the right track?
- Is it measured?
- Who will evaluate the candidate progress and how often will feedback be given to the candidate?
- Do checklists exist so employees don’t have to wonder whether they have completed intricate tasks completely?
Imagine your first day on the job: there is no working computer, you can’t access any of the software tools required to do your job, and no one is there to show you where the bathroom key is. If your priorities were not clearly set up, you would struggle to decide which goals to focus on first and maybe make the wrong decision, resulting in days, weeks, or even months of not being able to make a significant impact on your company’s mission. And you still can’t find the bathroom key. We bet Greg has it.
Creating an effective training and onboarding plan is a simple extension of our SMART job description. For each of your key performance goals, work backwards to determine what this person needs to know, learn, or demonstrate in the early days on the job. Generally, a strong training plan has SMART goals set for week 1, month 1, month 3, month 6, and month 12. For less-complicated jobs this could be less, and for more complex or advanced jobs, this could be as long as 5 years.
Remember to keep the plan simple and focused on the key KPIs for the role. The training and tasks associated should all be relevant to achieving those weekly, monthly, and annual goals.
Identify any expectations that might be unreasonable. Look at your list of to-dos and think about how long it will take to achieve each goal. You might find some of the expectations need to be spread out over longer periods of time. Doing this correctly is a win-win as new employees who feel the job expectations are unreasonable quit at very high rates, and bosses who feel their new employees are not catching up fast enough form strong biases that often strain the working relationship to a breaking point.
Great training and onboarding plans are all too often forgotten after the first few weeks on the job. Make sure you (or someone on your team) sit with your new team members regularly at each time-bound milestone to assess progress and provide feedback. This will make your onboarding plan highly effective. You can have the new team member accountable for setting the appointment to review their progress.
Here is an example of our SMART training plan for an Account Manager:
Review Weekly Metrics:
By week 1, new employees should get acclimated with software-based tools we use on the job.
Review Software Training:
- HubSpot — Complete level 1–3 open-boarding courses, pass all knowledge verification quizzes
- Discover Org — Complete onboarding training module provided by vendor and knowledge-verification quiz
- Google Drive and Docs — Complete Google’s tutorial on how to use and navigate Google for work
Review Product Training:
Read the entire Assessment Manual and demonstrate understanding by writing a summary of each section, each test we offer, and each trait we measure.
Observe 5 prospective client discovery calls
Shadow 5 candidate results reviews with clients
Take our short skill tests to acclimate yourself with the products available
Read and report back on what has been learned
Cultural Assimilation Strategy:
Go to lunch with at least two team members
Find the water cooler * pop quiz
By week 4, new employees should be able to demonstrate strong Level-1 product understanding by:
- Shadowing 15 client-discover calls and 15 candidate-results reviews
- Conducting 10 mock discovery calls with senior account managers
- Conduct 10+ client-discover calls with senior team members
- Conduct 5 mock candidate results reviews
- Conduct 5 client candidate results reviews
By week 12, the employee should be able to demonstrate product level 2 mastery by conducting independently and with senior staff:
- 80 client discovery calls
- 40 client results reviews
- Sign up 12 new clients
By week 26, the employee should be able to demonstrate:
- A 17% client close-rate at a minimum average new-client value of $1,500 annually
- Have 15 additional client-candidate results review sessions with senior staff members
By week 52, the employee should demonstrate a 20%+ close ratio on all leads, representing mastery of sales tools and product knowledge and:
- Write 1 white paper on pre-hire testing topic
- Begin training new team members
Employees should be evaluated once their probationary period is over, and again each year following. Ideally, managers will review all sections of the performance-evaluation form with employees and discuss any points that need review or improvement, while also highlighting what is working and going well.
Why Are Employee Performance Evaluations Necessary?
The purpose of doing a performance evaluation is twofold; on the one hand, it is effective for management to take an inventory of how the employee is meeting their job expectations aligned with helping the company grow. This evaluation will outline the employee’s strengths, what is going well, and areas for growth, as well as outline and develop a plan that helps them grow.
On the other hand, a performance evaluation plan helps the employee see where their performance is in terms of the company’s expectations of them. It helps them gauge their efforts and identify any areas for growth and praises them for a job well done.
How and When to Conduct an Employee Performance Evaluation
As the employer, it is up to you to decide when you’ll conduct an employee performance evaluation. We think they’re important to implement consistently and often within the first year of employment with your company so your candidate always knows how he or she is performing and can take corrective action, if needed, on any issues quickly.
These evaluations should be done in a private space, between the employee and the employee’s direct supervisor or member of management whom the employee reports to. They are private and confidential and are typically not shared with anyone as they can be the basis for an employee promotion or demotion.
We outlined some key metrics previously with our SMART training plan that expected our new employee to have a certain level of competence or tasks completed within 4 weeks of starting the job. In this vein, it would make sense to conduct an evaluation against these expectations to measure whether the candidate was successful in completing these or not.
Similarly, we’ve outlined other key metrics we want the new employee to have accomplished within the first 12 weeks of employment. After 90 days, we might want to conduct another employee evaluation to determine if we think they’re on pace with those as well.
Then we might push the next evaluation to the 6-month mark and again, at the 12-month mark. After that point, we recommend an employee performance evaluation once every 12 months at the employee’s anniversary date. Again, the purpose of these continual evaluations is to measure overall performance, highlighting key successes and areas for growth that allows the employee to remedy the situation and work on any weak spots.
Culture, Retention and Engagement
Talented and motivated employees are the bedrock of any successful business, however, finding and retaining talented people has become harder than ever. The main reason is that talent is valued more than ever, and people who possess it are aware of this. With so much demand, companies are constantly raising their standards in order to keep talent, making things quite competitive and potentially difficult. The most important, yet often overlooked, thing that actually attracts talented people to a certain company is the culture within which a company operates.
Simply put, company culture represents the overall expectations, values, and beliefs of the company and the way it interacts with its staff, customers, and the community within which it operates. While this may sound quite abstract, in reality, there are a few important things that can help you shape your company’s culture in a way that will make talented people want to work for you.
Employees need to feel like they have a sense of belonging and duty to the company. They need to feel like the work they do makes a difference and that their contributions matter in the grand scheme of things.
Providing meaning to your employees creates an environment where people are comfortable and want to work. This is why having clearly-defined visions, goals, and beliefs within your company is something you should devote a substantial amount of time to.
However, people in the modern workplace require more than just a collective good feeling within a company in order to be satisfied. As society constantly pressures the individual into an upwards social climb, people are looking for the assurance that they will be able to grow, learn, and progress within your company. No one wants to be stuck in a dead-end job, especially if they are aware of the potential they possess. Because of this, you need to show to your employees they have a future within your company and their hard work will be worth their time.
Perks and benefits also contribute to employee engagement and retention. Flexible work schedules are becoming more and more attractive and giving your employees the flexibility to adapt their work around themselves (where possible) has shown to not only increase their productivity but also their overall happiness and satisfaction with their employer. This substantially decreases the odds they will leave their current job.
Modern workspaces are also becoming a perk candidates look for. At first it may seem like creating a modern, high-end work environment is something that only big companies can afford, there are a lot of alternatives that can help you achieve this. For example, you can look into companies offering a serviced office in Sydney, San Francisco, London, or other major city which will not only give you all of the previously mentioned benefits, but also give you the benefit of a great location that will improve the desirability of your company in the eyes of talented employees.
Trying it All Together
Rather than bore you with a long conclusion testing your patience by restating everything we already said, we will leave you with this final thought:
Following a FACT-based hiring system will help you attract the candidates you want to hire and ensure your process is structured, sound, systematic, and makes the most effective use of everyone’s time.
(You skimmed that entire paragraph, didn’t you. We know. We know everything.)
And this public service announcement:
Don’t keep a hamster in your bedroom — they will keep you up all night. Painting squirrels purple is a terrible idea. Astronauts are awesome. And if you could be a unicorn, don’t. They don’t have thumbs. But really, if you want to hire the best talent, give a care about your company’s presence, and aren’t fond of blowing through all your cash due to making poor hiring decisions, use the tips we’ve outlined here to get you on the right path.
Hiring isn’t easy, but it can be done, and we’ve basically spelled it all out for you, so … you’re welcome.
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