Quick Hiring Tips

HR Avatar's Quick Hiring Tips were created for busy managers who need a team they can rely on. Each tip provides a fast, concise reminder of critical practices that can prevent an expensive and painful hiring mistake, while increasing the chances of hiring a dream team member.

A new Tip will be released every few weeks. Each is designed to provide a valuable reminder or suggestion that can be read in less than 30 seconds.

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HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #17 - Conduct Structured Interviews

Structured Interviews for Successful HiresWhen you conduct a job interview, it's part sales and part investigation. You certainly want candidates to feel good about their future work situation. But you also need to uncover information that indicates either high or low performance potential so you can make a good hiring decision.

Studies have shown that the effectiveness of unstructured job interviews is about the same as flipping a coin. How do you up your odds? Do your homework. Review the resume. Review other data that has already been collected. Look for areas you need to concentrate on. Then list your questions on paper. It's better to keep a candidate waiting for ten minutes while you prepare in private than it is to just jump in and wing it.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #16 - Heed Red Flags

Coworkers Having a DiscussionNo candidate is a perfect fit. You must compromise between strengths and areas of concern. The trick is to know which of your concerns can be adapted to, and which are show-stoppers. For example, you may not want to hire a person for sales or customer service if they get into fights and arguments easily. But an accountant who needs to return home for lunch each day to walk his dog is probably workable.

Whenever caution flags arise, do whatever's necessary to determine if the issue is a show stopper. Often the candidate can help if you discuss your concern with them directly. Other times, you may need more information - such as from past references or other interviewers. In the end, be honest with yourself. If the issue is likely to impact long-term performance, it's a red flag.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #15 - Peruse Social

Peruse SocialWhen Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying," he didn't know very much about social networks. He died more than a hundred years before they became part of everyday life. But ol' Ralph really got that one right.

A key to evaluating candidates is to see them from multiple perspectives. Social networks provide a genuine perspective that can inform your decisions - often at the cost of just a few clicks. Of course, you should never base decisions completely on any one data point. But you should not ignore any of them either. Like a poorly answered interview question, a marginal social media presence calls for additional probing to see if there's a real issue.

There are differing opinions on how much attention recruiters should pay to a candidate's social presence. Think through where you stand before you begin your campaign to maintain a fair process. If you're not sure where you stand, try it on a batch of candidates, see where it leads you, and then set your policy. But make it a conscious decision - not a passive one.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #14 - Recognize What Can and Cannot be Changed

Recognize What Can and Cannot be ChangedYou can teach an old dog some new tricks, like sitting or holding up a paw when they want a treat. But good luck changing the way your prized pooch reacts to other dogs or to the mailman. The same goes for people. When was the last time you met with a relative or old friend you had not seen in a few years? How long does it take for the thought to cross your mind that they have not changed?

When it comes to performing in a role, skills and knowledge are important. Having the right ones allows new employees to hit the ground running. Keep in mind, however, that people can learn skills, but their way of working with others, reacting to change, and managing themselves is likely to stay constant. If these traits matter, you may want to think twice if they don't initially seem up to your requirements.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #13 - Measure Candidate Characteristics - Fairly

Two Co-Workers at a White BoardWe can measure many things about a person, including how smart they are and how quickly they can learn (cognitive ability), what they know (knowledge), how they interact with other people or react to various situations (personality), and what they can do (skills). Of these, only two consistently correlate with long-term job performance: cognitive ability, and to a lesser degree, personality. Other measures can still be valuable, depending on what is important to you as an employer. For example, you may want people who fit with your culture, or people who have proven they will stay with a job for a reasonable amount of time. In any case, the most predictive measure, cognitive ability, can be unfair if the test is not developed carefully. That's why employers use professionally developed employment assessments which are typically highly job-related and statistically proven to avoid unfair preferences for various groups. When used properly, assessments can provide strong indicators of future performance, and can do it without unwanted discrimination.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #12 - Seek Examples through Behavioral Questions

Behavior QuestionsLet's say you need a difficult medical procedure. Would you be comforted to know that a surgeon you are considering has performed the same procedure 100 times before and the patients have recovered without complications in 99 of the cases? Why is this important? Because you instinctively know that past behaviors are indicative of future ones. That's why employers ask behavioral questions during interviews. They want hard proof that a candidate can do the things they want them to do.

A behavioral question asks the candidate to "describe a time when . . ." or "tell me about a project in which you . . ." In other words, they ask for examples from the past. Not all questions in an interview need to be phrased this way, but at least some of them should - for the key activities performed on the job.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #11 - Read the Reviews

EvaluationWho buys anything important these days without reading a few reviews? Why should it be any different for hiring? A new employee is a big ticket item. It pays to do your homework. Ratings and comments from others who have worked with or supervised a candidate can help you finalize your decisions, and can save you from the pains associated with a bad hire.

Most psychologists would agree that the best predictor of future performance is ... are you ready ... past performance. That's why employers have been checking references for centuries - literally.

While traditional reference checking methods are time-consuming and often do not produce results, automated reference checks conducted using the Internet have become a popular and incredibly effective way of gathering feedback from past supervisors, peers, and subordinates. This information is now available to you with hardly any effort or expense. For instance, HR Avatar integrates automated reference checks with assessments - at zero extra cost.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #10 - Handle With Care

CommunicationWhy do companies bother with hiring sales people when other employees are probably more knowledgeable about their products? It's because a sale depends on the ability to convince a prospective customer you care - whether you have the right product knowledge or not.

The same goes for convincing a solid candidate to join your company. That's why recruiting and sales people always seem so similar.

How do you convince a candidate you care? The top three methods are: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Treat them as the most important person in the world and be as transparent as possible about process AND about where they stand. If you are uncomfortable with something you've learned about them, tell them and give them a chance to respond. If they are doing well, let them know you're impressed. In our spin, sound-bite, noisy world, just being straight and open with someone can score major points. Let that work for you by keeping the best candidates within your grasp.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #9 - Hold Out for Lucky Seven

lucky 7 dice rollIn Craps, a seven pays on the first roll.

Winning on your first throw in Craps is certainly a pretty lucky throw. It doesn't happen that often. It's the equivalent of hiring the first person who applies for a job without considering any other candidates and getting a great performer. It may happen once in a while, but most of the time it won't work out very well.

But that doesn't mean 7 isn't your lucky number.

This is the 'Patience' tip. You can place the odds solidly in your favor by holding out until you have reviewed at least 7 well-qualified candidates for each job before you make a decision. Every candidate will teach you something about what you are looking for simply by their contrast with the other candidates. If you can withhold your judgment until all evaluations are completed, you will almost certainly make a more objective choice. We know it takes discipline, but if you can wait until you have a 'real' pool of solid candidates to choose from, your chances of selecting a weak candidate go down drastically.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #8 - Engage Quickly

engage quicklyWell qualified candidates typically apply to multiple employers at the same time. If you are lucky enough to receive their application, you are instantly in a competition with the others. But it's not about being the first to make an offer. It's about capturing their imagination about working for your organization. That means making a strong first impression, which means being responsive and transparent.

Don't worry about absolute speed to the finish line. Candidates will endure your process if you make a good first impression and explain what they can expect. Just make sure you reach out to them with that useful information quickly. Tell them what the basic steps are and about how long it will be until the next one. Let them know you're looking forward to getting to know them better. Most candidates don't mind if you're picky, as long as they know what's coming.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #7 - Evaluate from Different Angles

evaluate job applicants from different anglesWhen most people purchase a car they walk around it, they look at it from a distance from front, side, and back, they may look under the hood, and they almost always sit inside. Usually, they also take it for a test drive.

Everything looks different when you see it from a new perspective. The same applies to applicants. While one candidate may present well visually in an interview, he or she may have past performance history that raises a red flag, or test scores that reveal a different issue. You will only learn these things if your evaluation plan covers these different angles. And not knowing can be costly - in time, frustration and money. To maximize your odds, be sure to evaluate candidates multiple times - from different angles.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #6 - Pre-Think Your Process

choice of candidatesA large pool of qualified candidates increases your chances of finding a star. Once you have that pool, however, you need to have an effective strategy for sifting out the best candidates. At the same time, candidates are impatient - especially these days. They don't want to wait if you cannot tell them what comes next. This means you need to plan your process for evaluating the applicants in your pool BEFORE you start looking for candidates, so you set their expectations appropriately.

Most evaluation processes involve one or more of the following steps:

  • Screening Interview (recorded video or live video or phone call)
  • Assessments
  • Automated Reference Checks
  • Initial Interview
  • Team Interview (2 or more evaluators)
  • Work Sample Task(s)

When selecting steps you wish to use, keep in mind that you need to balance the burden on the candidate with the need for information. The process can also vary for different jobs. The higher-level the job, the more hoops applicants will be willing to jump through.

To retain your candidates, it always helps to share your process with them as early as possible. If they know what to expect they will be much more likely remain active and not drop out. Having a pre-defined process lets you keep them informed and feeling up-to-date.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #5 - Post to Multiple Sources

choice of candidatesPosting a job opening to job websites one at a time is tedious. It's no fun at all. But you must tap into multiple sources in order to realize that magic volume of applicants needed to ensure you've got at least one strong candidate. Luckily, there are numerous services available that will post your opening to any number of job websites in one shot. For example, JazzHR will post your job to over 100 sites with just one click. Many applicant tracking systems, such as ZipRecruiter, Greenhouse, and Workable offer the same kind of service.

As we've repeatedly emphasized, it's important to maximize your applicant pool to ensure you'll find the best possible candidate to fill each opening. the idea is to cast a wide net - even if you are small. If you are not already using one of these tools, they may be worth considering.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #4 - Mine Employee Referrals

employee referralsThe Internet provides a great means of reaching lots of job candidates. However, Employee Referrals still rule as the most effective source of qualified applicants. According to a recent LinkedIn article1, 82% of employers rate employee referrals above all other sources based on return on investment. Candidates referred by employees are four times more likely to be hired, and 45% of all employees sourced by referrals stay for 4 or more years. These are incredible statistics. The best programs communicate needs and offer tangible rewards for successful referrals. The average employee referral bonus in 2019 was $2,500. Need we say more?

1Employee Referral Statistics You Need to Know

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #3 - Cast a Wide Net

cast a wide netLet's say you need a new pair of shoes but you don't know exactly what you want. Would you be tempted to shop at a store with a wide selection or one with a narrow selection?

Generally speaking, the broader the selection, the more options you'll consider, and the more likely it is that you'll find what you're looking for.

New hires cost a lot more than shoes, but the same principle applies. The more candidates you consider for a particular job, the more likely at least one candidate will be outstanding.

Don't make the mistake of hiring the first person available. Sure, they may be the best applicant. But you cannot possibly know that unless you have other candidates to compare them to.

Ensure you have enough qualified candidates by casting a wide net. Post your job to various job websites, seek employee referrals, use other means. Be sure you get at least 6-8 candidates for each position and don't decide anything until you've evaluated all of them. That way, your new shoes won't just gather dust in the closet.

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #2 - Use a Searchable & Notable Job Title

searchable job titlesA job title must do two things. First, it must be searchable, which means it must include standard terms for the job. For example, a Bank Teller job should include "Teller" and a "Customer Service Representative" should include "Customer Service." One way to see what candidates search for is to visit a popular job website, pretend to be a candidate, and use the type-ahead feature in the search box. Look for what phrases come up at the top.

However, being found is not enough. You need to attract the attention of highly qualified candidates. This means including words of interest to candidates. If you are a start-up, try something like "Customer Service Rep - Startup Edition." If you offer upward mobility, highlight that with something like "Bank Teller with Upward Mobility." Find something that sets you apart and is of interest to candidates. Don't be too creative - it's a balance - but try to inject that one extra thing that gets their attention.

Searchable + Engaging = More Qualified Candidates

HR Avatar Quick Hiring Tip #1 - Nail Down Your Needs

nail down your needsIf you need to hammer a nail, a screwdriver will not help you (usually). The same goes for people. If you need a mechanic, a hairdresser probably won't do.

To be sure you get what you need, document what each new hire will do in a written job description. List the activities, as well as desired experience levels, educational requirements, and skills and knowledge.

Except for extremely lucky situations, your new hire will only be as good as the job description you start with. So make sure you nail down your needs before you start seeking candidates. You might just avoid hiring a screwdriver.

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