The art of hiring well

Hiring is one of the most important decisions you can make for your team. And yet, with all our technology, hiring remains more of an art than a science. How can you make hiring decisions that don’t end in disaster?

Here are a few pointers to avoid hiring pitfalls.

Define your terms and measure results

How can you know where you get your best hires if you don’t keep track of how you found them? How do you measure which hires are good and which aren’t a good fit?

Sit down and define what you think a successful hire will look like before you start the hiring process. Most likely, this definition will change after you make a few hires. It’s important to update it each time you start hiring. Keep refining your vision of an ideal employee and measuring the results. Then that vision will be more likely to become a reality.

Create a realistic job description

It’s only natural to want to load a job description with the qualities of the perfect candidate. But, for example, does the candidate really need 10 years of experience?

It can be counterproductive to go overboard with requirements in a job description. You may scare away qualified job seekers by overburdening the job description. Ask yourself what experience candidates really need to do the job well.

Make sure you clarify between what’s actually required in terms of experience and what is in your ideal-candidate bucket list.

Ask behavioral questions (intelligently)

Almost all job seekers will have practiced answers to common interview questions. How do you tell how they would really respond on the job?

The key is to ask “behavioral questions” that put the applicant in a specific situation. “What would you do if a client you were dealing with was upset?” is a perfect example of a good behavioral interview question.

Avoid trick questions that have come into favor the past few years. Questions like “What animal would you be?” can breed quiet resentment among applicants. Does an applicant really need to know, “Why are manhole covers round?” to do this job? (Answer: A square manhole cover could be offset at an angle and fall into the sewer.)

The prevailing wisdom is that you are trying to catch an applicant off guard and see if they can think on their feet. What you are really doing is betraying a lack of experience in hiring and exposing yourself as someone who struggles with hiring.

Besides, most of these questions are old hat by now, with answers easily searchable online. It’s best to keep the behavioral questions focused on the position at hand and the applicants’ past experience.

Patience is key

Trust your gut. Eventually, you’ll know when you find the right candidate. The need to hire may be urgent, but if you rush the process, you might be left off worse than when you started.

Your goal should be to hire people who are a good fit for the type of work environment you want to create, and, depending on the position, who could become a future leader in your company. A good hire is an investment in your company’s growth and future. That investment reaps massive dividends if you can have the patience to follow hiring best practices and trust your gut.

For more about hiring and staffing, read the MDRT Hiring Guide.

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