The Secret to Hiring Well

US News

Hiring well is a skill. There are some who are better at it than others, but it is something you can work to master. If you're really interested in finding and retaining the best talent, work through these steps.

Fix your reputation. Good candidates want to work for companies that do good work. Using that logic, you can take an educated guess about the applicants you'll attract if your company's a known stinker. "A lot of job seekers are interested in what product companies are making and whether people will use it," says Patty McCord, principal consultant of her own firm and former chief talent officer for Netflix. "You'll see certain types flocking to certain companies because of the quality of services the company is providing."

[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2014 .]

Astute job seekers also research workplace culture and hiring practices, so ask yourself, what's the word on the street about your company? To counteract bad publicity you have to know what's being said. Search for your company on Glassdoor.com, which features company reviews submitted by past and current employees, plus it has an "Interviews" tab where satisfied and disgruntled candidates recount their experience.

Prepare to discuss glaring culture problems with candidates during interviews. Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer for the consulting firm Talent Think Innovations, LLC, says it's important to be honest. "There's this misguided sentiment that interviewers should tell job candidates some things and let them find out other things once they're hired," she says. "But part of the interview should be informational, where you spend a good time talking about how you operate as a company and what your culture is."

Pace yourself. Don't be so eager to post the job opening; it's a mistake to conduct a talent search just to fill a quota and meet a deadline. First determine your objective, McCord says, then "define what success will look like and what the roles are on your team that are needed to accomplish it. Identify the deltas, and that determines how and who you need to hire."

Next, write both a job posting and job description -- contrary to some people's belief, these two aren't the same. Truitt defines the listing as a marketing document posted to job boards and other recruiting sites for the purpose of attracting candidates. The job description has much of the same information, but it's "where you're concrete about what the person will do in the job," she says. Also, the description is strictly internal for the manager's use.

This is also the time to determine compensation, Truitt says. "Internal conversations about salary happen far too late. Some employers choose to base the salary on the individual, but you're supposed to base the salary on the complexities of the job," she says. "Frequently, a job offer or negotiations are stalled because employers find an ideal candidate only to fumble over what it would be appropriate to pay them."

[See: 15 Ways Good Bosses Keep Their Best Employees .]

Make the first move. The job market is like a meat market where employers play coy in the corner, hoping the cute guy or girl will notice them. Take initiative if you truly want to recruit the best person, and don't just cross your fingers that he or she will stumble upon your listing. Do this the same way a job seeker would -- through networking.

When McCord worked at Netflix, her team coined the term ABR, for "always be recruiting." "Whether you're in the grocery store or on the soccer field, strike up a conversation," she says. "Ask people, 'What do you do? Oh yeah, you work at Apple?' And then you're off from there," she says.

Now McCord advises clients to have 300 to 500 LinkedIn connections. "People tell me they don't know that many people, and I tell them, 'You do. You know 50 people. And those 50 people know 50 people, and so on."

Create an interview committee. McCord created an interview team at Netflix. "You need several people on hand to assess a person's fit and skill level," she explains. "The person's manager has to be involved of course, but also someone from HR, and I always liked to include someone from within the company who had a reputation for hiring great people."

Each person on your committee should interview the candidate and play a specific role -- for instance, the person from human resources knows about benefits and competitive salary ranges -- and it's important to coordinate beforehand to guarantee you're not retreading each other's questions. McCord also suggests designating someone to open and close. "The first person should welcome the applicant, thank them for coming, offer them a beverage and exchange pleasantries before getting started on interview questions," she says. "And the closer should thank the person for coming, outline what's happening next in the process and give an estimated time period for when the person can expect to hear back."

Listen to what isn't said. Pay attention to how interviewees talk about skills and experience. Are they candid about mistakes and eager to learn more? What's their body language like? What type of questions do they ask about the position? How do they feel about their former bosses? Do they have a happy disposition?

McCord explains that hiring is about more than just finding someone to fill the job, but finding someone who feels a certain way about the job. She uses this algorithm: "Is this what the person loves to do? Is it something that they're great at doing? Are they great at something we need them to be great at? If the answer is yes, you have the right person."

[Read: How to Determine if an Organization Appreciates Its Employees .]

Pay attention to detail. Sometimes you get the right person for the position, but you didn't nurture him or her correctly throughout the process. Employers should follow the same principle that a well-coached job seeker does: Behave as if you're being evaluated at all stages. For instance, McCord says it's crucial that everyone on staff, not just interviewers, make a job candidate feel welcome. "The whole company should be aware that someone is in the office interviewing," she says. "That way if they see a stranger sitting in the lobby, they introduce themselves, they make conversation and ask who they're supposed to meet with. You want everyone who comes in to interview to want the job. The whole experience matters."

Truitt suggests companies pay attention to how they onboard candidates. "There's conversation throughout the entire process, but then once a candidate gets [past] the offer point there's crickets," she says. "Consider sending them a nice note encouraging them to contact you with questions. Or send them a pamphlet of the five things they need to know for their first day." Truitt says touches like those make a difference for new hires and "are also how you set them up for success."



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