Ten Tips on How to Hire Better (With Templates)

Hiring well is hard. Really hard. If you’ve hired people, you’ve probably made hiring mistakes. No matter how many interviews or what your process is, nothing can ensure you’ll do it right, especially if you want to hire without it taking many months.

Before getting into how to make better hiring decisions, let’s start with how you measure the success of your hiring process.

Four potential metrics to use are:

  • New hire performance (based on whatever performance metrics you use)
  • New hire retention
  • Hours and money you spent on hiring
  • Days from decision to hire for the role to accepted offer

When you’re building a hiring process, have those metrics in mind (even if you’re not spending weeks tracking and analyzing them). You’ll want to pair some of those metrics with each other when analyzing them, to avoid over-optimizing one at too high a cost to another. For example, you don’t want to minimize hours and money spent, or minimize days from decision to hire, if that causes new hire performance to drop too low. And you don’t want to maximize new hire performance, if that means it takes you a year and $250,000 to hire every role. You want to pair and balance those.

Now that you have some metrics for success, you’re ready to run a hiring process. What’s a hiring process? It’s the process of collecting and creating the data you need to choose the right person for the job. Remember that definition during the hiring process. Don’t just walk in to an interview and wing it. You’re not there to make friends or decide whether you like the person. You’re there to decide whether that person is the best person for the job. You need to know what you’re looking for and then decide if that candidate can give it to you. At every step in the process, you should be collecting and creating data. How do you do that? Some of it can be through interviews, some can be through references, some may require projects, some may require looking over the candidate’s shoulder while they use a computer.

Here are ten tips that will help you achieve those hiring goals by collecting and creating the data you need and making better, faster hiring decisions.

1. Hiring plan. Before you start, write out your hiring plan, like this one, to be clear with yourself and your team about what you’re looking for and the process you’ll use. Your process will depend on the job that you’re hiring for, the skills and personality traits that you’re looking for, and your company and team culture. This hiring plan isn’t perfect. But after many iterations, which continue, it may help you build or refine your own process.

2. Targeted sourcing. Source candidates strategically to avoid having a deluge of bad fits and wasting time reviewing those applications. Don’t post the job on job sites that bring hundreds or thousands of unqualified candidates.

3. Tailor the application requirements. Ask for a substantive, application tailored to the job to ensure the candidate is really interested, not just dropping off a resume, and has some of your boxes checked.

4. Projects, work samples, demonstrations, concrete past experiences. Use projects and written tests, ask for work samples, and talk through past relevant work experience in detail, to measure the skills, intelligence, and personality traits you’re looking for. This approach has many benefits:

  • Get as close as possible to what the candidate would be doing on the job, the job is writing, editing, spreadsheets, coding, things like that, not interviewing
  • Look over the candidate’s shoulder or share a screen remotely to observe how they interact with the computer, how they move between programs, what shortcuts they use, how well the use the software that they’ll use on the job such as spreadsheets, email, Finder/Google Drive/Dropbox, a software skill listed on their resume, or otherwise, and have them through each step as they do it
  • Measure things that are difficult to measure in live interviews
  • Give the candidate time to compose a more thoughtful response than a live interview allows
  • Asynchronous so the candidate can work while you’re sleeping (or doing whatever it is you do), so when you are ready to review the response you can learn more in less time
  • Provide relevant material to focus on in the live interviews
  • Give the hiring team common material to discuss with each other when judging the candidate

Make your own projects and tests, like this one, this one, this one, or this one, or have them follow a checklist doing certain tasks on a computer (you’ll be amazed how much you learn looking over someone’s shoulder while they use a computer), or find a partner to work with to go deeper.

Be careful not to overdo the project approach though, especially for senior candidates. Big projects as part of a job interview can be valuable, but can also turn people off and can be difficult for the candidate to do really well with a limited about of time and information. Instead of creating new, artificial work product, have the candidate talk about similar, actual work they’ve done at previous jobs. Send the questions in advance to give the candidate the time to think through the questions and prepare answers. When they’re on the job, they’ll have time to do the same thing. No reason to surprise them in an interview. You want their best, thoughtful, substantive answer, not their fastest, on-the-spot answer. This approach will achieve the same goals as the project, but will save the candidate time and will show a more realistic view of their skills.

You can think of steps 3 and 4 as ways to source the data you need to make the decision. By collecting past work product and requiring the creation of new work product, you get your best view of what the candidate would be doing on the job.

5. Train the interviewers. As we’ve discussed, interviewing is hard. Help your team do a better job by training them on how to interview and how to measure their assigned targeted skills and traits. (Also make sure they know what traits they should not be focusing on and what kinds of questions could get them and the company in trouble!)

6. Create a united, structured interview plan for the overall interview process and each interviewer. To avoid duplication and ensure the process gets you what you need to make the decision, assign each interviewer the task of measuring two or three of the skills and personality traits that you’re looking for. Give each interviewer a printed agenda for their interview, including guidelines, structured questions, and grading rubrics, like this one, to help them with the process.

You can think of steps 5 and 6 as ways of applying rubrics to analyze that data from steps 3 and 4 objectively, without bias. Like most decisions, the hiring decision will succeed or fail based on the presence of great data and the ability to analyze and interpret that data to make the decision.

7. Group interviews. Related to the point above, conduct one group interview of each candidate with two to four members of the hiring team in the room, potentially with the candidate presenting their background or a project, to help the hiring team have a common experience with the candidate and avoid interviewers asking, and the candidate answering, the same generic questions repeatedly.

Here are example instructions I’ve used for this stage:

You’ll start with a 20-minute presentation to three of us on your background, who you are, and your most relevant accomplishments. We’ll interject with questions. We do this to avoid you having to answer the same questions in each interview and to make it a bit more fun and social. Feel free to make slides or not. Make it your own.

8. Schedule candidates on the same day or close. When hiring, you’re making a decision between candidates. Seeing them close together makes it much easier to compare them to each other and helps to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each one.

9. Move with speed and be decisive. Like your other responsibilities, hiring needs focus, time, and attention. When you’re ready to hire, make it a top priority. Don’t lose great candidates because you move too slowly or take too long to get back to them. Making a bad hiring decision is bad, but making no hiring decision is worse. Move quickly. Make mistakes. Learn. Iterate on the process. Repeat.

10. Keep in mind what works and what doesn’t. Google and others have done some great research on how to measure job candidates. Unstructured interviews, GPAs, test scores, brainteasers, even reference checks aren’t highly correlated with a successful new hire. Better tools are a combination of structured interviews, work samples, and intelligence tests.

Through all of this, don’t forget to keep the candidate’s experience in mind. You want to hire great people, so you want the candidates who receive an offer to accept it. They’re more likely to say yes if you run an organized, tight process, and they have a good interview experience. Additionally, you want the candidates who don’t receive an offer not to have negative feelings about you. The more people in the world who feel good about your company, the more likely you are to succeed. And the opposite is also true.

Hope this is helpful. Please share and give feedback!

Templates from this post:

Further reading and research for this post:

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