You didn’t think this day would ever come, but it’s finally here. Your business is growing – no, thriving – and you need more personnel to meet the demands. After countless long days, and operating with the leanest of crews, you’re in a position to expand your staff in a few key areas. Great! But though hiring is an exciting prospect for a developing business, it’s one that requires a careful approach.

Selecting the right candidate from a sea of resumes and unfamiliar faces can be challenging. According to a 2017 survey, nearly 74 percent of hiring managers and HR directors say they have hired the wrong person in the past. Unfortunately, this can be as costly as it is disappointing. Companies lose an average of $14,900 for each bad hire, the same survey reported.

To reduce the frustration of a bad hire, you want to be certain your screening process addresses the top legal and practical concerns. These 10 tips can help you make the wisest decision:

  1. Define the job requirements. Make sure the job description is complete, accurate and specific before posting it on your company website, job boards or social media platforms. State the exact job duties, noting any physical requirements (such as being able to lift heavy loads), but avoid listing any non-essential qualifications that could appear discriminatory. For example, don’t state height or weight requirements, but rather list specific abilities such as “able to lift 50-pound bags off truck.”
  2. Use a consistent application process. Every prospect should fill out an application form with the same questions. Many companies use an online application to save time and support the pre-screening process. The Job Application app can be emailed to candidates, posted on your website or included in an online ad. When applications are submitted electronically, the relevant information is in the system for quicker sorting and tracking.
  3. Pre-screen the applicants. Weed out the applicants who don’t meet your stated criteria, or who are missing certain credentials, such as licenses or certifications. Check for the necessary educational qualifications, appropriate job experience, length of time worked at each position and required skills. For those who have the necessary qualifications, review the resume and application in more detail and create a short list of “maybes”. You also might consider reviewing the candidates’ LinkedIn profile or checking their professional association memberships.
  4. Conduct phone interviews. Depending on how fast you need to hire, conducting telephone interviews may be the next step before narrowing down the applicants for in-person meetings. The initial phone conversation can give you a better understanding of the candidate’s communication style, sense of humor, attitude and professionalism. Use a 20-30-minute phone interview to determine whether a candidate’s work experience fits your need, as well as to gauge the level of interest in the job.
  5. Create an evaluation system. To assess all the candidates you interview more equally, develop a list of essential job qualifications for the job and evaluate candidates based on how well they meet each standard. You can assign a numeric value to each qualification and score the applicants based on the total. Include factors such as the essential job skills, unique qualifications (such as a certifications or credentials), attitude or demeanor, and market/sector experience. Writing down these criteria — and ensuring everyone who interviews the candidate uses the same list — will help you conduct more thorough, lawful and effective interviews. Make sure all notes are specific to the job criteria, and don’t venture into the murky legal area of discrimination.
  6. Hold in-person (or phone or video) interviews. After you’ve narrowed down your list to a very few applicants, you may be ready to hold in-person interviews with the top candidates. If your search is national, however, a phone or video interview may be a first step before bringing the top candidates to your office. Two common approaches for interviews are to have a panel interview (in which several people are in the room at once with candidates) or to have a series of one-on-one interviews with the candidates and various members of your team. Typically, interviews last about an hour and cover 10-12 questions that provide insight about the candidate’s knowledge, skills, abilities, career goals, work style and ambitions.
  7. Ask the candidates questions that measure how much they know about your business. A candidate’s preparation for an interview says a lot about his or her interest and diligence. It’s a strong sign if they’ve researched your business and demonstrate an understanding of what you do.
  8. Develop discerning questions. Your interview questions should provide insight about how well the candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities match the open position. Craft each question carefully to ensure it will yield useful information. For example, ask yourself, “What is the most likely response to the question?” Will the answer help you determine if the person fits the position? If not, eliminate it and focus on something else. Frame your questions to help you get more in-depth information about your candidates and their experiences, rather than looking for a “right” or “wrong” answer.
  9. Make sure everyone on your team understands what sort of questions can be asked, and which pose legal risks. For example, questions about sexual orientation, plans for marriage or children, age (unless the applicant is under 18), national origin, political preferences or membership in social organizations are against the law. Don’t attempt to get around the law by asking indirect questions or requesting to see photos.

  10. Consider pre-employment testing. An aptitude, skills or psychological test can improve your hiring success by measuring a wide range of factors. Depending on the position and its requirements, you could test for factors such as writing, math, language, machine operation, attention to detail and problem solving. To avoid legal challenges, however, give the same test to all final applicants and be sure the test is reliable, valid and equitable. You must also make sure the test is not used to screen out individuals with disabilities, unless the skills being tested are required to perform the job. Substance abuse testing is allowed as part of a routine hiring process, but legal experts usually recommend waiting until after you make a conditional offer of employment. Read more about EEOC testing laws here.
  11. Make sure any pre-employment tests you use in your hiring process meet all legal requirements and avoid bias. Some test providers will offer free tests to check out beforehand.
  12. Verify the candidate’s details. Confirm the information the candidate listed on the application, such as past employment and educational degrees. Some employers consider checking references a waste of time, because people listed as references will most likely say favorable things. But calling them can still provide valuable insights.
  13. Many businesses choose to conduct a criminal background check, or a credit check, before making an employment offer. In fact, a 2010 study reported that 92% of businesses conduct background checks. However, you should be aware that criminal background checks are restricted in some states, and that blanket policies denying employment to someone with a criminal record may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, many state laws restrict the use of credit histories in hiring decisions.

  14. Make an offer. After you’ve separated the candidates you want from those you don’t, it’s time to decide which candidate to offer the job to. Most likely you’ve had detailed discussions already and have an idea of what the candidate is expecting. Now you can put the offer in writing. Include the specifics, such as the job description, duties to be performed, start date, name of supervisor, salary, benefits and any other relevant information or items negotiated. Call the applicant to make the offer verbally first, and then follow up immediately with the written offer.

Congratulations – You’ve Found the Right Candidate!

Hiring success often depends on getting organized and accurately assessing what candidates can bring to your business. Only then can you refine your search and hire the right person.

Develop a consistent, streamlined hiring process with the Applicant Tracking Smart App. The applicant tracking features will help you seamlessly execute the screening steps above and, in turn, find the best candidate for your business, efficiently.

Key Takeaways
  • Treat all applicants equally and fairly
  • Follow a consistent process to improve efficiency
  • Establish objective, specific hiring criteria
  • Educate your hiring team about the laws
  • Make sure all evaluation notes stick to qualifications and avoid bias