There is no sure thing when it comes to hiring decisions. But a little creativity and preparation can help tilt the odds in your favor, and that is good for both you and for the right candidate.
The hiring process can be as stressful for a company as it is for the candidate. It’s expensive and time consuming, so there’s pressure to get it right the first time. Your company probably already has certain procedures in place to make hiring more efficient but, if you try a couple of these tips during your next search, you might actually uncover some future star performers.
Of course experience is vital, but for a lot of positions – especially in situations where you hope to have the new hire around for a long time – an ability and desire to learn and acquire new skills is just as desirable.
An inquisitive nature and high energy level are desirable qualities in nearly any professional role, and can often compensate for areas where the applicant’s resume is a little thin.
You can gauge how receptive to learning a candidate is by the questions she asks you about the position, especially if she asks about opportunities to take on additional responsibilities after some time on the job.
Tip: Asking about recent formal academic experiences might not be fair to more seasoned candidates – it could be years since she actually set foot in a classroom. But you can ask about recent books she’s read, or about how she reacted to new software installations or customer service programs at her last position.
Copy from Your Best
Past success is a great predictor of future success, so take a good look at your best hires and look for common qualities or experiences.
Have ex-military personnel thrived at your company? Have math majors? Maybe “empty-nesters” re-entering the workforce? What’s worked before will probably work again.
The resumes of your candidates don’t have to be perfect matches to those of your successful staffers, but if there are certain traits, experiences, or even personality types that have worked out well for your company, seek those out when you search for new workers.
Ask the Competition
Even if you work in a cut-throat, highly competitive industry, you probably have some friendly acquaintances at rival companies.
While the outright stealing of employees is inviting trouble, you can always ask your professional counterparts if they’ve had recent, qualified applicants they couldn’t hire because either the timing wasn’t right or they found someone who was a slightly better fit. These candidates have shown an interest in your industry, and have been somewhat pre-screened, at least to the point of a first interview or a hard look at the resume.
This kind of “hand-off” hiring happens a lot, especially in administrative and support roles, and it’s one of those rare cases where everyone can win.
Write Better Job Descriptions
A well written, interesting job description will draw a pool of better, genuinely interested applicants, which should result in a better hire for your company.
Give the potential applicant a genuine feel for what he will experience in the role. And don’t be afraid to be creative, or even use humor, if you can pull it off. As part of its open position descriptions, one online retailer describes “the worst part of the job.” An actual example from the site: All the paperwork you have to do. That jerk CEO saves it up all year.
There are thousands of well written job descriptions on company and professional recruiting websites. Look around for descriptions and writing styles that can help you come up with text that will promote and fill your company’s open position.
Ask Questions about Real Business Problems
The “what would you do if…” line of questioning has its place, but as long as you have a real, live professional’s attention, why not ask him about a real, live professional situation? You might be astounded by what happens.
A few years back, the president of a technical equipment company was interviewing a candidate for a service technician job. He took her down to the shop floor and showed her a half-finished, custom designed machine that had been ordered by an important client. The job was not going well, but he did not tell her that.
He gave her the blueprints, let her inspect the work completed to that point, and then asked her what she thought.
She spent a couple minutes looking around, examined the prints, asked a few pointed questions and then said, “I’d trash the whole thing and start all over.”
She was hired that day. Three years later, she was running the entire production floor.
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