8 Ways to Avoid Candidate Roulette and Make Your Hiring Process Work For You

Roulette is a simple game of chance: Place your bets, spin the wheel, drop the ball into the ball-track, and hope it lands in the compartment you bet on.

“Take a chance and hope it works out” is a practice that extends into the business world in many ways, namely a company’s hiring process. Managers hire new employees because they so desperately need to fill positions, and just hope the new employees work out. Especially these days as our country enjoys a low unemployment rate, some employers feel so desperate to hire someone that they resort to a “warm body” hire. They drop a candidate into a position and hope they are successful; most of the time they are not.

When a business is unhappy with their state of talent acquisition and retention, they often turn to Human Resource consultants like us for assistance. We begin such engagements with an assessment of the client’s current hiring process and onboarding practices, and we advise them to consider the following eight practices:

1. Write a job posting that markets your company AND screens candidates.

A job posting should contain information and details about the open position, and it should also be written in a manner that sells candidates on working for your business. Like it or not, today’s job market is employee-driven; jobs are plentiful and qualified applicants are not. The more you can sell an applicant on your workplace, the more likely you will gain their interest. Further, a posting can act as an effective screening tool. For example, if you conduct pre-employment criminal background checks, list this in your job posting. Candidates who know their backgrounds won’t pass muster will likely not apply, adding an extra, proactive layer of screening to your process.

2. Collect employment applications too.

While resumes can provide valuable information, they are written by candidates to sell you on why to interview them. Using an employment application instead gives you more control over the content you receive because you are asking the specific questions you want answered. Furthermore, an employment application requires the applicant to sign off on a statement saying they acknowledge the information provided is true, something a resume alone does not provide.

3. Ease up a bit on candidates with traditional red flags on their resume.

It used to be unthinkable to stay at the same job for less than five years, and many a hiring agent has passed on qualified candidates for having a shorter-than-desired tenure at a job on their resume. However, today’s generations and companies are redefining longevity, and business moves such as downsizing and rightsizing are decreasing employment durations. If an applicant’s skill set aligns with your needs but they have a track record that concerns you, interview them anyway, and ask them to explain their employment history. There may be some very good reasons why they left one company to pursue another so quickly.

4. Interview candidates for core values.

The primary reason given for an employee being terminated is that they weren’t a fit. As the Peter Schutz adage goes, “Hire character. Train skill.” Asking specific questions to gauge how a candidate might fit into your organization can reduce the chances of hiring the wrong person. For instance, if teamwork is a central focus in your company culture, ask the candidate to tell you about a project they’ve worked on where they had to work as part of a team. Ask them to walk you through the project, the role they played, and some of the challenges the team faced. Then, listen for clues as to whether the candidate would fit well on your team.

5. Train your interviewers.

Interviewer training goes beyond identifying the ever-growing list of questions not to ask during an interview. Interviewers should also be trained on how to build rapport, how to get applicants talking (applicant should talk 80 percent of the interview), and how to ask open-ended and follow-up questions. Human Resource Partners conducts interviewer trainings and we often find that even those who have been interviewing for years can make improvements.

6. Pay attention to a candidate’s behavior – not just their words.

When interviewing an applicant, it can be easy to focus so much on whether their answers are what you want to hear that you overlook signs indicating they may not be the right fit. Here are a few things to observe:

  • Did the candidate arrive to their interview on time? If they arrived late, did they call to notify you?
  • Are they dressed appropriately for your work environment?
  • Did they ask you questions about the job, workplace, or culture? (If not, are they even interested in the job?)
  • Did they talk about how they can add value to your workplace, or did they only talk about what is in it for them if they are hired?

7. Ask for references and check them.

Here’s another reason to use an employment application: An application asks candidates to list prior supervisors and their contact information, whereas resumes may not include references at all. When references are included with a resume, it is usually in the form of a list of people the applicant knows will say nice things about them. Employers sometimes don’t realize they can have more control in the reference process, and many view reference checks as futile. “Why bother? The HR Department will only confirm the person worked there and nothing more.” This is why talking to the person’s direct supervisor is often the most fruitful.

8. Make your new employee’s first day their best first day ever.

Even with a solid hiring process, some companies find themselves ill-prepared to deal with a new hire’s first day on the job. Their computer is not set up, and there is no one or no manual to train them on how to use the phone system or access the company intranet. A new hire is excited to begin their new job so this is your opportunity to make a solid first impression and start the relationship off right by being prepared.

The next time you are responsible for hiring staff, consider improving your talent acquisition and retention processes instead of playing candidate roulette. Your team, your culture, and your bottom line will thank you.

Delise West is president and founder of Human Resource Partners in Dover, NH. She can be reached at 603-749-8989 or through www.h-rpartners.com.

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