- A proper hiring process can help you attract and retain high-quality employees.
- Improve your talent acquisition process with technology, reputation management and accurate job descriptions.
- During interviews, pay attention to employee coachability, emotional intelligence, temperament and motivation.
- This article is for small business owners and hiring managers who want to improve their current hiring process.
Hiring new talent is an inevitable part of being a business leader, and it's more complicated than simply reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. Recruiting mistakes, like a poorly crafted job description or lack of communication about applications, can deter a qualified candidate from seeking employment with you. However, with the right hiring and onboarding process in place, you will soon be able to recruit and hire the best candidates.
What is a hiring process?
A hiring process is a step-by-step method to find, recruit and hire new employees. A good hiring process will help you attract and retain high-quality employees who match your brand. The specific elements of a hiring process are unique to each company, but there are general steps every business can follow to attract and hire qualified candidates.
What steps are in the hiring process?
Although the specific steps in your hiring process should be unique to your company (and sometimes even to the open position you are hiring for), most hiring processes include 10 basic steps.
1. Write a job description that accurately reflects your hiring needs.
A job description is one of the first interactions a job applicant has with your organization. Make sure you are writing good job descriptions that accurately reflect your brand and the role you are hiring for.
For example, you want to be clear about the specific responsibilities and requirements, and use some brand-specific language that gives the job applicant a feel for your company culture. Explain what you need from them and what you can provide them in return.
A well-written job description will help weed out candidates who aren't the right fit, so it should leave you with a more focused group of resumes to evaluate.
2. Advertise and recruit for the open position.
Once you have your job description, the next step is to advertise it and recruit for the open position. Post it in multiple locations such as your careers page, job boards, job fairs and social media. Encourage your staff to reach out to their networks for the position as well.
Zuraida Curtis, employment law editor at XpertHR, advises businesses looking to create a good recruitment strategy to follow these tips:
- Analyze. Take a close look at your business needs as well as your goals and objectives.
- Identify. Know your long-term plans for expansion or reduction in staff, critical roles in the business, and any gaps that need to be filled. Be on the lookout for seasonal fluctuations in staffing requirements.
- Determine. Figure out the best recruitment method for your business. Job searches via social media are increasing, for example, so you could use this method to target candidates with specific skill sets.
- Secure. Provide a competitive salary and opportunities for personal growth within your business. In a Citation survey, 13% of employers said salary is the most important factor in employee retention.
- Establish. Choose and implement a method to measure results and test whether your strategy is working. Establish a training budget to develop and enhance your employees' skills and knowledge.
3. Analyze candidate resumes, cover letters and applications.
As applications start flowing in, you'll need to come up with a process to review them. You can allocate one or more people to review applications and narrow down your viable candidates. You can also use some form of recruiting software, like an applicant tracking system (ATS).
An ATS helps analyze candidates and searches for any flaws in the hiring process. It filters candidates according to hiring needs and makes it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to view an applicant's performance. The software can't make wise decisions about who to hire, but it simplifies relevant keywords in a resume, aligning candidates with your business's needs and wants.
With automatic rankings, you can compare resumes against your job description. The software then forwards the resumes with the highest matches to the next stage. It's also a powerful solution to coordinate the candidate pipeline and ensure quality candidates are not lost in the shuffle.
4. Conduct a phone interview for initial screening.
After narrowing down your pool of job applicants, conduct a phone screen interview with each of the top candidates. A phone interview is a brief preliminary screening that takes about 15 to 30 minutes. Keep phone screens as uniform as possible. Ask a few basic "get to know you" questions, as well as inquiries about their skills and experience and their interest in the company and position. This interview should give you a sense of who the person is and what soft skills they possess. [Related: Illegal Job Interview Questions]
Tip: When conducting phone screenings, look out for red flags such as negativity, unpreparedness, lack of curiosity or poor cultural fit.
5. Conduct final-round interviews.
Your phone interviews should narrow down your pool of candidates. Conduct in-person interviews with the candidates remaining (or video conferencing interviews, if recruiting remotely). These interviews are more in-depth, helping you select your top candidates. Have multiple people partake in these interviews to get a broader picture of how well each candidate will fit within the organization and role.
6. Have the job applicant perform applicable assessments.
Depending on the role you are hiring for, you may want job applicants to perform applicable assessments. For example, if you are hiring for a copyediting position, you may have the candidate perform an editing exercise. Someone hiring for a sales position may have the candidate give a sample sales pitch based on a specific product the company sells.
Assessments aren't always necessary, but they test whether the candidate can perform the responsibilities of the role. The assessment can be performed before, during, or after the formal interview.
7. Run a background check and check references.
Contacting references and running pre-employment background checks is an important part of the hiring process, often as one of the final steps. There are many great background check companies that can help you run legally compliant background checks.
The purpose of a background check is to ensure the candidate is legally fit for the position; however, you should avoid discriminating against candidates based on their results. For example, refusing to hire a candidate with multiple traffic violations would be valid for a truck driving position, but it's not relevant to a marketing position.
8. Make a hiring decision.
Use the knowledge you've gained about your job candidates throughout the hiring process to make a final decision about who to hire. Consult all parties who spoke with each candidate to make a more informed decision. Consider qualifications and cultural fit, but don't make decisions based on biases or discrimination.
"Try to avoid hiring on gut instinct," Curtis told Business News Daily. "Have a structured hiring process with an effective interview process. Verify qualifications through the interview process and complete background checks such as references."
9. Extend a job offer.
Extend a job offer to your top pick. Highly qualified candidates are typically not on the market for long, so extend the job offer quickly once you've decided who to hire. Include information regarding salary and benefits, and be prepared for some negotiation during this time.
10. Hire and onboard the new employee.
Your employee onboarding process can make a big difference in how successful your new hire is within your organization. First, send the necessary paperwork to the candidate for them to sign. If you use recruiting software, it will likely have e-signature capabilities, allowing new employees to accept an offer and complete onboarding paperwork remotely.
Comprehensive programs take it one step further, automating the entire onboarding process and providing your new hire with all the training and materials they need. This will not only set up the employee for success, but it can also improve employee retention.
Key takeaway: Most hiring processes include basic steps like recruiting, interviewing, screening, hiring and onboarding employees.
How to improve your hiring process
If you already have a hiring process in place, there is a good chance it can be enhanced to better serve your business needs. Here are 13 tips to improve your hiring process.
1. Build a strong employer brand.
According to Officevibe, more than 75% of professionals are passive candidates who aren't currently looking for a job but are open to new opportunities. Building a strong employer brand not only reduces employee turnover by 28%, it also attracts these passive candidates to your company over others.
A Glassdoor survey found that 69% of respondents are likely to apply for a job if the employer actively manages its brand by responding to reviews, updating the company's profile, and sharing updates on the company's culture and work environment.
When you focus on building a well-known employer brand, you won't have to do as much active recruiting. You'll be a highly sought-after organization, teeming with applicants.
2. Answer candidate FAQs.
Another excellent recruitment strategy is to create a page or section on your website that addresses questions candidates often ask. Many candidates may be reluctant to apply for jobs because they still need answers to certain questions before they apply. You can either take specific questions new candidates have asked you or ask your present employees what questions they had before they were hired. This will help you create a page that covers the concerns candidates may have, saving you and your candidates time while also making applicants aware of what the job entails.
3. Move as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Officevibe reported that the best candidates are off the market in 10 days. Act quickly, especially when you know you're interested in a specific applicant. Even if you haven't made a decision yet, follow up with the candidate often, discussing further details of the position to ensure you're on their radar. Respond to any questions or concerns right away to keep them updated throughout the process.
4. Write better job descriptions.
Many companies write job descriptions with lists of responsibilities and requirements, but a study found that this can alienate qualified employees, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In the study, U.S. and Canadian researchers rewrote 56 job ads to emphasize two different approaches: the Needs-Supplies approach, which focuses on what the company can do for the candidate, and the Demands-Abilities approach, which focuses on what the company expects from the candidate. Of the 991 responses, applicants who responded to Needs-Supplies job listings were rated higher than those who responded to the Demands-Abilities ads.
Focus on what your company can do for potential employees, and you'll attract candidates who better fit your needs.
5. Embrace digital trends and social media.
Most people want to work for companies that keep up with the latest tech trends. Part of embracing the digital age means using public social media profiles for candidate research. Like most employers, you'll probably conduct a standard pre-employment background check on applicants, but the candidate's social media profiles can offer more details about the individual as a person and an employee, for better or for worse.
While it's legally risky to allow a candidate's social media activity to factor into your hiring decisions, as that can result in unconscious bias or discrimination, it can give you a better picture of a job applicant you're interested in hiring.
Tip: Before turning to social media, learn the pros and cons of social media background checks.
6. Leverage social media for recruiting.
Social recruiting is a great strategy to ensure you're reaching the right audience and attracting talent to your brand and culture, said Kayla Vatalaro, global head of Asana's impact growth and social impact, and formerly its global head of talent acquisition.
"We believe in the power of the employee voice to tell the Asana story, and our employees have a significant influence on social media," Vatalaro said. "Every week across our social channels, our employer brand team shares an Asana Women Wednesday post, featuring the great work of one of the women from our global team."
Vatalaro said this form of employee advocacy has increased traffic to the company's careers page and become a crucial part of its recruitment and talent management strategy.
You can also rely on your employees' extensive personal and professional connections, via social media as well as friends and acquaintances, as a potentially golden opportunity to recruit talented workers.
7. Utilize employee referrals.
One of the best ways to hire quality candidates is through referrals from current employees or people in your network. Referrals are a good way to screen potential candidates before interviewing them. If your trusted employee recommends a previous colleague or a friend whose work experience they know well, it gives you a level of security knowing this new applicant can do good work. When hiring a stranger, there is less certainty about a candidate's work ethic and potential fit on the team.
While you shouldn't give referrals preferential treatment, a recommendation from someone already on staff or in your network is an added benefit for that applicant. Ensure that the candidate's qualifications make them an ideal fit for the job, and use the referral as insurance that you're making the right hiring decision.
One way to solicit referrals from current employees is to implement a referral bonus program. If an employee refers an applicant and that applicant eventually gets hired, the employee who referred the new hire can receive some sort of monetary compensation. Even if the bonus is only a few hundred dollars, it makes employees more willing to recommend people they know are quality candidates. The cost tends to pay off, as data suggests that referral hires can save companies $3,000 in fees that would otherwise be spent on recruiters and job postings.
Did you know? An employee referral program can improve employee retention in the long run.
8. Optimize for mobile.
A mobile-friendly hiring process is one of the best ways to draw in candidates. According to SmartRecruiters, close to 90% of job seekers use a mobile device when looking for a new job opportunity. That number has risen exponentially over the past few years.
To that end, your app or website should allow candidates to accept offers, hold live video interviews, complete referral tasks, and self-schedule interviews. For retention purposes, you can also build in functions for new employees: an interactive employee handbook, benefits registration, access to PTO balances and more.
9. Fit the personality to the job.
Although the right skill set may seem like the most important factor in whether a candidate is a good fit, the truth is that skills can be acquired, but personalities cannot.
During the selection process, consider how a candidate's personality traits align with the daily job tasks. For instance, a trait such as empathy would be much more important for a nurse or a social worker than it would be for a tax attorney or a computer programmer.
"What kind of person you hire depends on [the] culture of organization and the kind of job," said Dr. Maynard Brusman, a San Francisco-based psychologist and founding principal of consulting firm Working Resources. "A great person with all kinds of skills may be a good fit for one and a poor fit for another, simply based on their personality type."
10. Improve your interviews.
A study by Leadership IQ found that failures exhibited by new employees may result from flawed interview processes. In the study, 82% of the 5,000 managers surveyed reported that the interviewers were too focused on other issues, too pressed for time, or lacked the confidence in their interviewing abilities to pay attention to red flags.
According to Leadership IQ CEO Mark Murphy, this is because the job interview process focuses on making sure new hires are technically competent, whereas other factors that are just as important to employee success – like coachability, emotional intelligence, temperament and motivation – are often overlooked.
Interviewing the candidate
One way to improve the interview process is to double up on interviewers. Multiple interviewers in the room at once can have several benefits:
- It shortens the interview process.
- It lightens the load of hiring managers.
- It hands employers a better opportunity to give candidates honest feedback.
Doug Camplejohn, CEO and founder of Airspeed, previously advised hiring managers to have an open discussion about the interview in front of the candidate as if they weren't in the room. It may seem strange, but he said candidates appreciated the candor.
"It's a much more honest process than saying your thank-yous and then rejecting someone over email or through a recruiter," Camplejohn said. "Even candidates who we've passed on have commented on how refreshing the process is and asked to stay in touch."
Letting the candidate interview you
Allow prospective employees to interview you as well. Letting candidates ask questions gives you a chance to see what's important to them, Brusman said. It also lets them determine whether they want to keep pursuing a job at your company, or to decide that it's not the right fit for them.
"Be open and honest about what it's going to be like to work for your company," Brusman said. "You want to give a realistic preview of the work environment."
11. Offer quality employee benefits and perks.
A comprehensive selection of employee benefits and perks can be a good way to attract a diverse and talented applicant pool. In addition to competitive salaries and good company culture, companies that offer work-life balance and comprehensive health insurance packages appeal to a broad range of candidates. There are plenty of traditional work benefits that attract top talent, and there's no shortage of unusual and creative perk options either.
Flexible work offerings, like the ability to telecommute, have become very popular with employees since the beginning of the pandemic. According to FlexJobs, 58% of workers said they want a fully remote job, 39% prefer a hybrid arrangement, and only 3% want to return to fully in-person work. Being flexible with schedules and offering remote work not only appeals to today's workforce, but it has also become nearly essential to attract and retain employees.
Tip: Wondering which employee benefits you should offer? Check out our guide on how to build a great employee benefits package.
When you're highlighting your benefits to prospective employees, you can also highlight other features such as the efforts your company goes to create a culture of diversity and inclusion, and the opportunities for advancement that are available to employees.
12. Use recruiting software.
Recruiting software is designed to automate the tedious parts of recruiting, doing much more than you would be able to handle manually. It can easily blast out multiple customized job postings, send bulk rejection or welcome emails, and automatically transition candidates to the next phase of the recruiting process based on preset configurations. When recruiting software tracks your candidates every step of the way, you reach the best candidates and streamline the hiring process. If you’re looking for a more robust option, most HR software providers have options to help streamline recruiting.
Automation and tracking capabilities increase your hiring efficiency, allowing recruiters to focus on what matters: engaging with great candidates. This reduces recruiting time and increases employee engagement and satisfaction. Some recruiting software can handle multiple aspects of the onboarding process for you. Recruiting software that provides analytics gives you insight into how your hiring process is performing and where you can improve.
If you're looking for recruiting software, here are some great options.
- BambooHR: With BambooHR, you can track and hire job applicants, onboard and offboard employees, access HR management tools, track employee time and PTO, and view advanced reporting on candidates and employees. BambooHR has two separate plans and a whole suite of add-on options. To learn more, read our review of BambooHR.
- Workable: Workable is a comprehensive solution that gives you access to hundreds of job boards, e-signature and offer letters, AI-powered sourcing capabilities, third-party integrations, branded careers pages, reports, and self-scheduling. You can choose from four unique plans.
- Breezy HR: Breezy HR offers a variety of recruiting features like branded career sites, access to over 50 job boards, GDPR compliance and automation, background screening integrations, resume parsing, and self-scheduling interviews. You can choose from one free plan and three monthly or annual paid plans.
13. Keep an eye on your reviews.
Potential employees often seek insider information about companies they want to work for, and this includes salary estimates, interview tips, and reviews from current and former employees from sites such as Glassdoor. Studies show that 86% of Glassdoor users read company reviews and ratings before deciding to apply for a job. Top candidates may not even apply in the first place if they don't like what they see: 50% of job seekers said they would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, even for a pay increase.
Two actions that draw in candidates include being active on review websites and posting accurate information. If you have a lot of negative reviews from former employees, it may be time to work on your company culture before you try to fill any open positions. This can improve your employee retention and lead to more positive reviews that will attract quality employees.
Sammi Caramela, Joshua Stowers, Bennett Conlin and Brittney Morgan contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article or related articles.