Which candidate should you hire? Who has the best chance of being successful on the job? 

I worked for a manager once who used his gut for hiring decisions. He told me that his gut told him within a few minutes of meeting an applicant whether they had potential – or they didn’t. His gut, he went on to say, was right 99% of the time.

There are more scientific ways to hire employees, but instincts still matter.  So does chemistry and candidate fit. It’s as important to make sure that the candidate will fit in with your organization’s culture and the team they will be a part of as it is to ensure they have the qualifications to the job.

Perhaps the most important choices that you make as an employer are your hiring decisions.  As the old adage states: hire in haste and repent at your leisure. Faulty decisions can cost you scarce financial resources and distract managers and staff from more productive activities.  If you get it right the first time, it will be much easier for all concerned.

12 Tips for Selecting the Right Candidate for the Job

Here are some suggestions to increase the likelihood that you will select the right candidate for the job:

Solid hiring decisions begin with a job description which accurately incorporates the success factors for the position in question.  Identify the behaviors, skills and qualities which are required to add value to that role.  Make sure these assets are obvious within the job advertisement.  Formulate a clear hiring criteria and charge your interviewing team to evaluate candidates based on those specific factors.

Involve line staff and managers in that department heavily in all phases of the screening and selection process.  Individuals with intimate knowledge of the job are often better equipped to evaluate how candidates will actually fare in the position.

Formulate interview questions that will elicit concrete evidence of how candidates have exhibited successful behaviors for the target job in past experiences.  Ask for examples which prove that individuals have applied the right skills, knowledge, and personal qualities to add value.

Focus more on accomplishments when interviewing rather than experience, knowledge, and skills.  Determine how candidates have engineered those achievements.   Figure out whether or not the individual had a bottom line impact in past roles.

Look for evidence that candidates have taken on difficult challenges and overcome obstacles in the past.  For example, take the college senior who took 19 credits with many advanced courses while working significant hours, holding down a leadership position on campus, or pursuing a sport.  This individual might be a better prospect than a student with a higher GPA, who took less demanding courses and focused exclusively on academics.

Make a record of the specific evidence which candidates have shared regarding how they have achieved success, taken on challenges and solved problems. Conduct reference calls to check the facts with previous supervisors and colleagues.   For example, if a candidate asserts that she cut expenses by implementing a specific cost cutting initiative, be sure to ask her references if and how expenses were cut in order to verify her facts.

Avoid the charisma trap. The most charming and eloquent candidate is not necessarily the best person for the job.  Interviewing teams can easily become enamored with smooth and attractive candidates.

Don’t overreact to the shortcomings of the previous employee in a particular job as you formulate your hiring criteria or make your hiring decision.  For example, a prior employee may have failed because they were overly autocratic in their management style. However, a hands off manager should be not be hired to lead a team which needs structure.

Place a high value on attitude, work ethic, and motivation.  Watch out for candidates who have had trouble following through with commitments or have had difficulty getting along with managers and/or colleagues.

Whenever feasible, incorporate tests for candidates into your screening process. If you are looking for someone to debug programs, provide them with a program to refine.  If you are looking for a great proofreader, ask them to proof a flawed document.

Be willing to reassess your methods of advertising and start over if the pool hasn’t yielded an outstanding candidate. Finding the right person for the job is well worth spending the time it may take.

Take the time to evaluate and learn from your past hiring processes and the decisions you made.  Have your hires succeeded? Why? If not, what could you have done differently?

Not all your hiring decisions will work out. You can do all the right things when hiring, and still end up with a person who isn’t a match.

However, if you’re careful about the selection and interview process, and if you listen to your gut when necessary, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your next great employee.


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