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Five steps to hire better (and to stop wasting time)

Let’s face it: for most hiring managers, interviewing feels more like luck than a skill. It’s easy to get fooled by a smooth talker or get so caught up in selling your organization and opportunity that you forget to dig deep into the candidate’s experience. Here are five steps to making the interview process fool-proof and productive.

Step 1: Share the deal-breakers

Is there anything less-than-ideal about the position you’re hiring for? Such as working weekends or being located in a questionable neighborhood? If so, be sure to cover these things before committing to an interview. Similarly, what are your deal-breakers? Do you require that your hire have a college degree, for example? A car? A specific certification?

You’ve likely included that information in your meticulously crafted job description, but it doesn’t hurt to remind candidates in your initial emails and get them to confirm they’re still interested. By focusing on people who aren’t going to pull themselves out, you will save yourself a huge amount of time and frustration.

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Step 2: Conduct a phone interview

Even if the applicant is local, conduct their first interview via phone. It will save you so much time and can give you insight into their general demeanor and how they come across on the phone (particularly important if they’ll be working in a sales or public-facing role).

During a phone interview, ask them “functional” questions, which focus on what the individual has done in the past and quickly establish knowledge level and experience. Examples: Have you ever managed a team? Have you used QuickBooks? Have you ever developed a marketing plan?

In other words, this interview is a simple way to determine if a job applicant can do the job you are hiring for— thereby saving you an in-person meeting only to find out they lack the skill sets required for that position.

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Step 3: Conduct a face-to-face interview

When you meet candidates in person, you get a better idea of their personality and how they present themselves. If you work remotely or aren’t ready to fly your candidate in for an interview, a video interview can substitute.

When you’re chatting face-to-face, use “behavioral” interview questions. These questions will help you understand how your candidate will deal with challenges, their communication style, their ability to work as a team, and their work ethic.

Examples: Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer. Give me an example of a time a co-worker frustrated you and how you handled it. Describe a situation when you had to resolve conflict in the workplace.

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Step 4: Use selection tools

Once you’ve narrowed it down to your final candidates, leverage pre-employment assessments, such as a personality profile like the DiSC or an intelligence test like the Wonderlic. While some view interview personality tests as a waste of time, the right personality assessment can give you in-depth knowledge about a potential employee and will also tell you where your potential hire’s strengths and interests lie.

Next, see your candidate in action using a pre-hire project, which will test his or her skill in real time, with real colleagues and challenges. This could be a quick design mock-up, a ridealong, a day-in-the-life experience, or any number of tasks that are specific to the position.

Step 5: Extend the offer

This is (usually) the fun part! As you’re moving your candidate through the interview process, make sure you’re talking about compensation as you go. Also make sure that your candidates know about drug tests, and forms they may need to sign: non-competes, non-disclosure agreements, etc.

When all your documents are ready and you’ve prepared a compensation and benefits package that you know they’ll fall all over themselves to sign, it’s time to make the offer!

Getting to this point doesn’t have to be awkward. Break the process down, be up front from beginning to end, and use multiple methods to get to know the candidates. You’ll gain the confidence to enjoy the process more and to leverage it to hire the best candidates for each position.

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