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How To Improve Your Hiring Process

Growing Your Business Through Smart Hiring: This Five-Step “Hiring Tune-Up” Will Help You Stay One Step Ahead of Your Competition

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In the words of Stanford economist Paul Romer, “a recession is a terrible thing to waste.”

By any standard, the past year has proven itself to be challenging, both personally and professionally. But it’s important to remember that out of challenge comes opportunity. In fact, just recently, a bank vice president in Washington, D.C., who specializes in small business banking solutions, commented that the number of customers who left or lost jobs and are now “finding their passion” through entrepreneurship and small business is significantly on the rise.

Whether you already are a business owner or leader, or whether the spirit of entrepreneurship is calling to you, there is no time like the present to take a strategic look at your company’s business goals and, specifically, your employment and hiring needs. As the marketplace begins picking up steam again, as it surely will, you will want to give your hiring strategy a tune-up to avoid potential pitfalls and position your company for maximum success to build your bench strength before your competitors do.

1) Above all, don’t assume that your key employees are staying put just because of the current state of the economy.

One Friday afternoon a key employee may walk into your office, unexpectedly, and hand you a resignation letter.

Think this could never happen to you? Guess again. If you could see my email box, filled on a daily basis with emails from employees and executives proactively seeking new job opportunities, you would probably be surprised. You may not think your employees are looking for a new job, but chances are good that they are — whether they are afraid their current job may be eliminated or are concerned about the economic health of the company; whether they are growing weary of carrying the burden of additional work in the wake of layoffs; or whether they are simply high performers seeking new professional challenges.

Do prepare proactively now, before that Friday afternoon resignation becomes a painful reality.

2) Start by reviewing your current staffing model and evaluating your employees’ job descriptions.

Are the job descriptions current? Do the descriptions reflect what each individual was hired to do? Take this opportunity to ask whether the right people are in the right positions and doing the right activities to move the company forward.

3) Build a pipeline for good talent, even if your company is intentionally not actively hiring right now.

Look at the market, and your business objectives with a fresh set of eyes. Your business may no longer be able to make due doing things the old way. This may be the time to break the mold, think creatively, and start innovating in your industry! Consider carefully the skills, education, and qualities you need in your workforce. Think about the people you know who are top-of-mind in these areas of expertise. Stay close to them, communicate with them, keep your eye on them. Then, when you are ready to hire again, you will already have built a rapport with potential job candidates, giving them a favorable impression of you and your company.

4) Consider your company’s process for hiring employees.

Who from your company is involved? How many people should be responsible for evaluating candidates, and what criteria will be used to evaluate candidates? Do you have a slate of quality interview questions that can draw out the skills, experience and value of your candidates? How long can your company go before a particular position must be filled? Conversely, how quickly are you prepared to act to ensure that a top candidate isn’t snatched up elsewhere? 

Considering these questions now can help you prevent a misstep in your process, which could ultimately derail your entire effort. If the process is too convoluted or takes too long to make decisions, you may lose your top candidate to frustration — or, quite possibly, to a more assertive competitor.

5) Don’t just stop once your candidate has accepted your job offer. Have a plan for effectively managing the “fragile time” between a candidate’s acceptance of employment and his or her actual start date.

Top talent wants to be treated with dignity and respect — and they want to be excited about joining your company. What protocols do you have in place to help new hires feel welcomed, valued and integrated, even before their first day on the job? The time between a candidate’s acceptance and arrival is a particularly vulnerable time. If he or she doesn’t feel welcomed and excited, they may seek a better offer elsewhere or accept a counteroffer from their current employer. Don’t let good talent slip away because of an oversight like this!

Taking the time now to consider some of these important questions and to develop a hiring strategy for your company will save you time and frustration later on, so that you can spend valuable resources proactively growing your business, rather than reactively scrambling to respond to emergencies.

About the Author

Marni Hockenberg, Principal of Hockenberg Search, LLC, is an experienced recruiter and business consultant focused on delivering results to small and medium-size companies.

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