You know you need to hire someone soon, but are you dreading the long, drawn-out process, the advertising, rounds of interviews, reference checks, and negotiations? You wish you could just skip to the end of it—when they’re already working for you and contributing something of value. 

 
Well, maybe it’s time to tweak your hiring process with a more methodical approach.
 
Advertise Smarter
 
If you want to find qualified candidates, start advertising where they might be looking (it’s probably not the newspaper). I own a number of career websites, so of course I advertise the position on relevant niche sites as well as my local job boards—wherever I think the best software designers might be hanging out.
 
But remember, you can discover talent anywhere—even waiting in line at the DMV. Your own employees can make good recommendations (especially if you give them an incentive), or you even can invite a former employee to apply. 
 
Use an Application to Help Top Candidates Emerge
 
(Disclosure: I run a software company, so I always use our applicant tracking software in the hiring process.) Job candidates complete an online application, which helps me quickly compare their skills and experience. Their answers automatically populate a candidate record in our software, saving me from data entry. At this stage, candidates also sign an information release for the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which helps speed up my background check process later if they’re still in the running.
 
Develop a System to Track Candidate Progress
 
Our software controls the mountain of paper—resumes, references, etc.—that usually goes along with hiring and helps us track and rank the top candidates. At a minimum, you can use a simple spreadsheet to help you keep applicants in line and stay organized.
 
Make Sure Candidates Know Whether They’re In or Out
 
I don’t want to lose out on a great candidate because I didn’t contact them—and they misinterpret my silence as a lack of interest on my part. I find that candidates appreciate knowing where they stand (which unfortunately, is less common with many employers these days).
 
Gather More Information with a Pre-Employment Questionnaire (PEQ)
 
Once I find a promising candidate, I send out the job description (so they can see what they’re getting into) and a pre-employment questionnaire. The PEQ helps me evaluate their attitude, work attributes, and fit for the position. I ask questions like: Rate your organizational skills. Describe your experience using this software. What was your college GPA? 
 
Plan Your Interviews in Advance
 
Once I get to this point, I’ve narrowed the field considerably to focus my attention on the best candidates. First I call them up unannounced to see how they handle an impromptu phone interview with their potential employer. If they pass that test, I schedule a formal interview with a list of prepared questions. If I’m satisfied, I make my offer.
 
Check Out Exactly Who You’re Hiring
 
This step can take the longest, but it’s vital to get it right. After the candidate has accepted my offer, I call their references, run a thorough background check, and order a drug screen. If all goes well, my new employee can start as soon as possible. Sometimes, however, the background check will turn up an honest error—or a big red flag. I follow the steps in the Fair Credit Reporting Act so they can rectify the situation if possible. But if I have to continue my search, I don’t have to start over—I already have a good pool of candidates to start with.
 

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