Best Practices


Hiring and onboarding are expensive propositions for all companies; consider the time and cost it takes to interview, hire and train, and the productivity lost while the new hire is coming up to speed. I have seen new hires take up to six months before they are delivering real value to the company, even for a competent and successful hire.
Obviously you have a lot of incentive to hire people who are going to be successful in your company. How can you improve your hiring success rate?
The first step is the proper crafting of the job posting. The posting has the dual purpose of attracting good candidates as well as narrowing down the field to those who are minimally qualified for the position. Recognize that when you are hiring from the outside you are hiring not only for the job but also for the company; think about how the new hire will fit into the company longer term. In the job posting I have found it useful to list both what the successful candidate will bring to the job and the company, as well as what the position can do for the candidate. For example:
What new skills will the candidate attain through the job?
What opportunities will the job offer, such as travel, training or use of new systems?
What leadership experiences can be obtained through the position?
What kinds of teams will the candidate be part of and how will that be helpful for the long term?
What jobs could the candidate likely aspire to do next?
This kind of posting will help position your company and job opening as attractive to candidates in the market. Of course you need to also define what you are looking for in the candidate including educational requirements, industry experience, management experience, and perhaps attitudes in line with your company culture. In my experience job postings are often too specific and detailed, and result in too few rather than too many candidates. So be sure to consider this as you write your posting.
The next key step is reviewing and screening the resumes that come in. Look for well-written and organized resumes showing not only job responsibilities but key accomplishments. Of course the screening process will be highly dependent on the type of job so it is difficult to give tips on how to best do this. However, once you get to the interview stage there are many best practices to consider.
First I recommend having a team to support the hiring leader. Multiple inputs are usually better and will offer different perspectives on the candidate. You might want to consider having people on the team from other departments with whom the candidate will interact on the job, for example. Consider having some diversity on your hiring team (geographic, gender, personality, ethnic, etc.) as this will help to ensure that the candidate is going to do well in the diverse customer or business environment that exists.
In the interview process, it is fruitful to use the STAR technique, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Results. In response to good, open-ended interviewing questions, the candidates should be able to outline a challenging situation that they encountered in the past, the task or goal that they set, the action they took, and the specific result or outcome they achieved.
In a one-hour interview, an interviewee should be able to discuss two to four STAR examples. The interviewer should be sure to ask questions that will elicit this. Here are examples of questions that should elicit the STAR type of response:
Can you describe a situation wherein you improved company profitability significantly? What did you do, and how did it turn out?
Was there a time in your job history where you led a team to an outcome you would not have thought possible?
Did you ever implement a new system or process that was successful?
I have also found it illuminating to ask candidates about a failure from their past job history. (I am wary of those who say they have never failed at anything!) Listen closely to the type of failure the candidate discusses, and especially to how he or she reacted to the situation and learned for the future. I once hired someone largely on the strength of his answer to such a question, and he turned out be a great leader; as honest and straightforward as he was in his response to this question on failure.
Give the interviewee a small project to do and have her deliver a 30-minute presentation to the hiring team. This sort of exercise takes time and effort to set up, but can offer the hiring team insight into the candidates creativity, thinking process, writing skills and communications. How the candidate answers questions on the presentation can also bring insights. Is the person defensive? Is he poised and able to think on his feet?
Once the person has been selected and hired, you face the most important determinant of the new hires future success in your firm: the onboarding process. This is where you help them learn about the company culture and how to fit into it. I think it is the rare person who can succeed in an environment in which you let them sink or swim, although I have seen this approach used.
My routine is to set up the new hire with a mentor and/or a formal buddy who will help him or her with the plethora of questions big and small that emerge over the first year. Be sure to introduce the new hire to your management team. Create an environment in which the newcomer will feel welcome, including a furnished office, company overview information, organization charts, contact lists, access to processes and procedures and similar resources.
I hope these tips will help you bring in the right people for your company and enhance your success.
Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. E-mail her at or phone (908) 400-5210.

Related Topics

Business    HR    Recruitment & Retention