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Ten strategies to improve your odds of a better hire

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Hiring is rarely something managers look forward to. It often feels like an arduous process that ends in a crapshoot. But there are strategies that improve your odds of hiring well.

Don’t stay inside the box. In my experience, employers do not cast a wide enough net when they recruit talent. Human resources professionals and recruitment firms have a low tolerance for risk and failure, so the choices they present to you are often run-of-the-mill candidates with clear track records that lead to this particular job. As a result, a lot of people who have something new and different to offer are overlooked. One way to avoid this is to ask your recruiter or HR consultant to put forward at least two candidates they really like but are less than a perfect fit for the posting.

Don’t be blinded by a candidate’s previous experience (or lack thereof). I know a number of people who have very impressive resumes they have leveraged into very impressive careers with very little tangible success to stand on. A candidate who has changed jobs every three years isn’t someone to worry about, but someone who changes companies every three years should make you pause and really try to find out why.

Don’t make assumptions about whether a candidate is interested in the job. Too often I hear people dismiss potentially excellent candidates because of assumptions about their motivation, financial expectations, desire to relocate, or willingness to take a career sidestep or backstep. Careers are increasingly less linear and people feel more freedom to follow their own path. Perhaps you wouldn’t be interested in this job if you were in their shoes, but they are not you.

Don’t overreach. If you somehow attract a star candidate when you know you’re not a star employer, there’s a pretty good chance that person will not stick with you for the longer term. Since these are the people whose phone is always ringing, there’s a pretty good chance one day soon they’re going to get a call with an offer that is too good to pass up.

Don’t truncate the process. Once you have a candidate you like, shop them around your organization. Take your time, date for a while. If they find the process too lengthy and burdensome, they’re not curious enough about whether this is the right opportunity for them.

Don’t forget to make a good impression. A friend recently flew to the East Coast for a day of interviews with one of the globe’s leading employers. She was put through 10 hours of meetings with not so much as a bottle of water, let alone a lunch or pee break. How you treat candidates during the courting phase tells them everything about what it’s like to be married to you.

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Don’t dismiss selection tools. Many excellent tools are designed to give you insight into a potential candidate (personality, work style, safety orientation, problem-solving, etc.). These tools do not replace a good series of interviews and reference checks, but they help you ensure a candidate is a good fit. At a minimum, they give you a preview into how you will describe this person three to six months from now. No one is perfect (not even you), but forewarned is forearmed.

Don’t ignore your gut. If you have that niggling feeling about a candidate, stop and listen carefully to it. Your instincts are there for a reason. At a minimum, get more data and ask someone less invested in the process to give you a second opinion.

Don’t tell even little white lies. Things you say or don’t say during the hiring process will come back to haunt you. No one expects things to be perfect. Being upfront about challenges and issues will help your candidate decide if this is the right opportunity for them, and allow them to come in prepared from day one.

Don’t forget to launch your candidate once you’ve caught them. Everyone deserves a bit of a honeymoon when they start a new job. You can set a new hire up for success by thoughtfully planning their early days on the job. Ensure they have the information and tools they need, facilitate introductions to key people, and help them navigate in their new environment.

None of these strategies make the process any easier, but they should help take the gamble out of finding – and keeping – the right candidate.

Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions. For interview requests, click here.


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Rebecca Schalm

Rebecca holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has assisted organizations for over 25 years in building talent capability that enables business strategy. Prior to founding Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., she was SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer of Finning International Inc. and spent over 10 years at RHR International LLP.

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