The candidate looked good on paper, said all the right things during your interviews and received favorable references. So you offered them the job, they accepted and you celebrated. Exciting, right? But to your disappointment, when onboarding was over and your new hire started working, they simply couldn’t deliver on the potential they conveyed during the hiring process.
Finding the best fit for a job isn’t easy, especially in a time crunch. Of course, when it works like it’s supposed to, it’s a great feeling — but when it doesn’t, you must either live with the situation or correct it later down the road, and that’s not pleasant for anyone.
If you’ve ever experienced a situation like this, you’re probably wondering how you can prevent making unqualified hires in the future and improve your candidate quality when hiring. Here are some tips on how to find the right match — and avoid making hires you might later regret.
Create clear job criteria to assess candidate quality
You may come across a resume that looks perfect for the role. But looks aren’t everything, and you shouldn’t let a resume that seems awesome on the surface trick you into thinking this candidate is “the one.” So why not apply a little bit of rigor to the process? Create criteria checklists for reviewing resumes so you can verify candidate quality and make sure they have what you need.
To develop criteria checklists, compile the essential functions and qualifications of the the job you’re filling, and review them with others in the organization who manage and/or perform this role. Then create two checklists, and use these to analyze each resume you receive:
- Checklist 1: Minimum requirements, or “must-haves.” Minimum requirements help you screen candidates out. Depending on your organization, failing to check even one of the boxes on this list could disqualify a candidate. The checklist should include:
- Work experience
- Licenses and certifications
- Education level (lowest level you would consider for the role)
- Checklist 2: Preferred qualifications, or “nice-to-haves.” Preferred qualifications help you screen candidates in. The more criteria you have on this list, the broader the applicant pool — and the more of these criteria a candidate meets, the more likely they are to be a good match. Your checklist should be similar to the “must-haves” list but include preferred “nice-to-haves” instead.
Screen for red flags
No matter what job you’re trying to fill, you want to look for candidate resumes that present a neat, professional summary of the applicant. Make sure to review resumes and other application materials to look for problem areas that point to low candidate quality like being unprofessional, unqualified or potentially misrepresenting themselves. Look out for the following issues, as they may correspond to larger problems:
- Resumes not customized to what the posting asked for could show laziness or a lack of enthusiasm or that the candidate isn’t interested in this job, just “any job.”
- Unexplained employment gaps may be a red flag; be sure to ask candidates about this.
- Numerous, brief jobs may mean a loyalty or dependability issue.
- Illogical career moves with unrelated job titles can cause doubt about the applicant’s focus or drive.
- Lack of career progression may point to a lack of ambition or poor job fit.
Also keep an eye out for language and formatting in the resume itself! Repeated grammatical or spelling errors could reflect carelessness or inattentiveness.
However, be aware that some of these red flags may have completely reasonable justifications — just make sure to address these with the candidate so they can explain their side of the story.
Conduct an experiential interview
A traditional interview isn’t always the best way to assess candidate quality. In fact, some studies show that they’re less useful than other methods. To get a truer picture of whether an applicant is qualified for the job, design and conduct an experiential interview: one that tests the candidate by doing rather than talking.
For example, with a sales role, challenge the candidate to sell one of your company’s products or services to a colleague. Likewise, if it’s a public relations role, give the candidate a campaign fact sheet and have them write a sample media advisory or press release. You know what you’re hiring for, so identify some key skills you can test for.
If you need more evidence that a candidate can perform key aspects of the job, you could even conduct a “working interview” where you pay the candidate to work for a day or two. Seeing them in action during this longer experience will show whether they can perform the job and also introduce the candidate to team members, who can later share their insights with you. This will help you decide whether or not to extend an offer.
Unqualified candidates can be a drain on time and resources for everyone involved, and sooner or later, your organization will have to start the hiring process all over again. By creating clear job criteria, screening for red flags and conducting experiential interviews, you can make sure you’re hiring the best fit for the job the first time around.