5 Surprising Keys to Making a High Impact Hire

tips to make a great hire

There are many reasons why you hire. Maybe you’re hiring to improve your workforce and increase productivity. Or maybe it’s because the business calls for it, with people leaving or the organization changing shape. The truth is, it all comes down to one thing: You hire because you have to.

You hope you hire well — bringing in great new talent who boost morale, inspire their coworkers and improve your ability to achieve objectives. But getting the right people into your company is more than searching for skills and behaviors or creating a checklist of criteria. It takes rethinking your hiring process, using a combination of emotional skills, technical skills, recruiting intelligence and foresight. 

Building the right framework involves some keys to hiring you may not have thought of. Iron these out before you get started, treating each as an exercise, and radically improve your ability to make truly high-impact hires:

Practice realism

These are challenging times for employers — the unemployment rate is at a record low, and the quit rate rose in July to 3.6 million. In other words, it’s likely you’re not hiring someone who is desperate to work for you, and as you bring them along the hiring journey, your competitors are, as well. 

And we’re spending a ton of money hiring: about $4,129 per hire, according to SHRM, and far more for upper level and managerial positions. With 7.2 million job openings in July of this year, if we hire for each one, that’s more than $29 billion spent. 

If you’re not a giant enterprise, your hiring spend is getting crushed by the behemoths — who are looking to hire your own people and your candidates in the same way you may be hoping to hire theirs. If you’re making the business case on your hiring spend or allocating your hiring budget, now is the time to push for more resources.

Do the metrics 

“Metrics” isn’t as hot a term as it once was. Perhaps we’re used to them, or we’re on to shinier concepts. Nonetheless, I suggest harnessing good, straightforward metrics to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of your own recruitment program.

The goal is to hold up an impartial mirror. Hopefully, by now, you have the data to do so — and it’s in a central location, so you can make good comparisons. If you want to make better hires, find out what you’re missing by asking the tough questions:

  • What’s the time to fill?
  • Which sections have the longest-running hires?
  • How were they recruited into the company? 
  • Where are your top performers/weakest performers coming from?  
  • Are applicants who report a positive hiring experience staying longer? 
  • If so, what did they note as positive?
  • What is exit-interview data telling you about who leaves and why?

Create a range of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to the quality of your hires to address the specifics of that job or department. Then look at the bigger picture and dissect your hiring program until you find the weak points. For example, stop spending energy on entry points that aren’t being used, or rethink your decision makers if they’re choosing people who don’t stick around.   

Commit to being clear

As you head toward actual recruiting and hiring, know what you need. If you don’t, it’s going to be an uphill battle. 

Seasoned recruiters I know ascribe to a “no surprises, no regrets” approach when it comes to job descriptions: If you’re hiring a manager who will be expected to conduct monthly team-building activities, say so. If you’re hiring an assistant engineer who will need to travel every other week, be clear. If you are looking for a problem solver who is comfortable working independently for long stints, say just that. 

Some companies make the mistake of keeping it vague, thinking they may attract more talent that way. But a wider pool is more resource-intensive and not necessarily better. Hires made despite vague criteria can cause friction between the wrong person in the job and the rest of the team, which fractures morale fast, or between a new hire’s expectations and the reality of their job, which can trigger disenchantment. And the worst-case scenario isn’t even that they leave: A disengaged employee can cost a company about 34% of  that person’s salary in terms of lost productivity. 

Address company culture

Today’s workforce wants to feel like part of the larger organization and its goals, which is part of company culture. For your next hiring wave, define what your culture is. Doing so will set you apart: Harvard Business Review finds CEOs are grappling with culture and talk about it more now than ever. But they may not know how to describe it.

Describing culture is a fundamental way to get candidates to envision themselves working for you — or to do you the favor of opting out if they can’t. But you’ll need to articulate that culture without simply resorting to the same tired words, such as “innovation,” that may not resonate. Gen Z’s digital-native perspective means they spot inauthenticity, accidental or not, as fast as they can swipe. 

Put the day-to-day nature of your workplace into full sentences. For example, instead of just listing “collaborative” and “growth,” say, “We support a culture of collaboration and encourage our employees to keep growing by taking advantage of ongoing training and learning offerings.” 

Don’t delegate your hiring away

Some small and midsize businesses may turn to outsourcing to enable them to focus resources on growing the company. But while this can help, you’ve got to do it right: don’t simply hand over the effort of hiring and then walk away. 

Opt for a hiring partner who works with you, maintains visibility and is flexible to adapt to changing needs. Your workplace is constantly evolving, and your partner should help you evolve your hiring program, as well. This includes maintaining compliance, working to reduce bias, increasing diversity and inclusion and overseeing consistency between internal and external materials.  

The 2019 Conference Board survey found that CEOs consider attracting and retaining talent their top internal concern. But for leaders of small and midsize organizations, that concern should not trigger a rush to post and hire. On the contrary, I’ve seen many jump in without first developing the perspective they need to succeed. 

Granted, a smaller organization may lack the people power or resources for that kind of big-picture approach. But when companies take the time to frame their hiring program within a larger strategy, they face far better prospects in the long run. Each step helps set the stage for better logistics, better responsiveness and more effective decisions on whom to hire and why. 

Now more than ever, you want to hire people who are willing to put in the time and commit to your organization. Frame your approach to hiring these candidates, and it will pay off.

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