8 steps to recruiting exceptional people

by: October 8, 2013

There are three things in life that few of us are really good at but in which most of us don’t like to admit any weakness:  driving, interviewing, and making love.  They also share a common key to improvement: an acceptance that you could do better and are willing to learn. 

As a one-time racing driver I could definitely share a few tips on driving, but as this blog is about business I thought it most sensible to focus on interviewing, and leave the third topic to the experts…

So, with interviewing; or rather recruitment in general. There can probably be no other topic that’s more important to the success of your business.  The ability to attract, identify and recruit exceptionally talented people who will have a highly positive impact on your business and your enjoyment of work. 
Here are my eight simple steps you can take that will transform the way you recruit:
  1. Define the job.   Recruit in haste, repent in leisure.  It might seem boring, but work out what the job actually is, write it up into a job description, review it, and when you’re happy with it work out the qualifications, skills and experience that are essential and desirable in a person to do the job well.
  2. Where possible, go DIY.  Personally I prefer DIY recruitment wherever I can do it: in much the same way as I prefer to cook from scratch rather than eat pre-prepared meals.  It’s cheaper, it’s personal and I know it’s good quality; but of course it is much more time-consuming and for certain specialist recruits agencies might be more appropriate.
  3. Decide how you’re going to lure the BEST candidates.  Look at recruitment ads, check what they’re offering, make sure your role and package is competitive enough to be able to recruit the best people (unless you really want average people in your business?).  Place your ad in similar places, not forgetting LinkedIn and other social media sources.
  4. Pre-select candidates against your defined criteria.  If you find good candidates that don’t fit the criteria, then revisit your criteria!
  5. Pre-define your interview DO’s and DON’Ts.  Forget panel interviews; they’re next to useless compared to one to one’s. There are three core goals of a recruitment interview: to allow you to assess the candidate against your criteria; to allow the candidate to decide whether they would want to work in your business and in this job; and to leave candidates with a positive impression of your business whether or not they’re suitable for your job.  Run your interview with these goals in mind.  The interviewee should be doing most of the talking (c.80%) with your role being to ask appropriate questions and drawing out information about the candidate that will allow you to assess them against your criteria.  DON’T ask questions about the hypothetical (“what would you do if someone working for you wasn’t performing their job well”.  DO ask relevant questions about the past (“tell me about a situation you’ve been in when you’ve had to deal with a difficult customer”).  DO ask supplementary questions – this requires that you listen to the first answer then delve deeper e.g. “that’s interesting, tell me more about what you did”. DO summarise to check understanding.
  6. Be creative.  Don’t be afraid to ask good candidates to do more than attend an interview.  Design work related tasks around the person criteria to allow you to clearly identify the candidate’s skill sets.  For example if written communication skills are important, devise a written task; or if sales skills are important, create a scenario in which these skills can be evaluated. An interview alone is notoriously unreliable at predicting someone’s future job performance and, although a better interview technique is of greater value to the recruitment process, do not rely on interviews alone.
  7. Make the initial offer verbally.  I would always do this initially on the phone which will give you the opportunity to resolve any issues and also to rapidly offer the job to a reserve candidate if the first one turns you down. Follow up swiftly with confirmation in writing.
  8. Plan for your new recruit to start.  Think through what they need to be doing in the first few weeks in order to get up to speed as rapidly as possible, and arrange an induction programme ready for when they start.  And make sure there’s a desk, computer access etc all in place ahead of day one, and that everyone else is expecting them and ready to welcome them to the business (especially the receptionist!).

Happy hunting!


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About Author

Paul is Zonata's founder and MD. He has a true passion for business and is massively excited by the opportunities that Zonata provides for its clients and partners. He loves helping owner-managed businesses be exceptionally successful, and enjoys the phenomenal quality of the people who work with him.

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