How to Recruit, Interview and Select the Right Employees for Your Company
Great organizations are built through the efforts of great people. The cumulative attitudes and efforts of employees ultimately determine the culture, profitability, growth and sustainability of the business. In order for a business to hire and retain great people, there must be an effective recruitment and selection process in place.
A business must align objectives such as needs, goals and vision with employees that have the potential to embody and embrace these objectives. Specifically, the business must competently and thoroughly navigate the recruiting, interviewing and selection process.
Having effective methods and techniques in which to recruit, interview, and select employees is applicable to all working environments: large and small, corporate and nonprofit, union and nonunion, technical and nontechnical. These methods and systems also apply to both professional and nonprofessional sectors.
We will discuss specific methods and practices that businesses can undertake to ensure that the correct people are put into the correct roles. In doing so, both the employees and the business have the opportunity to succeed; improving employment efforts and levels of employee productivity.
How to recruit employees - The "ABC's of Successful Recruitment"
Many businesses continue to struggle with common recruitment challenges. These struggles are both of an internal and external nature and consist of controllable and uncontrollable variables. Difficulties such as an uncertain economic picture, inability to attract qualified candidates, and budgetary constraints are commonplace. Businesses must deal with these recruitment difficulties while also maintaining internal quality standards.
The initial phase of an effective recruitment process involves resume reviews. Resume reviews are conducted with the goal of eliminating those candidates that do not meet minimum requirements such as education and experience. Recruiters will often highlight the relevant information as it pertains to skillset, education and past accomplishments as this helps sort those candidates they may want to pursue further. After deciding on which candidates to pursue, the recruiting process then begins to focus on candidate requirements and their fit for the organization.
Numerous studies have shown five common attributes that people value in an employment relationship: organizational success and reputation, rewards and compensation, career advancement opportunities, work/life balance, and the quality of the people in the workplace. Organizations that successfully implement most or all of these attributes are shown to be more attractive to prospective employees.
The ABC's of Successful Recruitment
Dr. David DeCenzo and Dr. Stephen P. Robbins, in their textbook Human Resources Management, discuss the "ABC Guidelines of Successful Recruitment," in which they articulate twenty-six recruitment principles. The authors state that employers who apply as many of these principles as possible in each job opening will reap positive benefits most of the time.
Attractive - Promoting the organization in a way that makes it appealing to prospective workers.
Believable - Appealing to prospective workers in a believable, authentic way.
Centered - Focusing on the core competencies of a given job while clearly communicating and adhering to them in recruitment efforts.
Diligent - Being focused and hard-working in all recruitment efforts, from selecting and screening candidates to a final hiring decision.
Empathetic - Considering an applicant's needs, interests and goals as they apply to a specific opening.
Flexible - Willingness to direct and diversify recruiting sources to find the right applicant.
Greedy- - Belief that the organization is entitled to be staffed with the best possible workforce.
Hip - Staying informed in regards to the latest trends and techniques used in the recruitment arena.
Informative- - Preparedness in responding to applicants requests for information about the position, while having the best possible information on-hand.
Judicious - Using rational, objective thinking when placing someone in a role. Also, avoiding staffing decisions based on emotions or urgency to fill a position.
Knowledgeable - Being thoroughly familiar with parameters of the position - including duties, responsibilities, compensation, and relationship to other departments within the organization.
Linear - Connecting the applicant with requirements of the job and expectations of the company.
More - Continuing to build upon the business' recruitment practices, methods and techniques. Occasionally reviewing these practices while inquiring what else can be done to improve them.
Notorious - Building a brand-name organization that people have good things to say about and, in effect, making it an employer of choice.
Open-Minded - Identifying the key elements of each position that makes it attractive to job-seekers while emphasizing them.
Persistent - Remaining steadfast in recruitment efforts until the best applicant for each job is identified.
Quick- - Acting with a sense of urgency when a job opening arises and spreading the word.
Realistic - Maintaining a commonsense approach when seeking out the best candidate, in essence, not striving for "perfect" candidate, but one that will fill the role competently.
Sensible - Determining the best sourcing efforts for the opening based on certain factors, such as job requirements and the current job market.
Tireless - Resisting the temptation to relax in recruitment efforts and in finding the best candidates.
Unified - Ensuring that the people involved in filling a job opening understand, agree with, and work toward the same goals.
Vocal - Clearly articulating sought-after qualities and skills with individuals involved in filling a job opening.
Watchful - Being aware of the effectiveness, or lack thereof, in recruitment sources being used and the results that are produced from them.
Xentigious - Staying within the legal guidelines and regulations when filling a job opening.
Youthful - Thinking of what is important to younger workers, specifically as it relates to hours, working conditions, perks, and work/life balance.
Zealous - Having recruiters that are enthusiastic and excited about working for the organization will more strongly instill interest in applicants.
How to Interview Employees
If an organization wants to fit the right candidates into open positions, there must have a comprehensive interview process. This process includes an initial screening, phone interview (that can also be a method of screening), and subsequent interview(s) to determine the candidate's likelihood of success.
Phone Interviews and/or Phone Screening
The screening interview (sometimes a phone screen) is the first opportunity to determine a candidate's fit while weeding-out individuals who do not meet the requirements of the position. This quick interview also gives the applicant an opportunity to determine whether or not they are truly interested in pursuing the job.
Typical subjects that are covered during the screening interview include:
- Questions about job history.
- Questions about salary requirements.
- Questions about skillsets and how they would apply to the position.
- Inquiries into job responsibilities, outcomes and successes in previous roles.
- Inquiries into any resume gaps and the reasons behind these gaps.
- Questions about personality and character (i.e. trustworthiness, accountability, work habits).
- Validation of education, experience, references and other resume information.
As mentioned, phone interviews can be used for both the screening process and as a method of interviewing a candidate. Phone interviews or screenings are helpful, as they can be used in determining how effective a candidate is at communicating, as well as determining their fit and interest in the role.
Phone interviews often start out with a friendly introduction as well as confirmation of a candidate's interest in the position. Other information shared during the initial phase includes a summary of the job and its responsibilities.
After the introductory part of the interview or screening, sought-after information such as basic qualifications and fit is next. Questions used to determine qualifications and fit include:
- What experiences do you bring that will help you in this performing role?
- Why did you apply for this position?
- What skills do you have that make you a great fit for this position?
The interview or screening then turns to salary expectations to determine if it aligns with what the job is offering. A couple quick questions to determine this include:
- What is your desired salary range?
- What are you earning in your current role?
- What did you earn in your previous role? (If not currently working)
Asking questions that remain from the candidate's resume review, such as clarification of gaps in work history and other relevant resume information, are often inquired about at this stage. These responses should be candid and relatively short in nature. Affirming the information within their resumes is also a common practice.
Other information to be given or obtained from the initial phone interview or screening includes: how much notice they need to give their current employer, any inquiries made (credit checks, background checks, etc.) that are necessary before moving onto the next phase and when the candidate should expect to hear back.
After the phone interview or screening, successful candidates are often scheduled for an in-person interview.
In-person Interview Types
In-person interviews take multiple forms; the most common are the:
- Unstructured Interview
- Situational Interview
- Structured Behavioral Interview
- Traditional In-Person Format
- Phone Interview
Unstructured interviews involve asking different questions of different applicants, at the discretion of the interviewer. Less common than other interview types, unstructured interviews tend to have less predictive value (interview quality in relation to job performance), than situational and behavior interviews. Further, the reliability of unstructured interviews is often a concern since there is no standardization, leading to a varied range of potential results.
Situational interviews consist of describing a job-related scenario or situation to the candidate and then asking what he/she would do under the circumstances. The responses are often scored using a guide constructed by job experts. While results are not as variable as unstructured interviews, situational interviews are not the most accurate methodology in predicting job performance.
Structured behavioral interviews consist of asking standardized questions regarding how the candidate handled past situations similar to circumstances they may encounter on the job. Probing questions for additional details are often used, and responses are scored using rating scales. The validity of structured interviews is significantly better than unstructured, but other methods may have better predictive value.
The traditional in-person format is when the candidate meets in-person with the recruiter and/or the hiring team. The phone interview is when candidates schedule an interview via a phone with the recruiter and/or hiring team. These two methods are the most commonly used in today's recruiting environment. Live video interviews are becoming more common, with video software such as Skype and GoToMeeting.
Conducting an In-person Interview
Conducting an interview is a basic task in the employee selection process and is not particularly difficult. However, to obtain quality information from candidates requires solid preparation. Approaching each interview in a systematic manner - using the same procedures and the same questions for each candidate - will provide some consistency in evaluating each candidate.
The Wall Street Journal featured a series titled "Conducting Employment Interviews - Hiring How To," a leadership guide consisting of stories and video interviews with CEOs of major companies. The leaders featured in this series gave the following advice:
- Prepare in advance . Develop an agenda, time structure and a set of questions and topics.
- Take notes during the interview . Note and highlight information that you want to follow-up on later.
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues . Observe how the candidate acts when they arrive. Try to determine whether or not they appear poised and confident or agitated and nervous.
- Use four categories of questions : creative-thinking, behavioral, fact-finding, and problem-solving.
Fact-finding questions are designed to ascertain the candidate's credentials, experience and skills. Examples of fact-finding questions include:
- How large was the previous group you worked with?
- What Microsoft software do you know?
- How many people did you lead at your last job?
Behavioral questions seek feedback on how an employee acts in certain situations. Examples of behavioral questions include:
- How do you stay focused with distractions that occur in the workplace?
- How do you handle a crisis? What would you define as a crisis?
- Describe a time when you felt leadership was lacking at a previous employer. How did you respond?
Creative thinking questions are broader in scope, asking a candidate to demonstrate knowledge in a particular area of your business. Examples are:
- Who do you consider to be the leading company in our industry right now? Why?
- What problem areas do you foresee in our industry, if any?
- What do you think profitable companies in our industry are doing right?
Problem-solving questions involve requiring a candidate to solve a hypothetical problem. These often involve technical, skill-oriented, and process questions. Examples are:
- A customer becomes verbally abusive towards you, threatening physical harm. What do you do?
- There is a potential delay in the launching of Product X with serious financial implications for the business. What actions would you take to improve the odds of the product launching successfully?
- You were just put in charge of a retail location that is experiencing poor productivity from its associates. What are the first actions you would take upon arriving?
After gathering a pool of qualified applicants and interviewing potential employees, the last step is to select the candidate and make an offer. Usually, there are one or two candidates that clearly differentiate themselves as most qualified for the position.
Before a final offer is made, there are a few areas that employers may look into before a final hiring decision is made. These areas may include a credit check, criminal background check, drug and alcohol screening, employment verification, education verification, motor vehicle record check, and reference checks.
Credit checks are often performed when a prospective employee has financial job responsibilities, access to sensitive consumer information, or both. Consumer credit reports from one or more of the three major credit bureaus is the most common type of credit check.
Criminal background checks are performed primarily to ensure that the individual is not a convicted felon and to protect the general public in daily performance of their duties. These types of checks are the most intensive (often involving an FBI background check) when the job requires contact with children or for a position within the government.
Drug and alcohol screens are designed to detect the presence of various drugs and alcohol within the human body. Drug screenings are the most common for pre-employment checks.
Employment verification is very common and is mainly used to validate past employment details indicated on the candidate's resume. The information may include job title, pay rate, dates of employment, and job responsibilities.
Education verification is used to verify the certification, training or educational claims of an applicant. This information can include degree verification and enrollment within an institution of higher education.
Motor vehicle record checks are most often used when the position requires the use of a company vehicle or if frequent driving is required for business. Employers need to verify that the candidate has a valid driver's license for liability and safety purposes.
Reference checks are another common recruiting practice and are used to gather both hard data and qualitative data on a candidate. Examples of hard data include a candidate's track record, skills, and competencies. Qualitative data includes gathering tangible examples of a candidate's approach to work, communication style, strengths and weaknesses, and track record. 
In addition to pre-employment checks and tests, a good measurement is comparing each of the final candidates on the "7 C's"; a model devised by Alan Hall, entrepreneur and contributor to Forbes magazine: competency, capability, compatibility, commitment, character, culture, and compensation.
- Competency: Which of the candidates amply possess all of the necessary skills, experiences and education to succeed in the job?
- Capability: Which of the candidates will complete all tasks required while seeking out opportunities for more growth and responsibility?
- Compatibility: How well will the each candidate get alone with colleagues, clients, potential partners, etc.?
- Commitment: Which of the candidates appears most serious about working here long term?
- Character: Which of the candidates possess values that best align with the organizations? How well of a team player do they appear to be?
- Culture: Which of the candidates possess more of a cultural fit for the organization?
- Compensation: Are the candidates satisfied with the compensation and benefits package offered? Were there any disagreements or objections stated by the candidates that could cause a problem?
The utilization of background checks for ensuring the correct hire is essential. While the vast majority of people are honest and well-intentioned, it is never a bad idea to ensure that the candidate possesses both the qualifications and the character to perform well in the role.
DeCenzo, David A., & Robbins, Stephen B. (2013). Fundamentals of Human Resource Management (11th ed.). Haboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Furstperson. (April, 2014). Using an Interview to Select Frontline Job Candidates. Chicago, IL.
The Bridgespan Group. The Reference Check: More Than a Formality [pdf]. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from
The Wall Street Journal. Conducting Employment Interviews - Hiring How To. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from http://guides.wsj.com/management/recruiting-hiring-and-firing/how-to-conduct-interviews/
The Ohio State University. Selecting Employees for Small Businesses: Doing it Right the First Time. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from http://ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/1383.html
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