People Power: DIY Recruiting

Nov. 5, 2014
10 tips to making the best possible hire — from posting the job, to the interview and beyond

With the wide variety of electronic job boards, job-related social media sites and online behavioral assessment tools available to businesses today, in-house recruiting has never been easier. Gone are the days when an employer’s only good option was to use expensive professional recruiters in order to access their proprietary lists of candidates. Now, qualified candidates are a keystroke away.

That said, simply having access to these resources does not mean that businesses are improving their success in finding A-level candidates. What they are realizing is that sourcing top talent is still quite labor-intensive, and making the wrong hire is still far too easy to do.

While there is no magic bullet to make in-house recruiting easy or to guarantee you will not hire the wrong person, there are some tangible steps you can take to vastly improve your chances of success.

10 Steps to Finding the Best Possible Hire

Without a doubt, the tools available to the in-house recruiter are great, but alone they will not ensure that you will avoid a bad hire. To improve your odds of hiring the top talent you seek, use the following recruiting tips — you will be glad you did!

1. Be clear about the position. Often, hiring managers go to market for talent without truly understanding what the position requires and, importantly, precisely what qualities or skills they need to be looking for in a candidate. Before you post a position, take the time up front to understand the position you are recruiting for, including all responsibilities and tasks associated with the job. We encourage our clients to write these down, combine them into Key Accountabilities and then rank them in order of importance. After doing that, we encourage companies to consider the amount of time each “key accountability” requires each week. More often than not, our clients discover that the top task they are focusing on in their hiring efforts is not the one that takes the most time. If you are clearer about the requirements of the position, you will have a much better chance of attracting candidates who are best suited for the job.

2. Research your job board options. There are dozens and dozens of job boards out there. Take some time to research the best place to post your position. Sure, you can post on or, but those are expensive options that reach a very broad audience. Before you spend that money, consider a more targeted approach before you hit the big boards. Ask colleagues in the industry where they have found success. For sales and professional positions, LinkedIn can be a goldmine, and often there are industry-specific LinkedIn groups that have free job boards. For trades and entry level positions, Craigslist and the classified sections of local newspapers (and their websites) can be effective — and they can often be bundled with the larger Monster or CareerBulider for a reduced fee. We also like and Bottom line: research all of your job board options and be strategic about where you post your position.

3. Consider outsourcing the legwork. Many of our clients have a pretty good idea of where to find potential candidates, but they are just not comfortable calling into a competitor or reaching out to a potential candidate directly. If you have an idea of where you might source your talent but are uncomfortable cold-calling them yourself, consider hiring someone — a friend, an intern, a consultant — to make those calls for you. All your headhunter-for-hire will require is a phone book, a clear understanding of what you are looking for and a professional manner.

Quick Tip: LinkedIn, Indeed and ZipRecruiter have great resume-searching capabilities that are both affordable and make headhunting a breeze.

4. Structure your screening. We look at every contact with a candidate as part of the screening process — including how responsive the candidate was in following up and how well-written his or her email was. If it takes a long time for your candidate to respond or if their cover letter mail is poorly written, take that into consideration when screening your candidate. And remember, when pursuing a job prospect, they should be bringing their A-game to every step of the interview process. If they underwhelm you, move on.

5. Test, test, test! From the National Football League to Xerox, organizations of every size and across industries are adding behavioral testing as part of their recruitment process. The reason behind this surge in testing is simple: more often than not, employees fail not because of aptitude but because of attitude. That’s why, as experienced recruiters, we strongly recommend using behavioral testing with candidates; in fact, we recommend that behavioral testing account for one-third of your hiring decision, with the other two-thirds being the candidate’s experience and his or her interview performance, respectively. In terms of which assessments to use, there are many good ones out there. In making your selection, look for tests that are both comprehensive (assessing more than just one aspect of a candidate’s personality) and considered ”valid for selection” according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission standards.

6. Use behavioral interview questions. When you find yourself face-to-face with your candidate, how you ask your questions can be as impactful as what you ask. We recommend you ask behavioral questions because the best predictor of how the candidate will perform in the future is how they have performed in the past. Behavioral interview questions focus on what the candidate has done in previous jobs or situations. Start your questions with something like: “tell me about a time when…” or “give me an example of how you…” Doing so will reveal much more about the candidate than questions that can be answered with simple yes and no responses.

7. Use group interviews. Structuring your interview can also have a big impact on how successful your screening will be. We are strong proponents of group interviews that include at least two interviewers in each session. By using group interviews, everyone is able to listen, observe, think and talk. And unlike a typical interview process where the candidate is shuttled from one office to another for one-on-one interviews, group sessions give everyone on the interview team the opportunity to observe the same response and reaction, giving you the benefit of witnessing the same phenomena and being able to more effectively compare notes later on.

8. Structure your questions in advance. When using a group interview format, it is best to decide in advance who will ask what questions. If one person is going to ask operational questions, someone else can ask about customer service and yet another can focus on sales. Once you decide on the areas of inquiry, ask your questions in a behavioral interview style — as in tip No. 6 — and try to ask the same question of every candidate so that you can compare apples to apples.

9. Avoid bias. Bias occurs whenever you allow your prejudices — both positive and/or negative — to affect your evaluation of a candidate. When evaluating your candidates, it is natural to pick someone because they were likeable or shared many things in common with you. It is also natural to disfavor a candidate because they do not share your personal preferences or remind you of someone who you dislike. These prejudices are natural, but they can be detrimental to finding a qualified candidate. We have seen far too many nice, likeable candidates fail because they did not have the necessary skills or behaviors to do the job. Our best advice is to stick to your job description and evaluate your candidates only on what is contained in the description

10. If you are not excited, don’t hire. If you do not like your pool of candidates, start over. I know — that’s not easy to say when you have spent considerable time, talent and treasure searching for a position you are desperate to fill. But too often we see hiring managers select the best candidate in a pool of unqualified candidates simply because they are overly anxious to get a warm body to fill a position. As tempting as it is, do not make that mistake. If you are not thrilled about your pool of candidates, start over — you will save yourself a lot of money and headaches in the long run.

Claudia St. John is President of Affinity HR Group and a Strategic Partner of the HRGroup, a provider of Human Resource support services, including hiring practices, compensation programs, talent development and more. For additional info, or to suggest a topic for a future article, email [email protected].

Editor’s Note: This feature marks the launch of a new recurring column in SD&I, “People Power” — which will be provided by HRGroup and its partners that provide Human Resource support services. Each month, the column will focus on Human Resource-related topics specific to security companies that will help our readers run more successful businesses. To suggest a future topic or learn more about HR Group, email [email protected].

About the Author

Claudia St. John, SPHR

Claudia St. John is President of Affinity HR Group and a Strategic Partner of the HRGroup, a provider of Human Resource support services, including hiring practices, compensation programs, talent development and more. For additional info, or to suggest a topic for a future article, email[email protected].