A simple guide to improve your hiring process.

Most companies suck at hiring. Follow these steps and you’ll be immensely better at it. You might even hire someone.

Who are we hiring and why?
Something has happened in your business to cause you to initiate the hiring process. Make sure to evaluate all aspects on how this hire will affect your business. Are you addressing increased workflow? Is this an investment to acquire more business? Are you filling a recent staff vacancy? Once you understand the dynamics of what is propelling the hire, you can begin to define the role. Start by writing a proper and realistic job description. Include others in your organization, if need be, to gain their insights into the requirements for the position. Whether you are hiring for a new role or reacting to a desirable candidate on the market, you have to map out their role clearly. Clear expectations rule the day.

Be realistic. What responsibilities will this new hire have? How will these affect others on your team? Make sure you think this through and prepare to potentially adjust the roles of others. What skills and experience must they have? Try to separate the “good to haves” from the “must haves”. Be clear on this, and be willing to give on skills and experience that are less important. Look for potential too. Companies often get stuck on laundry lists of skill and experience requirements, trying to find someone that has it all. Don’t discount the more junior candidates or those who match the majority of your requirements, but not all of them. Sometimes you need them all, sometimes you don’t. Don’t be close minded.

It’s not all about the role. Laundry list job descriptions are not only boring to read, they only cover one aspect of what it’s like to work for your organization. Take time to explain what it’s like to work for you, or tell a story that illustrates your culture. Make the laundry list just part of the overall story you are telling. What is most compelling about the opportunity with your company?

Recruit. How are you going to get the message out about this opening? Examining why you have an opening may help answer this question.

Some Pros and Cons about common avenues for recruiting candidates:

Job postings

Pros: A great way to get the word out to a large audience. There are also relatively affordable options for this. Job search website aggregators expose your listing to an even larger audience and geographical reach.

Cons: You may only be reaching those actively looking for new opportunities, or candidates who are not currently working. You miss what is called the “passive candidate”. Your posting needs to be compelling and well-written to attract higher level candidates. Receiving a large response from unqualified candidates can be taxing on your process.


Pros: Your network is often comprised of people within the same industry as yours, so you may be able to connect to qualified candidates. Your network will usually only refer people that they feel strongly about themselves.

Cons: It’s not your network’s job to refer people to you. Your contacts may not know anyone qualified who’s also available. It takes a lot of social engineering to get the word out. Your network is often busy.

Social Media

Pros: Promotes openings to a wide and active audience, creating opportunity for a great candidate, or someone who knows one, to see your post.

Cons: Social posts may not have a long shelf life, and people have short attention spans. Followers of your social media feeds may be friends or fans of your company, but not necessarily job seekers. Reach is only as large as your social network and posts can get lost in all the noise.

Recruiting firms

Pros: Recruiting firms, by their nature, are constantly recruiting talent. They can also tap into their large networks to search on your behalf. Firms save you the time of running your own search and also act as an unbiased champion for your company and the role. If they’re doing their jobs correctly, they’ll only introduce you to the best possible candidates.

Cons: You pay fees if they locate someone that you eventually hire. Sometimes you can find the same candidates on your own.

Proactive Searching

Pros: You control the search and pursue candidates that fit your requirements.

Cons: Takes a lot of time and effort. Your employees are not trained on how to be an effective recruiter. Someone might look good on paper (or LinkedIn) but you can’t accurately determine their viability until you meet them.

Once you’ve established a strategy and gotten the word out, the candidates will come pouring in. Hopefully.

You gotta have a process

Make sure they all experience a consistent, centralized intake and communication process. Every successful search needs not only a system in place for capturing candidates, but someone to own the process as well. Keep in mind, this process leaves candidates with a lasting impression of your brand, an impression that’s every bit as important as your overall brand marketing. They are intertwined–your recruitment experience can set the stage for your company’s overall performance.

Whoever you put in charge of this process needs to capture each submitted resume, including candidates who come to the company proactively. Empower your managers to do their own recruiting, but make sure these efforts fit within your established process, all under the careful management of the process owner.

Categorize each resume you receive as a Yes, No, Maybe, or variations therein.

Yes – These candidates will be brought in for interviews. Under manager’s direction, either schedule these appointments for them, or allow the manager to schedule their own.

No – Inform these candidates via e-mail that they have not been selected for the role, making sure to thank them for their interest. One way to avoid this step is to program a standard reply along the lines of: “Thank you for your interest. We will review your background and qualifications and be in touch if we would like to meet with you. If you don’t hear back from us, we’ll keep your resume on file and review it again as new opportunities become available.”

It is the direct manager’s responsibility to personally call each candidate who is interviewed but not hired. It is the process owner’s job to keep track of this and make sure it occurs. The manager need not share details as to why the candidate was not selected, to do so opens up the opportunity for litigation.

Depending on the potential fit with the candidate, they might be designated a Maybe, and you can indicate a desire to keep in touch. Send these potential future candidates to the process owner for safe keeping.

Anytime your company advertise an employment opportunity and collect resumes, you must keep them on file for a period of one year. It is a good idea to keep the “maybes” on file categorized by role. Doing so may save you valuable time in the future.

When a hire is made, close the loop–make sure everyone has been communicated with and the process is complete.

Then the direct manager and your HR Manager (if you have one) take over the process. The manager makes a verbal offer to the individual. HR will follow up with a written job offer. Once accepted, the process owner is re-engaged to assist with the on-boarding process. If the offer is not accepted, some form of the above process is re-engaged.

Once your ideal candidate becomes an employee, you shift into another gear. Now it really gets hard, but you’ve already set the table for success.

Recruiting Problem? You have a Marketing problem.

Employer branding, recruitment branding…whatever you call it, it is all about branding. How your company connects with potential employees matters. And, it’s usually overlooked.

I read a lot about the challenge companies have in attracting and hiring talent. I suspect that these firms are not doing an adequate job marketing themselves. In fact, I know they are not. Hiring is not all about you. It’s a two-way street. Why does someone want to work for you? What is your compelling story?

Erin Osterhaus wrote a story about this on Software Advice‘s HR blog, The New Talent Times. You can find it here:


Are women better employers than men?

I approach a lot of agency principals to discuss their approach to their company cultures, personnel and the benefits of sound talent management policies on their staffs and their businesses. I ask questions like, “does your staff have clear expectations in their roles and do you provide on –going performance management and development to help them achieve those goals? “Are their goals in alignment with your business goals?” A get a lot of blank stares, nods to let me know they realize I’ve stopped talking and a lot of “oh yeah, we do that” responses when in reality I know they don’t do that. Many of these responses, or similar ones, come from men.

But I started to notice something interesting when I brought up the same questions with female agency principals. A lot of them said that they do in fact have performance management systems, that they have someone on staff who guides and nurtures their staff and the culture of the agency, or they have consulted with someone like me in the past. They tell me they talk about this stuff internally all the time. That it’s a big part of their business.

Do women get the concept of culture and sound talent management driving business success better than men? Are women more in tune to the needs of their employees? Is their inherent nurturing behavior creating more nurturing places to work? As a guy I understand the typical responses of male business owners. “they’re lucky they get a paycheck.” “I pay them for their work, and pay them well. What more do they need?” Men aren’t always as interested in the “soft” sides of their business. Bad mistake.

Employees want to feel like they are taken care of. That they are appreciated. Women might naturally do this better than men. Of course, I’ve seen women who were terrible managers and those who don’t pay much attention to the happiness of their employees. And I’ve seen men who were great at people skills, and great at supporting and empowering employees to succeed through sound management and growth. Some of them are clients and they get it.

It just seems to me in my current travels that I’ve seen more agencies run by women that had a better handle on their people issues than agencies run by men. Sorry guys, you’ve got some work to do.

We own that post. Employers and social media.

Oh boy this is gonna be a good one! ‘Cause no one knows what they are doing!

Social media kind of just went splat on our windows and everyone is trying to figure out what to do with it. It gets really complicated when you mix employers with employees and a level of communication that makes things really transparent. And social media negatively or positively affects your personal brand and your company brand. And you have little control over certain aspects of social media. Uh oh.

So what to do?

Employers listen up. You need to establish social media guidelines as company policy. Think common sense. Don’t think George Orwell. I’ve seen some really heavy-handed policies and some really unrealistic expectations of your employees.

It’s OK to tell employees they cannot trash the company, clients, staff, etc. on social media. You have your business to protect and are allowed to do it. No divulging of trade secrets and any confidential information. Be respectful. Be judicious. Common sense stuff. Fine.

It’s not OK to dictate to them what they can post unless it has to do with your company. For example, an employee’s LinkedIn profile is their profile. Don’t tell them what to put on their profile about your company. You can provide suggestions, or marketing-speak to help them represent you well, but they own their profile. They don’t have to do what you say. It’s about them, not you. Unless of course, they are managing your Company’s page or a Group if you have one. Then they are acting as an agent of your firm on social media and you can have more control over that. Telling employees that they have to follow a company-crafted description of the company in their profile is heavy-handed and not fair.

Facebook. Don’t go there. Unless it’s your company’s FB page. Do not friend your employees. Or if you do, don’t follow their feeds. This may sound harsh, but think about it. You see a post from an employee to another employee that seems inappropriate. Maybe harassment. What do you do? You can’t ignore it. You have to address it as if it happened in the office right in front of you. It is best to not expose yourself to this stuff in the first place. Not acting could mean that you condone the behavior.

Is the mobile device that your employee uses for personal social media something you provided them in their job? If so, you own the messages sent through that device. Their work computer is an obvious but people don’t always think of their mobile devices as company property. Twitter posts and Facebook posts done through those devices are under stricter rules than messages sent on personal computers. Hmmm, that poses some issues for both the employer and the….

Employee. Next up: How employees should manage their social media profiles and posts as it relates to their professional brand and their job.

A Positive Culture?

So, I read a blog post yesterday that was trying to define what makes a positive company culture. Unfortunately, like most, it missed the mark in a laughable way.

Basically, a good culture was defined as having the following aspects: A boss that is involved in the business, room for advancement, a flexible work schedule and working for a socially responsible company. I guess if you have these things, you should be happy at work content that you work in a firm with a great culture. Um, no.

While these are all positive attributes for a company to have, they could have no bearing on whether the culture is any good. Culture encompasses everything. Everything from what clothes you can wear to work, how you need to groom, to whether dishes get left in the sink, or whether people naturally pitch in to clean if needed.

But there is one key element that has to be in place before any company can even begin to think that they have a healthy culture. It’s what we look for in every potential client. Can they build or maintain a People Positive Culture?

What it is is this: Does the owner/principal/CEO-type care at all about their employees? Really care? Do they value what they provide? Or is having employees just a means to an end? The end being possibly selling the company. The financial windfall for the founders? That’s the dynamic that needs to be explored and answered before you ask whether you work in a People Positive Culture.

Without this, no amount of ping pong games, potato chips, happy hours, dog days, or whatever other perks your company provides, will fill the void and create a PPC. The culture may be fine, and you may be happy with your job, and that’s great. But you may not truly work for a company with a great culture. Could just be a mirage.

So, how might you determine whether you work for a company with a great culture? What happens when things go poorly? Are employees to blame whether deservedly or not? Does management take responsibility? How are exiting employees treated? Are they “shown the door” or are they celebrated for the contributions they made? Are people “laid off” only to have someone else replace them in a month or two? Is a former employee ever hired back? Would they ever want to come back?

Answers to some of these questions will help paint a picture on how your company really views its employees. And whether a People Positive Culture does or can exist.