by Paul Casey

A Step-by-Step Hiring Process You Can Plug and Play

Most leaders would say, if asked, that their people are their company’s best asset. And if that is true, then it starts with hiring the best people who will be representing you and the company every day to the community. Your team is the company. That makes personnel hiring your top priority. You cannot mess up this responsibility, for it takes a lot of time, energy, and money to remove someone from the team once they are hired and it becomes apparent they aren’t a fit for your culture.

Some leaders with self-confidence issues are hesitant to hire applicants who appear to have stronger strengths than the leader him/herself. The leader might be an “8” on a scale of 1-10, and because of wanting to be the smartest person in the room all the time, he/she may only hire “7’s”. Then those “7’s” can only produce “6’s” and lower—and you can see how it dilutes company excellence quickly. Hire “10’s” in that stack of resumes!

Once you have determined a position is needed, get with your core team and create an avatar of the ideal employee for each position for which you are hiring. Some characteristics may always be the same, while other skill-sets need to be customized for specific positions (e.g. an inventory specialist needs attention to detail; a security guard needs the courage to confront). You literally can make this avatar on butcher paper with markers on the outline of a person, with labels of preferred traits pointing to body parts that they metaphorically represent (e.g. From the ears, they listen without interrupting; from the mouth, they smile and reflect positive energy). Your hiring team—and I do recommend a team, not just one decision-maker, in order to get different perspectives and gut-reactions—can keep this avatar in their minds as they decide who to hire.

Then you are ready to post for positions. Prepare a simple hiring packet that includes:

  • A cover letter about the company and the process
  • Your company mission (why you exist), vision (where you are going), and values (what you stand for)—and any team values (how you treat each other)
  • The application
  • What you require them to provide to you in addition to the returned application (resume? Letters of recommendation?)

Acknowledge that you have received the applications as they come in. Even if it’s a template email that goes out, it at least shows them the courtesy of a reply. This is a lost courtesy in most organizations, and it leaves the applicant wondering if their application made it into the pile for consideration.  In this standard response, let them know the date range of decisions for interviewing.

Screening is next. Assemble your hiring team to sort through the resumes and rank them in piles by what you see on paper—which only tells a small portion of the story of that person: definitely-interview, maybe-interview, definitely-not-interview. It’s often good to have the team do it individually first, and then come back together and discuss everyone’s rankings so that no one is swayed right off the bat by someone’s forceful opinion on a candidate. Contact those who will not, for sure, get an interview so that they can move on to other opportunities (again, courtesy!).

The next step is to nail down your interview questions that you will ask each candidate. Only ask questions that mean something to your decision-making sorting of candidates; in other words, don’t waste a question on irrelevant information. Put in several role-playing scenario-based questions in addition to the more-standard questions. Scenarios like “What would you do if an angry customer…?” start getting past the pat-answers to reveal more about their people-skills and critical-thinking abilities.

Then it’s interview time! I found it best to go back-to-back for a day of interviewing so that you can compare apples to apples. Forty-five minutes is probably a minimum amount of time for a good interview to take place. Take a break in between candidates to have a quick discussion of strengths and weaknesses (and any red flags) on that person and write down comments that you would forget if waiting until all interviews are done.

What do you look for during the interview process? Here are some tangible and intangible suggestions from John Maxwell that could be on a “screening sheet” as it moves from resume to interviews:

  • Character: who they are
  • Relationships: who they know
  • Knowledge: what they know
  • Passion: how strongly they feel
  • Experience: where they’ve been
  • Past successes: what they’ve done
  • Ability: what they can do

While not every person aspires to be a leader in the company, nor has the innate abilities to take on those positions in the future, lean toward hiring applicants who demonstrate some leadership drive and an achiever propensity. Those kinds of people will jump into action when something needs to be done and they will seek to creatively solve, rather than just live with, problems when they arise.

Once the team makes their recommendation for the candidate of choice, I recommend going the extra mile with a second interview with the person, in a more informal location, so that you can watch them in another setting and so that you can go deeper with any questions you or they have, that might have come up in the original interview. If all doubts are pushed aside, make the offer. Be sure it’s a clear offer so that there are no surprises or fuzzy expectations: hourly rate, hours per week, typical schedule, basic benefits, start date. And, don’t forget to contact those who did get chosen, to let them know that you went with someone else—and if they would be considered for the future for open positions.

With this new team member, effective onboarding starts them out on the right foot. On day one, you must be one of the first people they meet, no matter how big your company gets. You only get one shot at making a first impression on the new hire, and make it count. Share a quick history of what got the company to here, and what values make it special, and how you are counting on that person to live those values every day. Then hand them off to a leader who will help them meet all the others on the leadership team and what their roles are. Someone must own the role of onboarder so that you can guarantee each new hire is getting the key information to start strong. From handbook highlighting to pay and benefits set-up to expectations of every employee to the non-negotiables of compliance—have a checklist that assures all information is covered and understood.

Some companies assign a “mentor” employee to shepherd this person through their first 30-60 days. Most companies have a probation period that gives some time and plenty of feedback as to whether this is a long-term fit or they should part ways amicably because it’s just not working out.

New employees have fresh eyes. Don’t lose the opportunity to pick their brains after a month or two so that they can give their observations on what doesn’t make sense or to ask why things are done they way they are. Many times these questions have led to breakthroughs in procedures that make everyone’s life easier—but that no one could see since they were “store-blind” to it. It’s hard to see the picture when you are in the frame.

I would encourage you to do one of the best retention strategies that I know: “stay-interviews” with all your employees once a year. It’s like an exit interview, but those questions are asked while the person is still employed. It’s too late to do anything about their concerns when they have a foot outside the door. Truly listen and dig for information that can make your company culture better.

Then, let them fly! Max DePree says, “The leader owes the follower productive conversations about the gifts that the follower brings to the organization and about the kinds of contributions the follower wishes to make—so that tasks can be designed that give that person hope.”

A quick word on promotions to more senior positions in your company. From DePree: “Senior leaders are the future. They not only affect strategic thinking and planning, but they also shape an organization’s vision and values and practices. Unconsciously and consciously, senior people leave their marks on an organization’s culture and legacy.” Choose wisely. When in doubt, don’t. Take the time to train them up.

Effective leaders know what the person he/she wants to hire looks like before hiring that person, and then follows a formal process for bringing that person onto the team and setting him/her up for successConsider joining one of my Mastermind groups if you want to have discussions about leadership of your team or business, in a safe, confidential setting where peers speak into your dilemmas to help you get to solutions. Contact me today for more information at


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