How to Make a Great Hire

how to hire

Although the hiring process was never easy, per se, it did have a common routine that employers generally followed: Post a job listing; sift through the candidates based on their résumés and cover letters; conduct interviews that dig further into experience, character and personality; hire the candidate that checks the most boxes. Not anymore. 

The changing nature of the business landscape in 2020 is inevitably shifting how people look at companies as potential employers. No longer are benefits packages the be-all-end-all. Employees want to see the humans behind the operation. What are the values? Are they lived out in the day-to-day operations? What is the culture? How are employees treated? What non-financial benefits are offered, such as flexible hours or remote work? Can I bring my dog to the office? Is there paternity leave? In fact, a 2017 survey by Hays, a global recruiting firm, found that 71 percent of employees are willing to earn less to find the right company culture. 

But hiring is expensive. Not only do many job postings cost money, but if you use a résumé-screening software or service, there’s costs with that. Subtract time for interviews, onboarding, training—you’re looking at several thousand dollars minimum. A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers pinpointed that number at $7,645 per new hire.

On both sides of the hiring equation, people don’t want to waste their time and money on the wrong fit. The onus lies with the company to create what IBM dubbed the “employee experience.” Start with these tips for creating an employee experience that leaves both sides excited for the future. 

1. Use the resources you already have.

Many companies overlook some of their most prized resources: current employees. Consider internal promotions before posting a job listing. Even then, cast a wider (and more personal) net by involving your team in the hiring process. Personal recommendations go a long way on both sides of the hiring fence. 

2. Look beyond the skill set.

Most skills can be taught. It’s the soft skills of business that should be identified during the interview process: things like perseverance, entrepreneurial spirit, communication, teamwork, growth mindset, and kindness. These are the qualities that can take your team and business to the next level. If you’re a startup that’s looking for go-getters, then a candidate focused on job titles and office perks might not be the right fit. 

3. Be candid.

We’ve all been in interviews that felt almost robotic. You learn about the role, answer the same inane scenario questions and list your experience with a polite smile plastered on your face. That doesn’t help anyone. Remember this, the hiring process is a two-way street. Be candid with your candidate if you hope to have an honest discussion that ends with both parties having a clear and full understanding of each other, the role, the company, and the resources available to help both succeed.

4. Remember your role.

After conducting the interview, ask yourself three questions: What is my understanding of this person’s strengths and weaknesses? Given that understanding, what would this person need in order to succeed? Who would do what to facilitate those needs?

This goes beyond the onboarding and training process. Consider how this person will fit among your team. Where do you see them growing, and how can you help them get there? Remember, you’re not hiring a position, you’re hiring to fill a hole within an interdependent team. 

5. Consider a trial period.

The traditional rules of employment are long gone. Many companies are adopting trial periods to give both parties a chance to make sure the vision matches reality. This trial period can be as small as a single project hired on a contractor basis or a 90-day contract with the option to renew for a traditional full-time contract.

6. Live up to your promises.

Don’t oversell. If you don’t believe in or don’t have the funds for a weekly in-office happy hour or bring-your-dog-to work policy, don’t sell it as a new benefit to get a top candidate. You’ll end up with a sour new hire and a marred reputation. The small things might not be deal breakers, but they can quickly lead to mistrust and resentment, which certainly doesn’t breed a sellable company culture. 

Pro tip: Regularly check Glassdoor to see what past employees and candidates think about you, the company and the hiring process. You might just find some valuable insight. 

Speaking of valuable insight, we asked three hiring pros about their experience. Take heed to what they have to say.

Michael Alexis

Founder and CEO of Team Building SF, San Francisco 

A common reason employers don’t hire inexperienced candidates is that these candidates don’t have job-relevant experience. Our team actually sees this lack of experience as an attractive quality, because the candidate can join us with a “blank slate,” and we can train them in our processes. Many of our highest-performing team members actually started with relatively little experience in the field we hired them for. Important: this hiring strategy does not mean we will hire anyone; instead, we focus on hiring for soft skills such as great communication, accountability and adherence to deadlines.

One of the most successful ways to attract and retain top candidates is to offer remote employment opportunities. Providing remote work gives these candidates the flexibility to commit to a full-time or part-time role with your organization in a way that matches their preferred lifestyle as well.

Finally, it’s hard to hire good people. Even the good people aren’t operating at 100 percent all the time. You may be getting them during a slump. Or maybe you aren’t providing the right management or leadership to help them reach their full potential.

To have your best chance at hiring top candidates, consider test projects. You can hire someone as a contractor for 30 to 90 days, and see how they perform on those projects and work with your team. At the end of the period, decide whether you want to make a full-time offer.

Gil Gibori

Co-founder and CEO of The House, Chicago

Hire a personality, never a résumé. No one has training or an education in doing what we do. Every business operates differently. They reflect the personality and values of their founders. We began hiring driven people with a hunger to grow professionally, earn more, and connect with a mission that speaks to them. We intentionally selected people based entirely on personality—albeit without a formal personality test. Our most successful team members were hired based on the alignment of their character with our values and energy. Our youngest employees are proving to be our most valuable. Don’t get me wrong, wisdom at the top helps, but drive in the middle is essential.

Don’t discount millennials. They are an amazing generation. They have broken all of our old molds. In my experience, this generation works intensely, contributes creatively, and does not spend a minute killing time if they believe, if they are honored, and if they are shown a path to growth. We not only hire them, we emulate them.

Looking at the team members who have lasted the longest and contributed the most, two character traits are obvious—resilience and dedication. Startups are hard. Everyone wears multiple hats. Millennials demand work-life balance, but man do they work.

Gina Radke

CEO of Galley Support Innovations, Little Rock, Arkansas 

I remember sitting in interviews and people asking the oddest questions like, “What type of animal would you be?” That was my only experience and I thought that was a good interview. After a few mis-hires, I began to interview people as if we were going to get married.

I carry on more of a conversation-style interview for visible positions and a task-oriented interview for production positions. Both have questions regarding their favorite versus least-favorite type of person to work. Asking questions about others allows me to see past them selling themselves. You would be amazed at how quickly someone will let their guard down and say something like, “I can’t stand to work with idiots.” That answer lets me know they think too highly of themselves and will have issues working with others. My psychology degree comes in handy with interviewing applicants. The most oddball question I ask is, “How do you feel about cleaning toilets?” This question lets me know whether they are willing to help the entire team and company succeed. I can’t stand the phrase, “That’s not my job.”

Hire slow and fire fast. Just because you need someone doesn’t make the first person you interview the right person. That’s a hard lesson to learn when you are starting out. Remember, hiring someone is like a marriage, and firing them is like a divorce. One can be done quickly and cheap and the other takes a long time, causes emotional pain and can be costly.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by mentatdgt/


Cecilia Meis is a full-time writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas. Besides SUCCESS, her work has appeared in Time Out Dallas, Rewire, Healthline and others. Outside of work, she plays beach volleyball, attempts home cooking and is ardently working toward making her cat, Nola, Insta-famous.

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