The Complete 7 Step Guide to Improving Your Hiring Practices


Employers invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars hiring, training, and retaining competent employees. Sometimes, after all the investments, things go wrong and an employer discovers he or she has hired the wrong person for the job.

Here’s a look at how you can improve the hiring process to avoid the costly setbacks that inevitably come with letting an employee go and beginning the search for a more qualified candidate.

1. The Art of a Good Job Posting

When you have a position that needs to be filled, whether you’re looking to promote within or search outside the organization, creating a job posting is the first step in the process. What you include in the description of the position and the required candidate qualifications are critical. Too little information and you’ll wind up with a plethora of unwanted applications; too much and you’re going to lose out on qualified applicants.

The key to writing a successful posting is to be concise and accurate in the language you use. Unless you’re paying by the word, there’s no reason not to fully describe each important and mandatory element of the job, as well as the requirements and expectations of your ideal candidate. This should help increase your odds of getting the right candidates applying to the position. Sure, you’ll still end up with people who aren’t a good fit, but the good resumes will likely outweigh the bad.

As someone tasked with writing job postings, the biggest favor you can do yourself and your organization to write accurate, concise job postings designed to yield maximum positive results.

2. Conducting Effective Interviews

There are few things more harrowing for employers and employees than the interview process. Some job seekers embrace it and do well, while others struggle with it. The same holds true for those doing the hiring. Assuming your job posting yielded great results and you have few qualified candidates, the interview process is the most critical step in hiring a qualified individual.

Avoid unstructured interviews.
One of the worst things you can do as a hiring manager is to use an unstructured interview. If there is no structure to the interview, critical information can get left out and you both parties may end up with an inaccurate understanding of the other.

Unstructured interviews can also lead to premature decisions about the applicant. This is because these interviews end up being heavily biased in favor of what the interviewers deems important, which may not be important in the final analysis.

The validity and predictive power of structured interviews.
The consistency that comes with structured interviews, sometimes called patterned interviews, yields results that are measurable and meaningful. Being able to accurately score a host of candidates who’ve each participated in essentially the same interview translates directly to choosing the person who will most likely perform well, stay with the company long-term, and fit the company culture.

Structured interviews are comprised of questions written in advance of the interview, weighted for overall importance, and asked of all applicants.

Structured and patterned interviews are designed to mainly bring three things to the hiring process.

  • A consistent tone and approach to the interview process
  • The development of questions truly relevant to the job
  • The chance to refine each question to guard against unintended bias

Essential elements in the process.
What is and isn’t important to include in structured interviews will vary by organization, but there are a few methods that should be used across-the-board.

  • Don’t shy away from longer interviews. If your structured interviews take an hour each, then that’s how long they take. You should not be looking for any reason to shorten the interview process if everything in the interview is relevant.
  • Place less emphasis on the resume. Information provided on a resume should be seen for what it is: biased information. Except for gleaning the most basic information necessary, like their name and past employers, an applicant’s resume should just be used as a tool to decide who to interview, not carry weight in the hiring decision.
  • Use a panel of interviewers. While this might not be practical or even an option in some organizations, multiple interviewers (without overwhelming the applicant) can add significantly to the final decision. We’re all biased no matter how hard we try to be unbiased, but it becomes much harder for irrelevant bias to come into play when multiple interviewers assesses each applicant.
  • Don’t discuss applicants until all are interviewed. It’s natural for interviewers to want to discuss each applicant after their interview has concluded. This is a something that can introduce unstructured information into an otherwise highly structured process. Wait until each applicant has been interviewed and scored before having discussions with your interviewing colleagues.
  • Have applicants ask questions after the interview, instead of during. While it’s nearly impossible to restrict applicants to zero questions during the interview, this is the time for you to be gathering information about a prospective new hire, not for the applicant to learn more about the job or the company. Limit their questions by letting them know up front you’ll be glad to answer any questions they might have at the end of the interview instead of during.
  • Go in to the interview unbiased. The common theme in structured interviews is to remove unwanted bias and discriminatory questions. The more you know about a candidate heading into the interview, the more biases you can form. Avoid stalking candidates on social media or doing an extensive Google search on them.
  • Get applicants talking. One of the easiest ways to get them talking is with open-ended questions that stimulate dialogue. While your process can include questions that yield yes/no answers, these should be limited. Getting candidates to open up and talk is the best way to gauge their confidence and see how they present themselves.

3. The Importance of Training Interviewers

In order to achieve the best results possible in the interview stage is to ensure a consistent structure. Unless you’re the one who does all of the interviews, you will be relying on others within your organization to assist in this process.

Training interviewers to tackle each interview in a consistent manner is time well spent. The standard you set will be met, can be fine-tuned for even better results, and will remove vagueness from the process.

4. Administering Applicant Tests

Typing tests, foreign-language tests, a variety of math and money tests, general knowledge tests, IQ tests, and specialized tests are all common in some job sectors. The goal of these tests is to gauge competency.

Keep tests consistent.
If you’re going to administer these tests to potential candidates, ensure they are done exactly the same way each time and without bias. The only way these are truly useful is if each candidate can be scored against every other candidate on an apples-to-apples basis.

Ensure the relevancy of tests.
In order to avoid potential legal issues, prove that the tests administered during the interview process are accurate predictors of job performance. For example, while IQ tests have been shown to be a helpful tool to predict job performance, that does not mean you can administer IQ tests and simply select the top performing candidate.

In some cases, lower IQs may be better fits; candidates with higher IQs for simple jobs may get bored and leave, causing your office to experience a higher turnover rate. Before administering any tests, research their values and decide before any interviews what range of results you’ll accept from any applicant tests you administer. Make sure to document all of these steps in case you are ever asked about the process.

5. Legal Considerations

Using applicant tests can be a liability if you can’t prove they are consistent and relevant. To avoid legal trouble, take steps to ensure tests are always given the same way and be able to prove they provide relevant information for the job.

A structured interview process can play an important role in defending your company’s hiring practices against claims of discrimination or bias. Being able to show a consistent approach to the interview process, no matter the job being offered, can show a real commitment you’ve placed on creating an interview process that is fair, free from irrelevant bias, and applied across to every applicant.

6. How to Best Use References

How you address the issue of references can determine whether or not the information is useful or not. The first thing to know about references is no prospective employee will ever give you the name of a past employer or boss who will speak poorly of them. This means candidate-provided references are essentially worthless to your hiring process.

Here are a couple of different approaches that will yield much better results, turning this element of the hiring process into something useful to you and your organization.

You decide who the references will be.
One of the easiest ways to improve this process is for you to decide who’s relevant, based on the information you gathered during the structured interview process. Whether it’s a past employer, a college professor, former members of a college study group, or colleagues at work, make the decision about references yours and not the candidates.

By telling the applicant who you’d like to contact as a reference, you get a chance to read his or her body language as well as determine how quickly or willingly they supplied the contact information. This puts you in charge of the part of the hiring process even though the ultimate choice of reference will be decided by the candidate.

Prepare a list of questions to ask references.
This approach fits the overall theme of removing bias and discriminatory practices to your hiring process and ensures consistency. Prepared checklists and questions are also a great way to ensure no labor or employment laws are being broken as they can be approved by your company’s legal department or outside counsel if necessary.

Keep the questions short and relevant. Past employers and other references may not feel like they owe you too much of their time. The longer the questions, and the longer the expected answers, the less likely you are to get what you need.

7. Staying Ahead of the Game

The hiring process can always be refined and fine-tuned. If you’re intent on making your hiring process a point of pride within your organization, then it’s important to get the best results possible through your structured interview process.

Periodically assess your hiring process by evaluating the accuracy and relevancy of the job postings you write, the tests you administer, the structured interview questions you’ve written, and the overall approach to finding, hiring, and retaining top prospects.

Times change, and what’s relevant to employers changes. Your diligence in ensuring your hiring process is always in tip-top shape will result in hiring the best possible candidates, time and again.