The Way We Work
August 9, 2010 by Erica Benton

Whether you're hiring a remote contractor or an in-house employee, making the wrong hire can be costly in terms of time, training and money. Here are 5 fail-proof steps to set yourself up for hiring success.

1. Write, and commit to, a killer job description. Think through all of the responsibilities you want your new hire to take on, and try to draw a complete picture in your post. Is this a full-time position, or a part-time one? A strategic role, or driven by execution? How will you measure the success of this position? Will they be working closely with other team members? Does this role require technical ability, marketing acumen or outstanding number-crunching capability? Is familiarity with certain programs or languages needed?

If you are unsure which skills to ask for, you should check out other similar job listings to get a sense of what criteria are in demand for jobs like yours. Even if you decide to keep some details out of your published job listing, jot down a few notes about the ideal hire for this position - reviewing these before interviewing will help you separate the winners from the wannabes.

Not hiring right now, but hope to in the future? Keep an eye on postings within your field - it will give you a sense of which skills are in demand, what new positions are being developed in other companies, and how to cultivate your own killer job post when the time comes to hire your next rockstar.

2. There are no "maybes" in culling your candidate list. There are a lot of talented people out there - especially when you open yourself up to the possibilities of filling the position remotely. You know not every applicant will be worth your time to interview. So, how do you narrow the list?

Reread your published job description before reviewing applications - this will help you recall which skills are truly necessary to do the job, and which ones are simply "nice to have."  Anyone whose resume and cover letter doesn't highlight your must-have skills shouldn't make your "yes" interview list. This may seem a bit brutal, but it is necessary to ensure that the candidates you move along in the hiring process are truly the right fit for your position, and crucial for making the right hire the first time.

Don't have any applicants with all your must-haves? Have a friend familiar with the field read over your job post to help make sure you are clear about the requirements of the position - you can always edit it and invite a new applicant class to the interview table.

3. Follow your gut in the interview phase. You really do need to interview applicants to make sure you're getting the right person for the job. This is one step that will definitely save you time and money down the road, even if you're hiring for a part-time or temporary position. Whether you exchange emails, chat on Skype or hop on the phone for a conversation, taking the time to connect with your applicants can give you a better sense of the person you'll be working with. Take the opportunity to ask pointed questions about employment history, dive into detailed job requirements and talk about the applicant's availability for your position. Got a candidate who is a solid "10" on paper, but doesn't inspire confidence in the interview? Move on - at this stage, your instincts can be the best guide to your best hire.

handshake4. Test drive your top picks. Got a number of qualified applicants and can't decide? Bring a few of them on board for a brief test run. Even if you are hiring for a full-time, in-house position, a no-obligation short-term assignment can help both you and the candidate determine if you're both invested in making this business relationship a successful one.

Make sure you agree on the terms - temporary employment, discounted rate, discrete project, etc. - then give each candidate a similar assignment that will mimic the larger-scale activities of the actual position. To be clear here, you aren't asking for free work, or custom samples of their work (which any applicant would be right to turn down). You're making a few temporary hires to ensure your final choice will be the right one. Choose your test assignments carefully, set a timeline for reviewing the work, and let their efforts make the decision for you!

5. After the interview, review your own performance. Let's face it, if you've never hired for this type of position before, you're not likely to nail it the first time through. Take a few moments to walk yourself back through your hiring process.

Was the job post descriptive enough? Did you let a few "maybes" sneak onto the interview list? Reviewing the interview phase can be the most instructive - did you ask the right range of questions? Did topics and skill discussions come up that you hadn't anticipated in your job post?

My first time hiring for a technical project, I had a friend familiar with the type of work I needed done help me outline the job description, but it still needed to be adapted after I learned in my first round of interviews that I had overestimated the need for one development skill and completely neglected another - more necessary - one. Was it frustrating to rewrite the job description, review a new round of candidates, and restart the interview process? A little. But doing so kept me from making the wrong hire and overall saved me time and money - which is always worthwhile!

Got tricks that make your own hiring process successful? Horror stories of the "right" hire gone wrong? Let me know in the comments!

 

Erica Benton

Social Media Guru

Erica Benton joined oDesk in 2009, bringing with her nearly a decade of small business and freelance experience, and a love of all things social. Her passion for startups, technology and marketing was born during her tenure with Kulesa Faul Public Relations, while she learned the art of entrepreneurship firsthand through Equine Alternatives, a business she founded while earning her Bachelor of Science degree from… read more

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  • Erica

    Thanks for the positive feedback on this post!

    Sandeep, you are right about needing a process. I find that once I narrow down exactly what work I need done, I can fill the position with a minimum of time and effort. It's that upfront step of defining the role that makes the difference between a long, drawn out process and a quick and easy hire. I hadn't heard of your product before, I'll be sure to check it out.

    Roque, I'm glad you found the post helpful! Come back often - we try to regularly update our blog with useful information for both employers and contractors.

    Columbia, I hope the self-review process proves useful for you! Like I said, I found that the more I hired and reviewed myself, the better I got at nailing the right candidate the first time through!

  • http://pace-it.com Columbia Jones

    Hi Erica,

    Excellent article! You make a great point about focusing on your own performance as an interviewer. Very timely for me and I really appreciate the sage advice.

    Also good points about staying true to your intention for the hire.

  • http://gmoneathcx.com Roque

    Great article, nice directions. Very useful for beginners like me. Thanks a lot!

  • http://activeinterview.com Sandeep Ghael

    Great article Erica. One thing I believe people underestimate is the importance of good hiring in the success of a company. It's much better to wait until you find the right candidate, rather than hire someone prematurely simply to back fill a position. Its not surprising that companies like Google have an incredibly rigorous process of hiring. It's a competitive advantage to have the right people at your organization.

    The flip side of this obviously is the expense that is typically incurred when creating a rigorous hiring process like this, and many hiring managers simply feel like they don't have enough time commit to hiring. On that point, I have a couple of comments
    1) You definitely save time in the long run if you invest some time upfront in designing a structured process
    2) There are tool that can help you become more efficient and collaborative in hiring, especially with the screening process where most of the time is "wasted". We created ActiveInterview.com specifically to alleviate the pain of screening 100's of resumes and to make hiring a more collaborative process.

  • Sushil

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