The 5 Critical Stages of Hiring

The caliber of people who work for you will have a huge impact on the success of your company. The easiest way to create a terrific workforce is to hire terrific people in the first place. Although you may never seem to have the time to hire people carefully, I suggest you do whatever it takes, even if you skimp on time spent on your other pressing chores, to make sure you give hiring the effort it deserves.

The Pyramid Hiring Technique

I think an excellent way to visualize the flow of a good hiring model is to envision a pyramid. I call this “The Pyramid Hiring Technique.” 

Receiving Resumes

You should start the screening process with a good quantity of candidates. Ideally, you should have at least 12 applicants that meet the basic qualifications. Often, when conducting a thorough search for an important position, you may examine several hundred resumes. The more resumes you start your hiring process with, the better your chance of finding the right candidate for the job.

At this point, the hiring process may be thought of as the base of the pyramid because you have more potential candidates now than you will at any other time during the hiring process. And you want a strong base with many qualified candidates to support your pyramid and your hiring process.

Sorting the First Resumes

You should begin sorting through resumes immediately. Sort them from weakest potential to strongest. Your first pass at sorting resumes should be effective but shouldn’t take up an inordinate amount of your time. To proceed successfully through the pyramid hiring process, you need to spend minimal time eliminating weaker candidates and invest more time weighing the subtle differences between stronger candidates. Completing the first resume sort places you higher on the pyramid and closer to offering the position to a qualified candidate. If potential new hire are having trouble with their resumes, suggesting an online resume building tool is a great option. 

The Second Pass

Take a second look at your candidates from the first sort. Again, quickly eliminate the weak candidates and focus on developing a list of strong candidates. You are working your way up the hiring pyramid, narrowing the list of viable prospects.

The First Phone Interview

When you call the candidates from your second resume sort, conduct a brief phone interview to determine whether or not to arrange an in-person interview. Phone interviews are great time-savers. You don’t have to tell the candidate how long the phone interview will last. If you decide two minutes into the interview that the person isn’t suitable for the position, there isn’t any need to pretend an interest for some promised time. Go to the heart of the matter quickly.

Even if a salary range, for example, was clearly stated in any position posting, confirm with the candidate that the pay scale is acceptable to him or her. If it isn’t, say thank you and good-bye. Neither your time nor the time of the potential candidate has been wasted.

The next set of questions might revolve around any concerns you have about the candidate’s qualifications based on his or her resume. If the interview goes well, you could possibly spend an hour or more on the phone with the candidate. If it goes unusually well, invite the candidate in for an interview. If it goes only pretty well, wait until you finish conducting all of your phone interviews before deciding whether or not to see the candidate in person.

Or you might even want to have a second phone interview or have someone else in your office have an additional phone interview. It is increasingly common for a job candidate to have multiple phone interviews before being invited in for an in-person interview.

In-Person Interviews

In-person interviews are invariably time-consuming. Be cautious about how many candidates you invite in, even for first interviews. Three to six candidates is generally a good number. If the position isn’t very demanding or doesn’t require extensive skills or vast experience, you may be able to select the candidate you will offer the position to from your first in-person interviews. If not, narrow the field down to those few people you’d like to invite in for a second interview. 

In-Person Interviews: Round Two

For most professional positions you will conduct two rounds of interviews. Be even more selective about who gets invited back for a second interview than you were in choosing the candidates for the first in-person interviews. Usually two people make it to the second interview stage. Sometimes only one person is invited for a second interview—the person the job is generally offered to. Usually it is during the second interviewing round that additional team members are called in to interview the candidate or candidates. These are often people who would most likely interact closely with the applicant, should he or she be hired.

Strength Before Weakness

You want to spend as little time as possible eliminating the weakest candidates. More time should be expended on discerning the subtle differences between your strong candidates—looking for those special experiences or skills that can make one qualified candidate really stand out from another qualified candidate.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Think in terms of a hiring pyramid.
  • Start with a solid base by sourcing a lot of good candidates.
  • Try to get to the top of the pyramid by narrowing to the best candidates as quickly as possible.  
  • Carefully differentiate between the top candidates.

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.

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