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10 ways to improve your hiring

Kate Zabriskie

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Pay attention to the right fit between potential employees and their job duties.

We should have known better.
She’s just not detail oriented, and this job
requires a lot of repetitive work.
She’s a creative, she’s bored and she’s leaving.
I wish we had somewhere we could
use her talents, but we don’t.

I don’t understand what happened.
He interviewed so well.
But it’s six months later, and it’s obvious
he’s not a good fit.

FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON for a position is part art and part science. While some people seem to have a gift for finding good people, everyone can improve their success rate by following a methodical step-by-step process.

Know what you want

First and foremost, it’s important to envision what work will look like with a new person. What will he or she do? How do you envision interactions looking and sounding? What do you expect in terms of quality and quantity of work? What temperament do you see working best? Does the person need to be creative? Is the work basically the same each day? If this person is going to interact with people other than you, who are they and what do they want from a new hire?

Create a robust job description

Once you are clear about the kind of person you want to hire, it’s time to put pen to paper and craft a job description. When you list the duties the person will perform, begin each of your sentences with a verb and write in everyday language. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to solidifying your expectations.

Think about what it’s going to take for someone to be successful

Experience and education are essential to success in some jobs, and for others, they’re not. If education isn’t a deal breaker, do you want to exclude candidates by making a degree mandatory? What you require can widen or narrow your applicant pool — potentially in ways that could hurt your chances of finding the right person. Think long and hard about what’s essential before moving to the next step.

Create a strong job ad

Just as candidates are selling themselves, you are selling your company and the open position. An ad is your opportunity to attract talent. Whether you’re working with a recruiter or doing the recruiting yourself, spend time creating a strong job title, telling your organization’s story and briefly describing your essential requirements. If you have a great location, solid benefits or some other selling point, include that information too. Your ad should quickly paint a robust picture of why you’re great, what you’re looking for, and why they should want to work with you.

Promote your position

The type of job you want to fill should dictate where you’ll promote it. Many options exist. Regardless of which you choose, it’s important to have a plan and to understand how each promotional avenue works.

Craft your screening questions

In tandem with crafting your ad and promoting your position, you’ll need to develop your questions for screening candidates and interviewing those with whom you eventually choose to meet. This step is essential for several reasons. First, it helps you follow a repeatable process. Second, it helps those who interview to ask relevant and legal questions. Finally, it ensures you are fair and gather answers you can compare with relative ease.

Evaluate candidates and set a phone screening schedule

Once your job closes, it’s time to review the qualifications of those who met your position’s criteria and set a screening schedule. Depending on the number of responses you get, you may choose to screen everyone or rank candidates and screen the top group. Either way, you’ll want to talk to applicants before you bring them in to meet in person. Phone interviews offer several benefits. They allow you to get an initial impression of a candidate without having their physical appearance influence your thinking. They are also an efficient way to address some basic questions.

Determine who you will invite to interview in person, and prepare your interviewing team

After you’ve concluded your screening process, it’s time to prepare your interviewing team and invite candidates into the office. Getting ready is essential. Both you and the prospective employees are auditioning. Your interviewing team needs to be just that: a team. You should discuss the welcoming process, the interviewing order, the questions each person will ask, and how you will close your meetings with candidates and send them on their way. Leave little up to chance. You are on stage. Depending on the position you are filling, you may decide to conduct more than one round of interviews. Regardless of what you choose, you must have a plan.

Gather feedback and rank the candidates

When you’ve finished interviewing people, rank them. Because you’ve asked each person the same questions, this will be easier than if you had asked different questions. If you find your team disagrees, think before you make an offer. If none of the candidates is exactly right, again, think before you make an offer. The wrong person now is rarely as good as the right person a little later.

Make your offer

Assuming there are no obvious roadblocks, it’s time to make an offer. Be excited when you do, and recognize this is only the first step in effectively integrating an employee into the fabric of your organization.

So there you have it. These steps can make all the difference. Great hiring is about good discipline and patience. The better you are at establishing and following a strong inclusive process, the stronger your results will be. Now go find that candidate!

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works Inc. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

CONTACT: Kate Zabriskie

Using autobiographies to distinguish between
job candidates

By Matt Pais

YOU ONLY HAVE TIME to see so many job applicants in person. Yet phone conversations may not satisfyingly vet prospective hires to determine who will move on to the face-to-face round of interviews.

Steven Wang uses a strategic challenge to applicants in between these two rounds: asking them to submit their autobiography.

“You get to learn a lot more in-depth information about the person who may come to work for you that they won’t tell you during the interview process,” said the nine-year MDRT member from Irvine, California, noting that he heard about and implemented this concept about five years ago. “You’d be surprised what people tell you in those things. You get a better understanding of their personality and if they’re a good fit for your team.”

During one phone interview, for instance, an applicant only explained an extended gap in her resume as needing to take time off. Yet in her autobiography, she expanded on that, writing she had used that time to take care of a sick parent.

This showed Wang more about her character, as well as her understanding of the importance of insurance and the challenges involved with caring for someone who is sick.

Wang usually selects eight to 10 candidates for a phone interview and asks three to four to write the autobiography.

“I want to know the difficulties that someone has had and how I can relate to that,” said Wang, whose office currently includes six support staff to help with prospecting and serve existing clients. “Your team is like your family; they help you and you help them. And getting to know them a little deeper helps you click.”

That said, Wang does not offer any guidance about what candidates should do in their autobiography. He does not provide a length requirement or specify what he is looking for. The biggest way to do it wrong, of course, is to not do it at all — a pretty easy way to identify someone who does not follow instructions and execute the work assigned to them.

For those who do complete the autobiography, some write as little as one paragraph while others go as long as three pages. About a page tends to be the perfect length, Wang said.

“It’s enough to scratch the surface but not too thoroughly,” he said. “Three pages is great, but I’m not sure I want to go that far because I haven’t hired them yet.”

Contact: Steven Wang


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