8 Hiring Best Practices to Recruit Top Talent

October 8, 2019 | Kristen Hildebrant

As recruiters and HR leaders, we’re always looking for simple and effective ways to find and retain the best talent for our company. We read articles on trends in recruiting, innovations in hiring, and how automation is going to make finding the best candidates a breeze. However, every company is different, with different cultures, hiring criteria, skills requirements, and so on. While we’d all love to have the resources of a large global company like Apple or Nike, sometimes what we really need is to get back to the basics, take a hard look at our current processes, and align ourselves with great frameworks and partners to help locate and vet the best talent.

Here are eight hiring best practices that can help you recruit top talent for your organization.

1. Cultivate your workplace culture by building employee trust. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year—people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. As HR leaders, we have to work to gain and maintain the trust of our workforce not just for retention, but for our employer brand. When your employees trust your company, they’re more likely to be happy at work and recommend others within their network for your jobs.

From the Trust Barometer: Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf—they will advocate for the organization (a 39-point trust advantage), are more engaged (33 points), and remain far more loyal (38 points) and committed (31 points) than their more skeptical counterparts.

2. Develop a Realistic Job Preview. Providing a realistic job preview of the actual position, including a description of the work environment, the manner in which work is conducted and the overall pace of the job will provide candidates with an actual “preview” of the role.  HR practitioners should work with the hiring team, including current incumbents in the role, to accurately identify key elements of the job and work environment. The realistic job preview should be used during the interview process to ensure the organization provides the employee with information about the position, the department and the organization. This tool aides in managing a candidate’s expectations about the role, allowing the candidate to determine if the role is appealing to them.

3. Follow a series of pre-employment qualifications and processes to identify, attract and engage the best talent. Skills testing is one of the best methods to help you avoid hiring the wrong people who don’t have the competencies your hiring managers are looking for. You can screen for these competencies as well as cultural fit, ensuring an improvement in candidate quality and, in the long term, retention of your top talent. At the screening phase, have a set of basic criteria developed in partnership with your hiring managers and create questions that directly address specific skills that identify what your company considers the best talent.

For example, if you’re looking for a front-end developer, the lead on that team should identify the characteristics of his or her top team members, which can be used for pre-employment screening and evaluation. This also saves time by screening out applicants without your “must-have” criteria, since you and your hiring managers won’t spend time face-to-face with unqualified candidates.To avoid legal pitfalls, HR must always ensure pre-employment assessments are legally validated.

4. Thorough vetting with an employment background check. In today’s talent marketplace, companies are competing for talent and must move quickly to make hiring decisions. Many companies want to streamline this process, which can lead to poor hires. When you work with a vendor to handle your background checks, it not only makes the process faster, it also ensures compliance, which means you can move quickly to make an offer while a background check is being conducted with employment contingent after a candidate has started working.

HR should ensure they are well-versed on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to ensure a review of the background check is conducted in a legally compliant manner, and in turn, all hiring decisions are made in a fair manner.

5. Use alternative interview methods to help determine cultural fit, employee qualifications, and organizational alignment. The interview is the single most important candidate selection tool after the application and/or resume. Consider working outside of the traditional unstructured interview format. There are many benefits to structured interviews, the data is quantitative, the research is descriptive, and the data collection validates results. Many hiring managers, particularly those used to working without an HR department, may prefer unstructured interviews. In structured interviews, questions are determined in advance and remain consistent; in unstructured interviews, by contrast, questions may come from a loose set of notes from a hiring manager.

It seems counterintuitive to use scoring criteria when you’re trying to assess cultural fit, soft skills, and personality traits for top talent. However, researchers have devised psychometric tests that can standardize and measure the types of personality features that many of us just try to determine subjectively.

Additionally, consider including a peer as part of the interview process. A peer in the current role provides a clear, succinct picture of the actual job and work environment that the candidate is being considered for and ensures the candidate, if hired, has another friendly face to identify with on their first day.

6. Focus on potential over experience. In a highly competitive talent marketplace, we are looking for those who can learn, grow and develop in their role and with the organization. Soft skills are the traits that make a good employee such as etiquette, communication and listening, teamwork, empathy, and how well someone handles deadlines or stress. It’s difficult to teach soft skills, so consider hiring based on potential and let training and development on the job handle the hard skills. Hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities such as writing, reading, math or the ability to use computer programs.

If you want the best data or business analyst, you’ll focus on organizational and analytical traits, ability to learn, decision-making skills, and so on. A person with these traits can learn Google Analytics, Data Studio, Search Console, and proprietary reporting, as well as how to apply the data to business processes. You’re hiring now for what you expect this candidate to become with training and support.

7. Always be evaluating and accessing your hiring, recruiting and retention methods and develop a plan to improve processes. This means continuous testing of these strategies, scaling what’s working, and revising what isn’t. Borrowing from software development agile methodologies, testing and scaling can help significantly accelerate your hiring process.

8. Lead, don’t follow, when it comes to candidate experience trends and expectations. In talent acquisition, our industry tends to follow the lead of consumer trends by 24-36 months. For 2020, that includes the shift towards “experiences.” We see the shift happening as consumers with brands like Apple, Amazon, and Nike. These iconic companies aren’t selling just a product or service but a lifestyle and experience. In talent acquisition, candidates are moving from “careers” to “experiences” by aligning themselves with social causes and cultures that suit the lifestyle and personality of the candidate. 

Establish a Competitive Advantage by Moving Beyond Trends in Hiring & Recruitment

Trends are great for benchmarking and idea generation, but not all candidate trends are a good fit for your organization. New ideas should be given the same weight as “follow the leader” trends. Consider sourcing ideas for candidate experience from your current workforce by asking them what you did right and what you could do better. You might be surprised at what your own employees identify as areas for improvement, which can in turn kick off a new initiative that brands like Apple, Amazon, or Nike aren’t using (yet).

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