An Overview of the 21st-Century Hiring Process

1) Understand your company

Make sure that your company has all of the following:

  1. A clearly articulated value proposition that is unique to the company
  2. A document that details the culture and values of the company that employees actually buy into and believe in
  3. A defined perspective on talent and fit that lets anyone in the company know how to identify a good cultural fit when interviewing a candidate
  4. You remembered to address diversity and inclusion in the two items above, right? (If not, here’s a cheat sheet:

2) Understand the position

Consider all of the following:

  1. What are the needs of the position today?
  2. How will this position change in accordance with the company’s strategy and plan for the future?
  3. What are the skills/metaskills needed for the new hire to produce the requisite deliverables?

3) Start the hiring process by determining whether candidates have the right skills and metaskills

If you are planning to test candidates for essential competencies, this is the time to do it. There is no point in looking at a resume or cover letter, or in doing any kind of interview, if you have questions about whether the candidate is qualified.

  1. 1 hour at maximum (does not include gathering existing materials for a portfolio)
  2. A formal agreement that, if candidates produce anything that can be used for revenue generation, the candidate will be compensated
  3. State the criteria against which candidates will be assessed so that they know what to show
  4. Confirm that the test is culture-fair and EEOC/ADA compliant, as relevant
  5. Make sure that it is obvious to the candidate that the questions being asked are related to the job
  6. Personality and strengths tests are ill-advised, as any personality/strength combination can do any job, but if you use any, make sure that candidates are very clear about how you will use them in the hiring process (hint: unless you are using the personality/strengths test for future job crafting, don’t bother). Do not, under any circumstances, remove a candidate from your pool based on a personality/strengths test!

4) Review the resume as if it were a portfolio (or just review a portfolio)

There are a number of items people put on a resume that don’t matter, and it’s important to take them all off the table:

  1. GPA
  2. Major
  3. University attended
  4. Location
  5. Name

5) Run a phone screen OR look at cover letters (not both!)

By now, you should be down to 20 candidates at absolute maximum. The next step is assessing motivation and connection to the company. Either through cover letters or phone screens, ascertain the following:

  1. Why do they want to work for you?
  2. Do they understand what the company is about?
  3. Can they explain why the company’s culture and value proposition are resonant for them?

6) Conduct in-person interviews

There is a lot to say about conducting interviews (start here; more here), but the main point is to give both you and the candidates the opportunity to do the following:

  1. Connect — anyone who can get this far is almost certainly worth knowing
  2. Assess fit — remember that both sides are doing this!
  3. Jointly craft your (plural!) vision for the job — create a fit between the candidate’s best offerings and the company’s needs

7) Make and communicate hiring decisions

If you did this process correctly, you now have a really hard choice to make. I advise companies always to hire as many candidates as fit, if only because the costs of hiring are so high that it is often worthwhile to hire ahead of needs. But, if you absolutely must hire only one person, then confirm with the candidate and then get back to the others in a timely fashion. Anyone you choose not to hire should be getting feedback, and anyone you actually liked should be invited for coffee/lunch to keep the connection going and the talent pool hot.

Why Companies Don’t Use Effective Hiring Processes

While the process for effective hiring is pretty simple in its scheme, the execution is far from easy. Any one of these tasks can take tens of hours to do well (at least the first time — it gets much quicker with practice), and many companies require outside help to update their hiring. This is a pretty sizeable investment of time, money, and resources, often for a hard-to-quantify outcome (strong talent pool, good work, strong culture) whose ROI is consequently hard to measure. In turn, this makes companies reluctant to turn away from the easy, tried-and-true, but hopelessly flawed 20th Century hiring system.



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Orin Davis

Orin Davis

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab ( Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.