A Six Step Hiring Process That Works

Peter Drucker small businessFor a small business owner, the hiring process can be an overwhelming experience. Having to sort through dozens of resumes (that all look the same), call/email prospective candidates and conduct face to face interviews is a long and painfully slow process, but it's one that can't be rushed.

We all know how important it is to hire great people, and we also know that our employees are the face of our business and they can literally make or break it. So why do we hate the hiring process so much? For one, many small business owners do not have prior experience hiring and managing others, secondly, it forces us to slow down for a long and tedious process when we are used to a go go workday.

The hiring process is vitally important to your business and you need to give it the attention it needs. If you have a plan and system in place prior to starting the hiring process, it can help you stay on track and to stay focused at a time when it's easy to get “warm body syndrome”. Below is the hiring process that I use. Each step is a system of “weeding out” potential candidates until we have a clear winner.


1- Have a plan. Before you start looking for a new employee, know exactly what you want. What character traits are you looking for? What skills will be required (which ones are you willing to train)? Will they need to work evenings or weekends? It's better to know that you are looking for “a college student to work weekends that has unlimited enthusiasm, a great attitude and has previous customer service experience” then “someone to work weekends”. Once you have created a profile for your new employee, you can use it as your guide and to avoid getting sidetracked. When posting your job ad, be very specific on what you are looking for. If you need weekend employees, stress that in the job ad. You will receive less, but more qualified candidates.

2- Ask for something specific in your job posting. I always ask for a detailed cover letter explaining why you would be a good fit for the position posted. I also make it clear that resumes without this will not be considered. Usually about a third of the resumes submitted do not have any cover letter and another third have a generic cover letter without mentioning the position they are applying for or any mention of the business. This step alone weeks out two thirds of all applicants for me. If an applicant can't follow instructions and doesn't take the time to customize their resume for your business, what kind of quality work do you think you would get from them as an employee? I also make it painstakingly clear what I am looking for in a candidate and what the position will entail.

3- Make a phone call. After sorting out the remaining resumes, I select the ones that look most promising and give them a call. A lot of people like to email candidates at this point to have them answer some questions before scheduling a phone or face to face interview. I like to call first because you can tell more about a person in ten seconds on the phone then any lengthy email questionnaire will ever tell you. The applicant may have submitted a great resume (possibly getting lots of help) but when you are having a one on one phone conversation, they have nobody else to make suggestions on what to say (like in an email questionnaire). Do they sound enthusiastic? Do they sound confidant? Do they speak clearly? By just asking a few questions and listening to them speak, you can get an idea if this is a person you can possibly see working for you. If they sound promising then you can invite them for a face to face interview.

4- In person interview. At this stage, any promising candidates will be asked to come down for a face to face interview. Usually only about 5% of applicants make it to this point. I won't go into detail about how to conduct the interview as that would an entirely new post, but below are some of the key things I look for from a candidate:

Are they on time? Are they late or are they really early? This could indicate they do not respect others time and/or are not very concerned with details. I usually just ask them and their answer will be a great indicator of their personality. (e.g.: “I was in the area and thought I’d just come in early”. (More concerned about their time than yours).
Do they have a positive attitude? Do they smile a lot? Did they say hi to any of the other employees? Are they prepared for the interview?
Did they do any research on the business? Can they articulate why they would be a great fit for the position?
Any applicants that have a successful interview will be asked to come back for a hands on trial.

5- Hands on trial. Applicants that have made it to this stage will spend a few hours (usually 1-2 hours) doing whatever it is they will be doing if they get hired. This is your opportunity (and theirs) to see them in action. I usually spend about 15 minutes beforehand going over what they will be doing and what I am looking for. Most people will say they can do something but it's another to see them actually do it. You may find that they may not be the best fit or they may come to that realization themselves after spending a few hours doing the actual work.

6- Get Feedback. After the trial run, the first thing I do is solicit feedback from the candidate. Is it what they thought it would be like? Sometimes you can pick up some hesitation and doubt when you speak to them after. The next thing I do is solicit feedback from the employees that worked with the candidate. Was the candidate friendly? Enthusiastic? Did they ask a lot of questions? Did they seem like they were interested in the work? Gather as much information as you can from every employee that worked with the candidate.


After going through these six steps, I then decide to either hire, not hire or have them come back for another interview if not 100% sure. Everyone that gets hired is under the condition that they are coming on for a 30 day paid trial run to make sure that they are a fit for us and that we are a fit for them. I review their progress every week and offer and solicit feedback to ensure things are moving along.

So that is the hiring process that I use. It does take some time to go through all of the steps but as you can see many candidates disqualify themselves during the initial steps, making my job of sorting through resumes easier. Like I said before, the hiring process can be a long and frustrating process but you need to maintain your standards and discipline throughout the process so you don't wind up with a “B” level employees when you are trying to create n “A” level business.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
4 replies
  1. Tara
    Tara says:

    I may not have my own business yet but this article will help me do my job as a recruiter. I am just starting out and need more information on how I can do my job well. I really am thankful you posted this article. I always have been your avid reader.

  2. Curt
    Curt says:

    I never tried asking for a detailed cover letter. I think I need to start that now so I can shorten the time I spend checking how they will be a good fit for the company. This is a great help.

  3. Milly
    Milly says:

    I agree these steps will make my life easier. I can already know who can join my company and who are just wasting my time. Hiring is really a difficult but fulfilling process.

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