This column originally published on Inc.com.
There is no quick test that guarantees the candidate in front of you will be a good or bad hire. A lot can change from the point of the interview to the point of employment. Surprises can and do crop up throughout the course of your working relationship–for better and for worse.
I’ve found that the No. 1 way to minimize the risks of hiring is something that sounds counterintuitive at first: let your employees do it.
You might be thinking, hold on a second, you’re talking about giving control to employees, who might not be familiar with the government regulations that surround hiring, who might not have the skills to effectively conduct interviews and who might not make good decisions for the company.
Yes, I realize this. I said these things, too, early in my entrepreneurial and recruiting career before I understood the value that employees can bring to the hiring equation. Looking back, it was definitely an exercise in letting go, which is another vital lesson every successful entrepreneur learns. And it was also one of the greatest changes I’ve made to my hiring strategy and that I still practice today.
Here’s how I (safely) give employees the hiring power.
1. Let employees write job descriptions.
Certainly you know your company vision, department goals and industry direction. Conversely, your employees are working where the rubber meets the road. They can lend insight into how to talk about the duties, processes, team dynamics and culture that makes everything tick. This is important information for crafting job descriptions that provide a clear picture of the position and accurately stack job priorities.
2. Encourage employees to find candidates in one another’s networks.
This is an important point that I’ve written about before, and it bears repeating: recruiting has always and will always be about your network. Online retailer 1-800-FLOWERS.com has seen the benefits of this firsthand. “When we started putting forth a concerted effort to tap into our employees’ social networks, our candidate flow went up by 30 percent in a weekend,” said Oliver Horvath, HR Generalist for 1-800-FLOWERS.com. “It’s a great way to find trusted, vetted people.”
3. Arm employees with the right language.
Discuss with employees your preferred approach for interacting with candidates in person, in email and over the phone. Share interview questions to approach or avoid, and give context to explain your reasoning. Talk to employees about how to hold a job conversation that gets candidates to open up in a more honest way (see my past article for how-to’s).
4. Assemble and organize a hiring team.
Candidates want to meet the specific people they’re going to work with, and your colleagues want to meet their potential new teammates. Bring everyone together during the interview process. Encourage your hiring team (about three or four people) to ask different questions and dig into various areas of the candidate’s skills and background. Create a common scoring structure specific to the position so everyone is evaluating the candidate based on the same agreed-upon attributes, skills and experience. Debrief afterward to come to a well-informed decision supported by the entire team.
5. Share the talent pipeline building duties.
Building a strong talent pipeline shouldn’t sit with just the executive team. Rope all employees into the process. Coach them on how to continually connect with potential new hires and foster relationships over time. Educate them on how to assess the set of skills and experiences people can bring to the table today, along with their future potential. There’s a difference between “perfect now” and “perfect for the future.”
When you hire the right people who are great mutual fits and are committed to your company for the long term, they act as extensions of you. They continue building the team you envision. That’s the great exponential effect of letting your employees do the hiring.