There is no such thing as a 100% guarantee when it comes to hiring. You can be as thoughtful, careful, and scientific as you want. You can create new processes, you can track down elusive references with the determination of Nancy Drew, you can leave burnt offerings to the Spirits of HR, but you’ll still make a bad hire every once in a while.
You can definitely nudge that percentage of successful hires up a little bit, if not a lot. Here are some ways you can make significant gains in getting people working for you who aren’t just good, they’re great.
Stop looking for unicorns.
Yes, it would be lovely if your new hire was fluent six languages, knew all your clients, invented the internet, and won the World Championship of Public Speaking, but was now looking for a mid-level position from which they had no desire to move on.
That’s not happening.
Even if you happened to find the perfect candidate, you have no way to know whether they’d still be perfect for the role in a year, or when the economy shifts, or when someone on their team goes on maternity leave and others need to take on new responsibilities. The best employees are those that can do their job well with the people around them, and grow into the role in new ways over time.
Do you really need an Excel power-user, or would a smart employee who thinks logically and has a track record of teaching themselves new skills do as well, if they have experience with other aspects of the job. Is a degree in marketing (or any degree at all) really necessary? Or is what you’re really looking for someone with a basic understanding of marketing principles and some top-notch people skills? High standards and realism don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
Stop trying to make a sale.
Pursuing unicorns also means selling. If nothing but the One True Candidate will do, it makes sense that you’ll do almost anything to get them on board, even if that means glossing over any unpleasant aspects of your company or your role. The problem with this is that the charade usually ends as soon as they’re hired, and then they’re left adapting to an environment for which they didn’t prepare. How long do you think they’ll stay in that role? While you definitely want to put your best foot forward (nobody wants to work with a hiring manager who seems unprofessional or rude), that can’t be at the expense of truthfulness.
When you’re more interested in finding a good fit than in bagging the Magical Employee Who Will Bring About Industry Domination And Also World Peace, you can afford to be more candid about the challenges. Is the team kind of disorganized? Some people thrive on bringing order to chaotic departments. Are budgets tight? There’s a frugal fiend out there who gets a thrill from hustling to make things work. There are employees who love working for workaholics, who find repetitive tasks meditative, or who have no problem traveling regularly to less-than-glamorous locations.
If you think workplace assessments are limited to those awful “True or false: It’s okay to take things from work without paying” tests from when you worked at Blockbuster as a teen, welcome to the world of modern pre-employment testing. Today’s assessments are an excellent way not only to determine whether a candidate has some key skills, but can also help determine culture fit and job suitability overall. Assessments have the bonus of being uniformly applied across candidates, so you’re more likely to make a strong decision based on facts rather than on hunches, which are notoriously unhelpful when it comes to picking out top employees.