Ask any hiring manager or recruiter and they will tell you that there is no fail-safe formula for finding and hiring the perfect candidate. Every role is different, most candidates will not have every attribute you’re looking for, and sometimes you’re under pressure to fill an opening using a limited talent pool.
That said, what you can do is try to find applicants who have the same set of qualities as past hires who have gone on to succeed in your company. Start by developing some rules for hiring.
To get you started, we consulted career experts and compiled some of their tried and true tips for increasing the likelihood that you’ll hire great people every time.
Look for progression
If you’re hiring for any roles above entry-level, you want to be sure that your candidates have a track record of growth. “When recruiting emerging leader-level talent, we always look for progression,” says Justin Hirsch, President and HR Executive Search Lead at Jobplex, a recruitment firm.“If an individual is not progressing in their career, it’s an indication that they may not be ready (or qualified) to be tapped into for the next level of leadership,” he adds.
Be open to nontraditional work histories
Even if a role you’re trying to fill has a checklist of skill requirements, it doesn’t necessarily have to prevent you from offering the position to someone who might come up short in an area or two. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult at the executive and emerging leader levels to find cookie-cutter talent that checks all boxes,” says Hirsch. “In fact,” he says, “next generation leaders are especially likely to have taken a nontraditional career path compared to emerging leaders of past generations.”
“If you believe the candidate would be a great cultural fit and has previously proven to be able to overcome a skill or knowledge gap, it might be worth your while to bet on this candidate’s potential to grow into the role,” says Amanda Augustine, career expert for Top Interview.
“Before you extend an offer”, she adds, “you’ll want to make sure that the team is equipped to provide the right guidance, training, and resources to set the new hire up for success.”
Don’t underestimate the value of potential
While it’s natural to look for candidates who possess certain skills and knowledge to fill your open requisitions, says Augustine, sometimes it’s all in the delivery. “Candidates who demonstrate a can-do attitude, a genuine passion for the work, and a desire to learn and grow may ultimately become your best hires.”
Look for accomplishments and achievements
So many candidates list their job responsibilities but never get into how they contributed to their former companies. “If the candidate can illustrate through a resume what she or he was able to accomplish using concrete, measurable outcomes, and then further explain in an interview how she or he was able to achieve those goals, it becomes clear that the candidate is thoughtful, cares about the work, and actually played a role in the outcome of an initiative or project,” says Hirsch.
Ask some deep questions
Augustine recommends asking behavioral-based interview questions (e.g. “Tell me about a time …”). “Those are often a good way to determine if a candidate has what it takes to make a real impact on the business or if the candidate is only capable of playing a supporting role,” she says.
Behavioral questions are also your chance to probe the candidate about specific results or accomplishments that are listed on his or her resume. “Ask what steps the person took to achieve such a result, what challenges the person faced along the way, and what he or she learned,” says Augustine. How the candidate responds to this line of questioning will reveal if they really took the reins or acted more on the sidelines.
Depending on the nature of the job, you could ask candidates for work samples, but you don’t really know if they worked on those autonomously or had help. That’s why it’s sometimes a good idea to have a candidate take a test of some sort to see how they use their skills on the spot. “We find that assessments do a good job of getting to the core of a person’s work style, cultural fit, and leadership approach,” says Hirsch.
Hire people who don’t look like you
It’s human nature that the people in your network tend to come from similar backgrounds, and that’s especially true in niche industries where everyone knows each other. But companies are learning that going outside their regular talent pools can pay dividends when it comes to discovering new talent. “Without question, it is important not only for companies and organizations to be intentional about the diversity of its employees, but to use those diverse perspectives to inform how you will better reach and connect with colleagues, internal clients, and customers,” says Hirsch.
Trust your gut
With all other things being equal, sometimes a hiring decision comes down to which candidate seems to give off a positive vibe – and bonus points if their values happen to align with the company’s core values. Some personality traits to look for in candidates include authenticity, confidence, and honesty, says Augustine. Those qualities can help separate the good from the great hires.
Whether you follow the list above or compile your own based on trial and error, taking the time to develop some hiring rules that work for you will help you hire great employees time and time again.