Depending on your personality (and HR bandwidth at the time), the recruiting and hiring process may be an exciting project to grow your team — or a draining endeavor of resume reading, interviewing, appraising and repeating ad nauseum.
Either way, the risks are real. Hire someone who’s overqualified for a position or otherwise an ill fit for your company’s culture and they might soon leave you back at step one.
Nearly half of all new hires fail to make it 18 months. On the other hand, hire someone who’s underqualified, and you might be wishing they leave.
Bad hires have the potential to degrade workplace morale, negatively affect the productivity of others, drain resources, hurt your organization’s reputation, cost you revenue, and more. With more organizations shifting to a dispersed or partially dispersed workplace with more positions operating remotely, the hiring process is only going to become harder as the lack of face-to-face interactions may limit your ability to evaluate candidates in person.
With the unemployment rate hovering around 7 percent, you might be tempted to think that hiring should be easier now. However, it’s just the opposite, especially if your open position is a remote one, meaning the potential pool of applicants isn’t reined in by geography. As a result, you could easily be overwhelmed with too many applicants. What’s more, other employers from far away may be competing for the same talent if they’re also hiring for remote positions.
Consequently, good recruiting and hiring practices are critical now. Here are six tips to help you identify the right person to join your team — or, at least, to minimize the risk of a bad hire.
1. Write very specific job descriptions
At the recruitment stage, you’re likely to post a description of the open position on your company’s website, via LinkedIn, through job posting sites like Indeed.com, or on more industry-specific forums and bulletin boards.
This is the time to remember: a generic job posting is going to yield generic results. Be specific. Most job posters think in terms of the job title, say “Brand Strategist,” and then extrapolate the requirements and responsibilities from there.
This is a good starting point, but roles and their related tasks are often very unique within a company. Each organization has specific hats they may ask that role-player to wear on any given day, and therefore that job description should be workshopped around.
Ask adjacent employees — the team members who will be working most closely with this new hire — how they understand this role and what they value in the person who fulfills it. Similarly, as a matter of habit, a good exit interview question asks a departing employee how well they believe their position lined up with the original job description. Both sources will likely offer a number of insightful edits.
A common refrain of employees who quit shortly after being hired is, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Sadly, much of the time they’re right, and there’s a poor job description to blame.
2. Get the whole group on video chat
A person’s resume or LinkedIn bio may claim they are a “dynamic collaborator” or “adept at working in diverse teams,” but until you see them in action, how can you know for sure? One way to get some validation is by holding a group video chat with a candidate andcurrent employees.
While you might not want to employ this strategy during an initial interview — your team members surely have their regular work to do and you might not want too many opinions too early on — it’s a good idea for deeper in the hiring process to see how personalities mesh.
Particularly if your team members will be working via Zoom, Slack or other communications platforms for the foreseeable future, a group video chat could work well as a test run.
Set the meeting up for success by asking current team members to prep a few questions they would like to see asked of a new candidate, vetting those, forming then into a loose script to give the interview a logical flow, and then inviting those current team members to introduce themselves to the candidate as they pose one of their questions.
Since this requires a time commitment from multiple people, only schedule these types of calls with serious candidates.
3. Ask questions about culture
Attitude and company fit are the number one reason why new hires don’t stay, so make sure your interviews go beyond just ascertaining technical mastery or industry experience to evaluate cultural match as well.
Consider your company culture — or at least the ideal version of it that you want to work toward. How would you describe it? With those answers in mind, now can you reverse-engineer questions that will reveal whether a candidate possesses those traits?
No matter the unique culture you may be trying to achieve at your organization, there are certain traits that are rising in stock due to an increasingly remote workforce — traits such as self-motivation, a willingness to troubleshoot issues, solid organization and proactive communication. Craft interview questions that will help you gauge such traits in a candidate.
4. Consider implementing a testing phase
Another way to gauge cultural fit is to ask your candidates to take a quiz.
Increasingly, companies are turning to pre-employment testing software, like those offered by Criteria Corp, Assess First or Prevue HR , for example, to guide their hiring decisions. Such services provide strategic assessments that help employers get a read on a candidate’s personality, technical skills, aptitudes and more. Results from such tests can, in turn, lead to more informed interview questions.
Along those lines, you may want to create your own task-simulation that asks candidates to fulfill a routine job responsibility as part of the hiring process to see how they would perform on the job.
Such a test both shows who’s most motivated for the job as well as helps illuminate the ability of an entry-level candidate who might not have the most extensive work experience or creative portfolio.
Another option is to put new hires through a probationary period, with the understanding that they could be let go if they are not up to snuff.
It may not be part of your current M.O., but given the difficulties of hiring remotely, adding either a testing element or probationary period to your hiring process may inject an extra dosage of confidence into the process while minimizing risk.
5. Be on the lookout for red flags
As a rule, people tend to put their best selves forward on the job interview. After all, a lot is at stake. So, if disappointing behavior catches your attention, don’t ignore it.
The classic red flags still apply for remote positions. Watch out for tardiness, poor preparation, inability to speak openly about past work experience or reasons for leaving a position, too much self-talk (egotistical, likely to blame others), not enough self-talk (unclear contributions to team, relies too much on co-workers) and lack of interest in the company or position. Not asking any questions in return is often a dead giveaway for that last one.
6. Ask yourself if there’s another way
Have the boldness to consider whether a new hire is absolutely necessary. Could the responsibilities ascribed to this role be divided among, and conquered by, current team members? Or, alternatively, could this role be fulfilled by an independent contractor or freelancer?
Numerous digital platforms, like Assemble, Toptal or Upwork, to name a few, make it easier than ever for companies to connect with creative professionals with recurring availability who could deliver on key tasks, thereby solving the need for a new full-time hire.
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This article first appeared on Entrepreneur.