4 Tips to Make the Right Hiring Decision

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If you are a hiring manager, all the effort you put into the hiring process, from reviewing resumes to interviewing candidates, leads to a dreaded moment - the actual hiring decision.

If you're lucky, the star candidate has shone through and he or she obviously fits the role. In this case, all you have to do is prepare an offer to welcome them to your team. But often you will have two or three or more amazing candidates in front of you, each with different merits. Surprise, surprise: This is a "good" problem because it means that your talent acquisition strategies are working well.

But the challenge remains - who do you hire? Well, the hiring decision process begins well before the moment you expand the job offer, with several people involved in each step of the hiring pipeline.

How much say does the hiring manager have?

As hiring manager, you are the final decision maker. Typically, you are the person to whom new hires report, or the head of the department to which new hires belong. So it only makes sense that you make the final hiring decision.

Of course, good hiring managers rarely make decisions in isolation. It makes sense to consult your own manager to ensure that you are aware of the broader needs of the department. Depending on how the hiring process is structured, your own manager may also conduct interviews with the finalists. It is also helpful to involve your team members; they often know the requirements of the position you are hiring for and work closely with the new hires. Your company's recruiters also play a role, as they are experts in hiring and can provide guidance throughout the process.

So to make informed hiring decisions, you need a collaborative mindset. That said, here are four tips to help you make the right hiring decision:

Know what you are looking for

As a recruiter, you know the basics of the role you are hiring for, but you may not be familiar with all the specific requirements. For example, if you are a senior software engineer, you probably know the tasks and skills associated with a software engineering role. However, if you are a marketing manager hiring for a designer role, you may not have the same depth of understanding of that role. In this case, contact someone who actually does this job full-time, or use a sample of the job description to get started.

Now ask yourself:
  • What are the responsibilities of this role?
  • What are the training requirements?
  • What experience is required?
  • What soft skills should a person in this position have?
  • What does my ideal candidate look like?

The answer to the last question will be very useful when you have to make the final hiring decision - you will be able to select the candidate that best matches your ideal candidate. But there is one caveat: if you build up an expectation that is unattainable, you risk rejecting great candidates because they are not as "perfect" as you imagined them to be. So keep your expectations realistic and look for a candidate who can do the job at a high level and has important qualities of an employee. If you are not sure whether you expect too much, have your ideal candidate checked by a colleague who is familiar with the position you are looking to fill.

Find Out More... Benefits of Hiring the Right People

Work against your bias

Halo effect, anchor bias, confirmation bias and many other cognitive biases that most of us share can influence your hiring decision. This means that you risk preferring a candidate for the wrong reasons, and this can easily lead to a bad attitude, which ultimately costs a lot of money. The problem with all these biases is that they are usually unconscious, so some real effort is needed to fight them.

First, you can take the Harvard implicit association test. It makes sense to start with that, because the test can reveal prejudices that you didn't know you had. It also helps to learn about prejudices and how to fight them. For example, watch this TEDx presentation by author and CEO Valerie Alexander about "outsmarting" our bias:

Think about potential prejudices before you reject a candidate. Ask yourself: Do I have solid, job-related reasons for rejecting them? And if this person did not have a certain characteristic, would I have made the same decision? Remember that some characteristics are protected by law, so you must be sure that they are not involved in your hiring decision at all.

Use objective recruitment methods

Objective adjustment methods minimize the effects of distortion - and they are also very effective in themselves. To ensure that you have all the right information about a candidate to facilitate the hiring decision process, consider these methods:

  • Structured Interviews. Structured interviews are good predictors of job performance. Their main feature is to prepare you for the questions you will ask in the interview. Find a set of effective questions that evaluate the qualities you are looking for (the first step will be useful here) and ask them to all candidates in the same order. This method ensures that all candidates have an equal chance to impress you and helps to keep the interview job-related.
  • Scorecards for job interviews. Scorecards allow you to evaluate candidates' answers by assigning them a grade. This helps you to think about the candidate's answer instead of immediately rejecting or accepting it. You can also easily compare the candidates. Workable's integrated scorecards use a "yes/no/definitive" system to facilitate the process.
  • Assessments. It is becoming increasingly rare to be hired without some kind of work sample or test. And that's a good thing - seeing a candidate in action helps you assess his or her ability to get the job done. If there are no standardized tests in your company yet, ask if you can build in a step where candidates perform a work-related task. Alternatively, you can pose a problem to the candidate during the interview (but make sure that this problem is simple enough to be solved in a limited time). When evaluating tasks, pay attention to how the candidates think and give the right answers.
  • Make notes. Without taking notes on the candidates' answers, you may only come to a candidate from the interview with your general feelings. A few days later, you may not remember their actual answers or you may confuse them with the answers of another candidate. This is natural if you have to interview many people, but it will influence your decision making. So take some time to practice taking notes and trying out different techniques. Don't overdo it during the interviews (eye contact with candidates helps build trust), but go all the way to the main point with each answer. Avoid writing down your impressions of the candidates, as you will not be able to check later whether your first impression was correct without remembering the actual answer.

In short, any method that makes you think before you make an impression and helps you standardize the way you evaluate candidates will ultimately lead to more informed hiring decisions. So if you suspect that you or your team are making hiring decisions spontaneously or by instinct, sit down together and discuss how you can use these methods to document interview feedback more objectively.

You May Also Want to Read... 5 Smart Steps to Restore Bad Hiring Decisions

Make the final hiring decision

If you have taken all of the above steps, you are probably in a good position to make a decision about the finalists without running the risk of bad hiring; each of the finalists is a good match for you because you have only made progress with qualified people. Your final challenge will be to decide which of these finalists you want to hire (although you could hire more than one if you have the budget and your company's policies allow).

To select the individual best candidate, here are some steps you can take:
  • Review your scorecards and notes. Review every single note or score you have assigned to a candidate. If necessary, average your scores. In general, make sure that you have a holistic view of the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate. Consider the severity of each skill or attribute. For example, good communication skills are important for a salesperson, but it may not be so important to be an extrovert
  • Make a list. At one point in the popular TV sitcom Friends, Ross gets into trouble when he makes a list to compare Rachel to his girlfriend. While such lists may not be acceptable in personal relationships, they can be useful in deciding between job candidates. For each candidate, write down three things that you liked and three things that you disliked. Look at them side by side. And assemble your team to get a glimpse of your lists. Sometimes you will know which ones you prefer, but make sure you know why - and remember to be aware of your bias
  • Check references. Ask your finalists to give you some names so you can get references. Candidates will usually refer you to people they know will give them a positive recommendation. So make sure you know what reference questions to ask to get useful answers. Work with your company's HR department to determine what you want to know. And here's an email template you can use to request references to speed up the process

After all, don't be guided by self-doubt. When it's time to make an offer to the candidate, some recruiters start doubting themselves. Have I made the right choice? The other candidate was Ivy League, and maybe I should have hired her instead. The more you think about it, the more you will doubt yourself. This kind of thinking will not get you anywhere.

Ultimately, it's best not to think about it too much; if you were careful throughout the hiring process, it's very likely that you made the right choice. Instead, invest your time in effective induction and training sessions to ensure that your new employee soon reaches maximum productivity.

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