When it comes to hiring, many employers spend their time and energy on finding that perfect candidate. Where do you discover the best people? How do you attract their interest? What’s the best way to figure out who’s the right fit?

Sourcing and sorting candidates is definitely a challenge (we know – that’s our specialty!), but there’s another part of the hiring cycle that’s often underemphasized and has the potential for significant negative consequences if it’s done badly:

The interview process.

Here at Scouted, we focus on that first step: helping companies source and sort excellent candidates. But by nature of where we sit in the process, we often stay involved as the interviews progress, serving as a liaison between client and candidate. And this is where the story of Goldilocks and her 3 Bears comes into play.

Goldilocks, clever gal that she was, understood the value in finding that “just right” temperature of porridge, and that perfectly-sized armchair. She sought the solutions (okay, maybe we’re stretching here) that worked right for her. And often, they were right in that sweet middle spot.

So how does this actually relate? When you’re thinking about how to structure your hiring process – how many rounds of interviews should you include? How long do you wait to make decisions? Who does each candidate truly need to talk to? – there are a surprising number of ways to go too big or too small. And there are an equal number of pitfalls that arise from an interview process that’s not right for your company or your hiring team. Balance and Fit – these are the main drivers here.

Finding the Right Balance

Let’s look at that first piece: balance. This is mostly related to the speed & number of interviews that you put candidates through. As you examine your current process, ask yourself: do we move too quickly? Are we not selling to the candidate at all or getting enough information to make a good decision? Or are we dragging our feet? Are we losing candidates to other companies in the process?  Are we wasting employee time trying to get to certainty and instead just reaching diminishing returns?

A few signs that you’re moving too quickly: (1) Candidates are turning you down because they think you are moving too fast or don’t feel like you bothered to get to know them.  They do not feel sold on the company (how’s your employer branding?). (2) Do you have high employee turnover (i.e. you make a lot of mistakes when figuring out who to hire)? And (3) You’re often surprised by what an employee is actually like compared to the impression you built during the interview process.

On the flip side, you know you’re a turtle if (1) when you look back at your interview feedback between rounds, you cease to learn new information after the first few, (2) candidates are constantly dropping out of the process for other offers, and (3) you’re often dealing with candidates who have competing offers .

So how do you find that perfectly cooked porridge? How do you accurately identify when that next interview is helping you to make a better decision rather than just costing additional time, money and the potential to lose the candidate? There is no magic formula here, but there are some best practices that we’ve gathered throughout our years in the business.

To start, a few questions to ask yourself and your team:

  • What’s your risk tolerance i.e. how much do you as a company care about losing the person that could have been great? (We’ll delve into risk tolerance a bit later)

  • How much do you care about a hiring mistake that needs to be fixed?

  • For each role, what are the values, skills and abilities needed to do the job and how are you going to figure that out?

  • Who must meet the candidate to figure that out and who must meet them in order to make a decision?

Don’t rush the process

Now, we’re not advocating that you rush through this; if the process does not produce enough information or just moves too fast, you are leaving value on the table. You want to ensure you’re learning enough about the candidate to make a good, well-informed decision. Making a hiring mistake can cost companies anywhere from 2x to 10x the hiring costs. So we want to avoid errors.

Don’t drag your feet, either

On the other hand, if you drag the candidate in for too many rounds, and too many interviews, you risk losing him or her.  It can portray you as bad decision makers or uncoordinated, and turn the candidate off.  Or, they might get other offers (and to be honest, the best candidates will get other offers and FAST) while you’re dragging your feet.  Or the momentum can just stall.   In the meantime, you have spent an increasing amount of money for marginally more information.

The goal is to that Goldilocks sweet spot: where you gain enough knowledge that you are past the risk of too little information and have not yet reached the point of expensive diminishing returns.

….And the Right Fit – For You

Decide how fast your company should hire

There’s room for a variety of approaches here, which is where the “fit” comes in. One of our partner companies, let’s call them Hooli, has an unorthodox strategy that works pretty well for them – because it’s deliberate and thoughtful and aligned with their personal risk tolerance.

Hooli has decided, “hey, we’re cool with a 50% hit rate on interns.”  They set their process up so it is quick and dirty – one day, 2 interviews in ~2 hours and a decision.  They know they could potentially get more information but the cost of employer time is not worth it.  Plus they think the best students get lots of offers and they want the competitive advantage of speed.

Their two interviews are laser-focused on the 3 “must-have” attributes and that’s it.  They know they are opening the door to making mistakes; they’re essentially setting up their internship to be more of a long interview rather than a boondoggle and are happy if they give offers to only 50% of the interns at the end of the summer. Wisely, they also know they need to mitigate the reputational risk of having so many people not get a full-time offer.  So they make the internship such a good learning experience and so reputable, their interns, even the ones that do not get offers, are highly marketable for full-time offers elsewhere.  These guys have a high-risk tolerance, and their set-up works for them. The process would sound CRAZY for hiring a member of the Senior Management Team, but for an intern, you can see the logic in this for a firm who is comfortable with the risk/reward tradeoff.

On the other side of the spectrum, we work with a “sexy” brand and for a very attractive role.  The firm is small and has a strong founder culture.  They’ll get plenty of candidates who are excited about the firm and the role and they know the interest will be sustained through time (ie. they aren’t worried about attracting more candidates).  What they need is the right chemistry with the founder to make sure they have buy-in on whomever they hire.  If the founder isn’t on board, the role just does not work and creates a ton of pain.  The firm has an incredibly low-risk tolerance for a hiring mistake but also does not want to hurt their brand or reputation in the market.  The strategy is simple – be incredibly deliberate and transparent.  The process will have multiple interviews over multiple days with multiple people.  Since the goal after the first few interviews is fit, they interviews will be coffees and more casual.  The candidates are told up front the process will be slow and windy.  Since they are by and large rock star candidates, they are told they know they will get other offers and they understand the risk of losing them – just to please stay in touch if that situation arises.  Essentially they want the option to get in before the candidate goes. The firm has decided they are ok with the risks of losing candidates for the lower risk of incorporating the person into the firm, but like the other business, the process is aligned with the risk and the business needs while still making sure the candidate experience is positive.

Ultimately, it’s crucial to align the process with your firm’s risk tolerance and desire for options. You need to decide whether you want to prioritize speed, thus saving your employees’ time and upping the odds that you land the “superstar,” or minimize error, thus avoiding making a bad hiring mistake and the consequences that come with hiring the wrong person. Regardless of what’s important to you, it’s always a good idea to re-examine your hiring process to cut unnecessary components and ensure you’re really getting value from each additional step.

Want to hear more about how we approach recruiting, interviewing and closing the deal?  Want to tell us about your process?  Reach out – we’re always happy to chat!

Ps. We loved this blog by FitSmallBusiness on How to Set Up The Ultimate Hiring Process in 7 Steps

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