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Hiring Process: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Top Talent

A recruiter or hiring manager thinking about everything involved in the hiring process.

What's inside?

The hiring process is similar to an elimination-style game with multiple levels. With each level, you’ll root out more and more individuals until you’re left with a list of superhero candidates bound to fill their future positions perfectly.

It’s important to follow the hiring process steps closely to make sure that your endeavor yields quick, efficient, and cost-effective results. Many hiring managers, talent acquisition partners, and recruiters have trouble employing the right people for the job. We will analyze the reasons why and give you feasible solutions for the most common problems.

In this article, you’ll learn to:

  • Advertise your open position like a pro
  • Maximize the effectiveness of screening methods including pre-recorded videos
  • Seamlessly navigate the interview process
  • Hire the best person for the job

We’ve also asked several hiring managers a few questions about the hiring process to give you some insight into how they conduct interviews, what they like about candidates, how they spot red flags, and how to determine if a candidate is a right fit for the company culture.

If you’d like to explore the ins and outs of the hiring process further, keep reading this guide!

What Is a Hiring Process?

The hiring process, also known as the recruitment process, is a series of steps you need to make when your company decides that it wants a new employee. Whether a position has been vacated or the company is expanding and requires more workers, the hiring process needs to be a well-thought-out plan whose only goal should be to hire the best possible candidates.

Steps of the hiring process

Recruiters, Talent Acquisition Partners, and hiring managers all want to make a quick hire. Time is of the essence when a new position needs to be filled, but even though speed might be tempting, haste makes waste when it comes to the hiring process.

Screening, interviewing and assessing a candidate’s suitability take time. A rushed recruitment process is unlikely to find the best potential employee. However, if your hiring process is overly long, you’ll risk losing valuable candidates.

Let’s check out the steps you need to take to achieve the best possible results.

  1. Identifying the hiring need

Before you do anything, you’ll need to pinpoint exactly why your company needs to hire someone new. What’s that person’s role in accomplishing your company’s grand plan?

You’ll want to determine the exact requirements for the job. Be thorough, analytical, precise, and realistic regarding your expectations, needs, and demands. Make sure to craft a list of necessary hard skills and soft skills, experience, background, and desirable candidate aspirations.

Monica R., founder and deputy director of a successful printing company had this to say about identifying the hiring need: 

“If you’ve just opened your business, and your first quarter shows a lack in productivity, you might have incorrectly estimated the number of workers needed. 

If your business is growing, and the workload increases, you need to start thinking about hiring more people. 

Finally, if you’re looking to reorganize your business, you’ll need new hires for new “linear” tasks which increase productivity. For example, a sales team works better if you employ someone who crunches numbers and estimates profits for them.”

  1. Devising a recruitment plan

What is a recruitment plan? It’s a prearranged strategy for hiring employees. It helps companies find qualified candidates in a timely manner. A good recruitment plan makes the hiring process smoother while also acting as a qualifying guideline for applicants.

A recruitment plan is mainly comprised of the following elements:

  • Announcement. This is how you let the world know that you want someone new to join your organization. It usually appears in the form of a brief description of an available position typically sent as an email.
  • Recruiting timeline. The timeline helps you stay on track with your recruitment process. It helps decide when to roll out job postings, conduct initial screenings, start reviewing applications, and start interviewing, all the way up to the actual hiring of a qualified candidate
  • Advertising plan. You’ll need to advertise the open position before you get any applicants. This is where you decide what media channels you’ll use to let potential candidates know that you’re hiring.
  • Interview scheduling is a process in itself. It involves getting a list of the interviewers or panel members, determining interview slots, scheduling interviews, and inviting candidates to attend them.
  • Assessment tools. Recruiters and hiring managers need to filter through hundreds of qualified and often unqualified applicants. To save time, you’ll want to use assessment tools that analyze a candidate’s skills and abilities efficiently.
  1. Job descriptions

A job description is a document that plainly communicates the essential job requirements, duties, responsibilities, and skills needed to perform a specific role. As a crucial tool used in performance evaluations, the job description also covers how success in the role is measured.

Writing an effective, engaging, and inclusive job description determines whether you attract the right talent or not. Also, it ensures you’re not turning off talent before they even apply.

Besides the standard role description and the experience and skill requirements of the job, recruiters and hiring managers must also emphasize the company’s values, mission, and culture to avoid hiring the wrong person.

  1. Advertising the position

After you’ve correctly identified the hiring need and devised a foolproof recruitment plan, you’re finally done with your job description. The next rational step would be to start advertising the position. But where should you start?

First of all, you’ll need to create a road map. Start doing research on the different channels you can use to advertise a job vacancy. Take your audience and budget into consideration.

Advertising internally

The best place to begin searching for a new employee is at your company. Maybe someone is out to get promoted or wants to have their career changed. Use your organization’s internal channels (Slack, Skype, work e-mail, etc.) and let your employees know that a position needs to be filled.

You’ll need to create a bit of hype to get people excited. Get them involved in the process and ask if they can recommend anyone. It might be a good idea to incentivize the lot by throwing in a recruitment bonus. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to show the people making recommendations that the company appreciates their efforts.

At the same time, hit two birds with one stone and start advertising the position on your company website. There are potential candidates who might regularly check your Careers or Jobs page in hopes of an opening. If you have any resumes on file from employees who didn’t make the cut in the past, now might be the right moment to check up on the ones who came close to getting the job. Maybe they’ve updated and improved on their skillset and gained enough experience to be fit for the role you’re advertising.

Advertising externally

When you’re done advertising internally, it’s time to move on to advertising externally on job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Google for Jobs. It’s the most effective way, by far, to attract qualified candidates. Some are free, some are paid. It’s up to you to decide which ones to use depending on your budget, but job boards do yield good results. Worst case scenario, you’ll get only a few applicants which means that you need to update that job description and make it more attractive.

Even if you do get little to no applicants, most job boards allow you to create a company profile and browse resumes from candidates actively seeking the position you want to fill. You always have the option of reaching out to the people that check all boxes on your ‘employees I’d love to hire’ list.

Maybe someone whose resume catches your eye isn’t even looking for a job. Send them a message anyway. Make it compelling and present the invitation to a phone call. You never know where your next amazing employee might emerge from.

You can advertise your job opening on social media as well. Your company probably has a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram profile. If it doesn’t, it might be time to start working on that. Recently, even TikTok is taking the job market by storm.

It’s worth building a strong online presence. One of the reasons is to alleviate some of the more time-consuming aspects of hiring. Update your profiles regularly and remain active online to have people follow your page and check in for job openings on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

  1. Reviewing applications

If you’re reviewing applications by hand, you’ll need to give yourself a set amount of time to go over each package. If all goes according to plan and you have a nice amount of resumes, cover letters, and/or portfolios in your inbox, it makes sense to analyze them thoroughly. But not to the point that you won’t have the time to go through all of them and potentially miss out on an awesome candidate.

We spoke to Vuk V., our vice president of marketing at Skillful Communications, and Sonny A., the head of marketing at an up-and-coming gaming company, and asked them if they prefer Applicant Tracking Systems over reviewing applications by hand. 

Both said no and surmised that taking the time to review each application thoroughly is paramount if you want to hire someone that fits well with the company culture while at the same time meeting all the requirements of the job.

However, Vuk did mention that he’d be willing to try an Applicant Tracking System if he were short on time and had too many applications to review.

We asked the same two hiring managers and a third, Mary G., producer at a world-renowned online video platform, what impresses them most in an application. What is a good sign that a certain candidate might be a good future employee?

Vuk’s Answer: “For me, it’s the drive. If I’m looking at a resume, I want to see it personalized for the job. I like candidates who think out of the box and go the extra mile to impress me. They could include a video in the application or something else that’s not too time-consuming but different, not generic.

Sonny’s Answer: “A career ladder. I’m always drawn to people that have humble beginnings and gradually climb to a good position. Also, if that path was also sprinkled with a bit of diversity in terms of work/responsibilities, even better!”

Mary’s Answer: “If it’s to the point, no expansive ‘filler’ text. If they’re accurately able to describe their skills. If they include soft skills beyond “I am good at communicating” – communication can be of many types in a corporate environment, what is it you can actually do?”

Reviewing cover letters

If you asked applicants to include cover letters, make sure to read them and review them effectively and efficiently. Scan for relevant keywords to determine if the cover letter is customized for your company.

Entry-level positions usually come with generic statements in cover letters reused for multiple job applications. That’s fine. The candidate is just joining the workforce. They won’t want to dazzle you with their dreams of remaining in the position forever. If those same generic statements appear in cover letters for more senior-level positions, that might be a red flag.

Vuk explains that he does not require a cover letter, but it’s always a plus when he receives one. He does prefer it to be a video cover letter and not just a written one, though.

Mary, however, tells us that she’s “not a fan of cover letters. 90% of them are templates, and the other 10% rarely tell me anything of importance about the candidate.”

Evaluating resumes

The resume summary should give you a general idea of the candidate’s abilities and experience. It’s the first thing that could check some of your boxes or point out red flags. If you’re short on time, skim the text for relevant keywords.

Specific requirements and red flags (unexplained employment gaps, excessive job-hopping, etc.) are what you need to keep an eye out for while reviewing a resume. The type of criteria that you should include in your requirement checklist are experience, education, and necessary skills. Examples of quantitative results and messaging that’s tailored for your company or the position are also great finds. The best candidates are likely to include them.

Take into consideration today’s hyper-competitive hiring markets and talent shortages. Note that the perfect candidate might simply not be out there. Managers should hire as much for potential as they do for skills or job history.

When asked what turns them off in a resume, here’s how hiring managers responded:

Mary’s Answer: “Extremely personal details and non-constructive negative points. For example, telling me why quitting your previous job led to improvements because the guys at that job were out to get you (yes, got this in a resume once, for real). Or telling me your life story. Sounds cold, but I’m not interested in that, if you’re hired we can go out for drinks and you can tell me about it then.”

Sonny’s Answer: “A lot of jobs in a short span of time. Spending only a few months at a few consecutive jobs.”

If you need more help figuring out what to look for in an applicant, check out Defining Key Competencies Your Job Candidate Should Have.

  1. Screening

Candidate screening helps you determine if a candidate is qualified to advance to the next step of the hiring process based on their expertise, skills, and experience. It mainly takes place right before the interview stage. Screening also allows you to create a shortlist of qualified individuals who have the potential to be successful at your company.

Some of the best methods of candidate screening include:

Pre-recorded videos

Candidates receive some interview questions. They then prepare answers and record them for the recruiter to review. This phenomenon is also referred to as a one-way video interview. If you’d like to learn more, check out our One-Way Video Interview Guide for Recruiters.

We’ve asked multiple hiring managers if they’re open to the idea of pre-recorded videos and most are willing to try it. 

It can’t be stressed enough that having the right tools to effectively fill a vacant position can make your job and subsequently your life a lot easier. Learning the right way to prepare your candidates for pre-recorded videos is a must if you want to learn more about them before actually inviting them to an interview.

There are plenty of ways to get your candidates ready. Since it’s a relatively new screening technique, you might want to create a video yourself and give your candidates a few clues about how to correctly proceed. Need help with that? We’ve got you covered!

Try out Skill’s full training curriculum. It covers every aspect of the interview process and it helps you practice to excel in conducting interviews. So, if you’re a brand new manager or a seasoned executive, this might actually be what you need to learn new skills or polish the ones that you already have.

Phone screening

It’s mainly used to verify a candidate’s qualifications. This screening technique is shorter than an interview but still takes time. Recruiters spend about 80,000 minutes per year trying to vet candidates, according to a recent 2022 study. A phone screen may take up to 30 minutes on average. During that time, candidates are asked high-level questions to root out the ones who are unqualified:

  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • What about the position attracted you to apply?
  • What are the top three duties in the job you now have?
  • How would your current skills be a match for this job?

Based on the candidates’ answers, you’ll know if they’re ready for the next stage of the hiring process. Furthermore, the candidates will appreciate the personal outreach and the chance to talk to a real recruiter.

Skill testing

Skill testing provides an unbiased way to verify a candidate’s expertise. It’s probably the best tool you can use early in the hiring process to make sure that the job applicant can actually do the job. Web-based tests as the first screening step reduce costs and make for better hires since they root out unqualified applicants and filter in the better-qualified bunch to undergo the more costly, personalized aspects of the recruitment process.

Vuk says that skills testing is only necessary if the candidate doesn’t already have a good track record. “If they have a track record and can defend it in an interview, I don’t require a test. Let’s say I want to hire a Youtube manager and they include their successful Youtube channel in their resume. If they dazzle me with their strategy during the interview, that’s cool, no test. If they don’t have a track record, however, I’m going to test them to make sure they can do the job.”

Sonny thinks that skills testing is “necessary only for certain positions like Design and Development (among others).”

Mary states that it “depends on what I’m hiring for. A creative job? Yes. A project manager job? Not so much. Interviews can determine if they can do the job.”

Social media screening

In recent years, company use of social media for candidate outreach and screening has skyrocketed. Recruiters often visit a candidate’s social media profiles to check on the quality of their online presence. This can add depth to a candidate’s application but may also trigger an unconscious bias and lead to unfair hiring or no hiring at all. It’s best to just check out the candidate’s LinkedIn since every piece of information there is job-related and that’s what you’ll ultimately be interested in.

  1. Interviews

Once you’re done with the initial screening, you’re ready to start scheduling interviews. Smart and effective interviews are essential to maximizing your company’s time and finding the right person for the job. They also amplify your employer brand.

Make sure you’ve prepared a structure before conducting your interviews so that you ask the best questions and provide your candidates with a positive interview experience.

Check out our take on 4 Benefits of Structured Interviews. Take the time to get ready and your highest quality candidate will receive, and possibly accept, an offer in no time.

Whether you’re interviewing candidates remotely or physically, your first step is to check your recruitment plan and decide if you want a single interview, several rounds of interviews, a panel interview, or a team presentation. If you’re unfamiliar with interview formats, we recommend you read up on The Hiring Manager’s Guide to Interview Formats.

The best practice is to have your candidates go through multiple selection interviews with different members of the hiring staff. This way, you’ll get several valuable opinions on the candidate’s qualifications for the job. It might be time-consuming and you might want to utilize a panel interview with two or three interviewers at a time. This format is most often used in medical and academic settings.

During our interviews with hiring managers from across multiple industries, we asked them the following questions:

In an interview, what are obvious red flags that make you not want to move forward with a particular candidate?

Vuk’s Answer: “If it’s for a senior role, the lack of experience is a red flag. I don’t feel comfortable about them delivering what needs to be delivered. If it’s for an entry or medium-level role, an obvious red flag for me is when they don’t ask questions about the job, the company, etc. It shows a lack of curiosity.

Another red flag is speaking ill about their previous workplace. I hate that. You can have bad experiences in the past but you should always be the bigger person. Critique with arguments not with malice.

Also, I don’t like the lack of creativity in a creative. For example, I’ll ask a potential social media manager ‘What if you had an unlimited budget, and you could start the social media campaign of your dreams? There are no restrictions. Just adjust it to our audience. What would you do?’

They can give me an idea I disagree with or don’t like personally. That would be fine. But if the answer lacks creativity, if it’s copy/pasted, it’s a huge red flag because they won’t fit the culture.”

Mary’s Answer: “Attitude-wise, candidates who are extremely negative (put themselves down, overly criticizing their current/former company, etc). It shows me they might be very difficult to work with and train. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them to talk about negative issues, sometimes I probe regarding this on purpose, but you should be able to describe negative experiences without putting yourselves and others down.”

Sonny’s Answer: “A clear distinction between what the resume says and what the candidate is able to explain regarding their past jobs.”

What’s the most important aspect that makes you hire someone for an entry-level position? What about a senior-level position?

Mary’s Answer: “Entry-level: willingness to learn and listen. Sounds simplistic, but as a manager, I don’t mind hiring inexperienced/entry-level candidates specifically because they are easier to train and teach.

Senior-level: hands-on experience; their attitude during the interview and how they answer questions pertaining to handling difficult situations/projects.”

Sonny’s Answer: “Entry-level: energy and willingness to learn/work.

Senior-level: diverse experience in that particular domain and its derivatives.”

If you’re down to a few superhero candidates who are on the same level on paper (skills, experience, etc.), how do you decide which one to choose?

Sonny’s Answer: “I’ll choose the one who inspires the most honesty during the face-to-face or cam call.

Mary’s Answer: “Depends on what I’m hiring for. If I’m hiring a copywriter for example, and one candidate has experience writing scripts for videos and pop culture knowledge and the others don’t, I will definitely be inclined to choose the former. If I’m hiring a project manager, I don’t care if they have a background in video platforms. A good PM can fit in any team. So, then I’ll be looking at PM skills and experience + soft skills above anything else.”

Vuk’s Answer: “If I’m looking to hire a growth marketer, I’ll choose the person who’s best at coming up with good strategies and focusing on user acquisition. If I’m hiring a copywriter, I prefer candidates who are actionable, and who write copy or articles that bring value to the reader rather than extracting value and saying the obvious things. I’d also be inclined to choose the candidate who’s more creative, who can answer the tricky questions, and ultimately, who I feel would be a pleasure to work with long-term.”

Rejecting applicants

You’ve conducted your interviews and now you have to narrow down your list even further. That’s all well and good — it’s all part of the recruitment process — but how do you let the candidates know they didn’t make the cut? You’ll need a rejection letter.

What is a rejection letter?

Rejection letters are usually sent within a two-week period after the interviews. They consist of one or two paragraphs that are concise and to the point. If you think a candidate has the necessary skills but isn’t the best for the role, use the rejection letter to let them know that you’re impressed with their background and would like to hear from them again in the future.

Using a standard template for all rejection letters might seem like a good idea. After all, it saves time. However, it’s best to tailor your letters to the candidate by including their name, the position, and something you talked about during your interview. If you’ve got time to spare and were impressed by the candidate, offer constructive feedback about their interview performance. This can help you build a strong employer brand and make the experience worthwhile for candidates.

If you’re wondering what’s the best way to tell an applicant they didn’t make the cut, our guest star hiring managers had this to say: 

Mary: “I always try to offer relevant feedback to our recruiters so they can pass it on, but they are generally in charge of communicating to the candidate they won’t be moving forward in the process.”

Sonny: “Send them an email as soon as the decision is made but also mention the reason behind the decision.”

Vuk: “You can’t always reveal every single card, but I send a rejection letter quickly and I tell them the main reason they didn’t make the cut, especially if they’ve entered the later stages of the interviewing process. They deserve actionable feedback because if they decide to go for another role, that actionable feedback will maybe help them get the job. Just be human, be transparent with your feedback, and always send a rejection letter. Some companies don’t send one at all and I think they should be taxed for that.”

If you’d like more info on rejecting applicants, check out our article – Candidate Rejection Email: How to Say ‘You Didn’t Get the Job.’ 

  1. Hiring Decision

Before you decide who on your ‘top candidates list’ you’re going to hire, you’ll want to create universal hiring criteria. It should apply to every position at your company, whether it’s senior level or entry-level. The owner, CEO, and HR team can work together to craft these criteria based on company culture, the requirements of the business, the customer base, and more. The universal hiring criteria can help individual hiring managers analyze each candidate to ensure that they’re a good fit for the position they’re applying for.

Ask yourself questions about the candidate (h5)

  • How much does this candidate’s experience match the job requirements?
  • Will they be a good fit for the team they’ll work with and the organization as a whole?
  • How much training will this candidate require?
  • Does this potential new hire have advanced skills that will be helpful in the workplace?
  • Was this candidate able to share real situations where they have succeeded in their role?
  • How quickly does it seem like this candidate will be able to work without supervision?
  • Does this potential new hire possess the traits that show they’ll work hard, collaborate with others, and bring creative solutions to the team?
  • How recently did this candidate complete their education and have they kept up to date with changes and updates in their industry?
Reference checks

Completing reference checks on your candidates is one of the best things you can do when making a hiring decision. Talk to the people who know the candidate and their work ethic to acquire information about them in the workplace. Try to connect with about three references from previous places of employment to see if they would be a good fit for the role.

Only ask questions that are related to the job and the criteria you have in place for the position. You could prepare some questions beforehand about the candidate’s experience working with a certain reference.

Review all qualified candidates

If you’ve conducted several interviews to find the right candidate, one might stand out from the rest because they’re good at interviewing. However, you should take the time to review all your top candidate’s resumes and cover letters again before making a final hiring decision. Sort them out by skill level and how much of a match they are for the job. Also, re-review your interview notes.

Make sure all interviewers agree on who you choose

It’s important to get the opinions of all individuals involved in the hiring process. Different perspectives can be helpful when deciding which candidate to move forward with. Check with the direct manager, all members of the hiring staff, and the HR representative before making a final decision and make sure that everyone agrees on the same person for the role.

Be quick about your decision

Attempt to come to a final decision in a timely manner. While your top candidates are waiting for a decision, they might receive a formal offer from a competing business.

  1. Job offer

A job offer is a written communication sent to a potential employee who’s been selected for a specific position. Job offer letters provide the candidate with information on salary, job status, job duties, supervision, and starting date. It’s best to write it in a professional yet friendly tone. To avoid misunderstandings and legal issues, word the job offer letter as carefully and as accurately as possible since once it’s signed by both the employer and employee, it’s legally binding.

While it’s tempting to make a job offer at the end of the final interview or over the phone, it’s good practice to also send a letter afterward.

Hiring Process – Bottom Line

The hiring process is challenging, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. But with the right preparation and know-how, you’ll definitely find a great candidate to fill your open position. And if you don’t, you’ll learn from your previous mistakes and avoid them the next time. However, it’s truly satisfying when you gain an employee who brings value to the company and fits its culture the first time around.

We hope we’ve shed some light on the hiring process and we’d like to thank the hiring managers who have provided us with some really actionable tips that are sure to make your hiring process easier.

Now go get that top talent you’ve been searching for. Good luck!