Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Aristotle would have said that sometime between the years 384 and 322 BC, meaning that habits have been a fixture in the cultural conversation for a very long time—and for good reason. Our habits can help us become the people we aim to be, or hinder us from abandoning our worst vices.
While we can’t offer some great secret for how to get eight hours of sleep per night or how to stop you from biting your nails, we can hopefully shed some light on how to improve your hiring habits. As a company that frequently writes about corporate culture, employee engagement, and recruiting and interviewing best-practices, we’ve noticed a few things along the way.
If you have plans to grow your team, it’s time to incorporate these seven habits into your hiring process.
1. Think like a marketer.
What is employ-vertising, besides a catchy phrase coined by the JWT group? It’s how you build your employment brand so that candidates will “buy in” to your company, rather than the competition’s. Certain businesses excel at this—like Zappos, an online shoe supplier. Their holacratic (non)management style is famous, as are their ball pits and unconventional interview techniques.
In essence, Zappos has run a marketing campaign for company culture, selling themselves not just to shoe-lovers, but also to job-seekers. Their Insider Program creates a network of promoters, all willing to spread the word of Zappos. The company also publishes a free eBook every year, a kind of culture manifesto written by current employees.
What kind of candidates do you want to attract and how can you sell them on your company over everyone else’s? Fringe benefits? An office pet policy? Lunchtime yoga sessions? To bring in the best, you have to give people a reason to apply—one that goes beyond the paycheque.
2. Believe in potential.
Experience doesn’t equal expertise, and it certainly doesn’t promise passion. But ask any HR manager who they would rather hire: someone who just graduated from university or a candidate with five years experience in a similar role? They’ll almost universally land on the latter. Often, that’s the right choice, but in some cases, it’s not. The problem is that overworked HR professionals have grown accustomed to ruling out ‘under qualified’ candidates without ever actually considering them. Who has the time to do otherwise?
If you don’t make time, you could be missing out. That’s because creativity, adaptability, and passion count for a lot, and are far harder to teach than many skills. The screening process should be about more than ticking off boxes on a checklist. So when deciding who to interview, pay close attention to the cover letter: it’s here that a candidate can really make his or her case. Every now and then, why not give the underdog a chance to wow you?
3. Network Often.
At a Rise open house, we met an individual who didn’t plan to enter the job market for at least another year, yet he was shaking hands and expanding his network. It’s this kind of perseverance that lands job seekers their dream position. And it’s this kind of tenacity that can help you find your next superstar employee.
Whether we’re hiring here at Rise or not, one position will always remain open: “Awesome? Apply here!” We don’t want to miss out on someone amazing. Proactive sourcing keeps the talent pipeline full so that when a position comes up, we’re reconnecting rather than introducing ourselves for the first time.
4. Involve the team.
Internal referral campaigns are one of the best ways to source top talent. Employees know that anyone they recommend will reflect on them, which is a serious responsibility. Since they already have a solid understanding of company culture and expectations, they can also assess if someone has the intangible qualities necessary to succeed (but which can be challenging to communicate in a job posting).
It’s important to keep in mind that interviewing isn’t solely the responsibility of hiring managers, HR professionals, or the senior leadership because they’re not the only ones who’ll have to work with this person. As such, it’s a good idea to include people who will be the candidate’s direct peers or subordinates.
5. Refuse to settle.
As deadlines pile up and quarterly targets loom large, the temptation to hire extra hands becomes greater. A stressed out team is a sign you need to bring more people on board—and soon—but you never want to extend an offer to someone you’re not excited about. “Good enough” isn’t, in fact, good enough.
To take pressure off your team in the interim, look for contractors, freelancers, or temps. There’s less commitment involved (especially with the latter), so you don’t need to vet them as thoroughly. And given the nature of their work, most can dive in without a lot of onboarding or training.
Bonus: you just might find your next A player. One of Rise’s communications designers began as a freelancer—but her work was so impressive that, when a full-time position came available, she was hired on.
6. Be honest.
There has never been a role more fulfilling, flexible, or rewarding than this one—or at least that’s what you’d like your candidates to believe. Our eagerness has a tendency to make us a bit dishonest. We skip over the grunt work or overtime hours because we want this all-star employee to sign on. And she will if you’re convincing enough.
But for how long?
Make no mistake: misleading candidates during the hiring process will lead to resentment later on, ultimately increasing the company’s turnover rate. That’s why it’s so crucial to be transparent in every interaction with applicants. Tell them if their predecessor left due to stress. Explain what a typical day would look like (and how long it might last). Talk about the tough parts of the role and ask the candidate if he is prepared to take those on.
Yes, you risk frightening some people off. But hiring them without full disclosure of what they can expect could potentially be a worse mistake. would have been a worse mistake.
7. Say no nicely.
Remember the person who turned you down at your grade seven dance? I’m betting yes. Rejection stings—and because of that, it’s memorable.
Hiring managers may feel the need to justify the rejection—which can lead to comments that come off as insulting. Rather than pointing to an applicant’s deficiencies, it’s best to thank them for their time and efforts while politely explaining that another candidate was a better fit for the role.
Waiting too long to contact candidates is another common hiring manager misstep. While bad news may not be the most fun to deliver, not following up with candidates can be received as poor etiquette, after all, these candidates have taken the time out of their day to apply and meet with you for an interview. The least you can do is call them or shoot them a polite email to let them know they didn’t make the cut. You should phrase the rejection nicely, and in a way that protects your company and brand from potential backlash.
The next time an application lands on your desk, take a second look at the cover letter. Why not make some new Linkedin connections, even if no positions are currently open? This week, find some time to ask marketing what they would change about your job postings.
Little steps and initiatives like these become habits long term.
Now that you know the 7 habits of highly effective hiring, you’re in a far better position to successfully employ rockstar candidates. Hiring the right people will help reduce your employee churn rate, enhance your office culture, and change your business for the better.