If you're just getting back into staffing up after the slump, you should know that the rules of hiring have changed. The process goes beyond finely tuned behavioral questions in a subdued interview setting and into how you initiate your hire. It's about getting your new employee to tell an embarrassing story about himself – or run up a set of stadium steps. It's about putting a mirror to your corporate culture to see who might be a good fit. The payoff to great – and even edgy – hiring practices is big. The companies that do hiring best have great retention rates, and end up spending less on turnover than other companies. We've compiled the best interviews, anecdotes, and pointers from stories in Inc. magazine and Inc.com so you can learn from the pros.
1. Break the ice with a cool initiation ritual.
Some rites of passage are glorified icebreakers designed to transform strangers into friends as quickly as possible. For example, within 30 days of their hiring, all new employees at CXtec, a supplier of data networking and voice equipment, serve coffee and doughnuts from a cart to everyone at the company's Syracuse, New York, headquarters. Each freshman is also paired with a veteran staff member. At CityMax.com, a build-your-own-website service in Vancouver, British Columbia, new employees always start on Fridays, when work is less hectic and everyone has time to introduce him- or herself. The hire is greeted with balloons, streamers, and a welcome card signed by the entire staff. By the time lunch rolls around, "the comfort level is through the roof," says co-founder and president Dean Gagnon. That's when new hires are asked to relate an embarrassing story about themselves. "It gives everyone insight into the new person," says Gagnon. Read more.
2. Skip the resumes.
37signals co-founder Jason Fried shares his tips for hiring great employees: "First, we hire late. We hire after it hurts. We hire to alleviate pain, not for pleasure. Who hires for pleasure? Any company that hires people before it needs them is hiring for pleasure. It's an indulgence we've never allowed ourselves." He says 37signals is happy to skip over the perfect candidate if there isn't an ideal job fit for them. And the company is not in the practice of simply "inventing a position" for the perfect hire just so they don't get away. Fried also writes: "Once we begin vetting candidates, we also behave a little differently. For one thing, we ignore resumes. In my experience, they're full of exaggerations, half-truths, embellishments - and even outright lies." Read more.
3. Test your employee's mettle.
Interviews are often a place for would-be employees to talk the talk. At moving company Gentle Giant of Somerville, Massachusetts, new movers truly have to walk the walk. Actually, make that run the stairs. Before stepping foot on a moving truck, new employees are often required to run the steps of Harvard Stadium. The practice began informally in the 1980s, when CEO Larry O'Toole hired members of college rowing teams, who liked to work out on the stadium stairs. In the early '90s, O'Toole institutionalized the run as a way to test the mettle of new hires and emphasize that he expects them to push themselves. Most movers complete the trial within their first few weeks on the job. Office workers are encouraged to try as well, and about a quarter of them do. "Moving is very unpredictable," says O'Toole. "You need to know the person isn't going to let up." Read more.
4. For retention, be generous from the get-go.
Amy Carr of Red Door Interactive talked with Inc.'s Leigh Buchanan about bringing her marketing perspective to HR. She says the best time to give benefits to employees is right away. "Bringing in and hanging onto top people requires putting in a lot of time and money upfront. We started thinking about those things almost immediately and it has paid off for us, not just in terms of keeping talented people but also in developing institutional memory," she said. "We've always had at least three weeks of paid time off, and then we extended that so people could accrue more vacation the longer they stayed. And we've always had flexible work schedules because we've always had trust with the people who work for us. Putting in good benefits early is a way of building that trust—demonstrating that we expect this to be a long-term relationship and we're willing to invest in them." Read more.
5. For behavioral traits you want, look at existing employees.
You'll want to incorporate behavioral characteristics that you believe will be necessary for a new hire to both shine in their position and mesh well with your existing office's culture. If you're not sure about these temporal and experiential traits, human resources expert Jamie Resker, president of Employee Performance Solutions, suggests looking for characteristics that already exist in your thriving office. "It's not an exact science, but getting a fit for whether this person is going to be a good fit culturally in the office is important," she said. "For that, you just need to tap into the best qualities your existing employees share." Read more.
6. Throw a few interview curveballs.
When it comes to hiring the right people at some small companies, attitude and personality are as important as experience and skills. That's why at All4, a $3.4 million environmental-consulting company in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, all candidates who pass a prescreening are e-mailed a set of hypothetical questions, Inc.'s Leigh Buchanan reports. Some questions assess problem-solving skills. (You have 16 hours to get up to speed on a subject that requires 24 hours of research. What do you do?) Others assess collegiality. Read more.
7. Get onboarding up to speed.
These days, new hires are jazzed at the prospect of joining Van Meter Industrial, says CEO Barry Boyer. And it's not just because of the generous benefits offered by the $165 million distributor of electrical and automation products. A few years ago, Boyer noticed that fresh recruits at the company's headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, appeared underwhelmed. To get to the bottom of the problem, he and Karen Schumacher, manager of learning and development, convened a group of 20 recent hires. "They told us that in the first 90 days, there wasn't enough to connect them to the organization," says Boyer. From that feedback, Van Meter developed a four-step onboarding process to get new hires acclimated, including shadowing other employees and taking classes. Read more.
8. Offer the right salary and perks.
Even in this economy, you'll want to hire the best of the best. In order to attract top candidates, you'll need to offer a competitive salary. Searching competitors' job listings can be a useful means of finding industry information if you aren't in the position to purchase a salary study or work with a firm that conducts compensation research. Other readily available sources of information are PayScale.com and Salary.com, which even adjust for geographical inequalities in pay. Also, don't ignore the power of benefits to affect a great candidate's decision to join your company. In small companies, benefits send important signals about culture and stability. "If you're like Google and have incredible benefits, then you might not need to pay that much. But if you don't offer health insurance, you might need to pay more," says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of the Massachusetts-based HR consulting firm Human Resource Solutions. Read more.
9. Don't hesitate to recruit via social media.
As a recruiter you want to be where the most qualified, talented, and largest pools of applicants are, right? LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have over 535 million combined users. That equals a lot of potential talent for your company. But how do you find the right person for the job using social media? Read more.
10. Ask a diverse mix of questions.
In the interview, it's as much about what comes out of your mouth as the candidate's. That's because you might never know if you've got the right person in front of you if you don't explore some different situational and behavioral-style questions with them. Sarah Kessler writes that Tom S. Turner, a Vancouver-based independent consultant who designs selection systems, uses a list of about seven to 12 criteria and develops four questions for each factor he is looking for. Two questions are positively worded, meaning they ask the candidate to speak about something he or she did well. One question is negatively worded, meaning it asks the candidate to think about a time when they made a mistake and how they dealt with it. And the last question serves as a backup in case the candidate draws a blank on one of the other questions. You'll want to include fact-based questions, situational/hypothetical questions, stress questions and behavioral questions. Read more.