Forget the gimmicky tests and interview books. Here are some tips you really can use to make a great hire.
First, forget the tricks. Almost all of those gimmicky tests that the interviewing books serve up (contrive an interruption to see how an applicant reacts, leave him or her with the receptionist, etc.) have been so widely circulated at this point that nobody is going to flub them. Second, lower your expectations -- the perfect hire doesn't exist, and neither does the worst. Either way, you won't have conclusive results for a few months, so relax. Third, to hire well, you need to hire more.
Just to be clear, we're not advocating doubling your head count overnight. But, yes, we do recommend bringing more candidates through the doors. Get rid of the one-in-one-out mentality. Get rid of any arbitrary time frame for hiring. The beautiful economic reality in today's freelance nation is that there's always a contract player, part-timer, or telecommuter willing to do high-level work without a commitment. For both you and them, the arrangement effectively replaces the job interview, an antiquated custom that has largely outlived its usefulness anyway. If someone doesn't pan out, audition someone else. Hell, try three or four people at a time.
Staffing firms are a good place to start, but there are other ways to scare up as many qualified leads as possible. Delaware North Cos., which hires about 7,000 workers seasonally to staff venues like Yosemite National Park and the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium, has found that in many cities, the 6 o'clock news is glad to plug a job fair as a service to John Q. Public.
And consider trying out young, untested professionals with an eye on the future. Community colleges offer an eager, overlooked work force that can come in and learn your ropes for a lower price tag while attending night school. Moses Harvin, CEO of American Services Technology, a logistics company based in Cocoa, Fla., recommends hiring inner city kids, while Keith Frein, CEO of Professional Placement Resources, a nurse-staffing company in Jacksonville, finds immigrants to be "the most loyal employees around." Such arrangements may require extra (or extraordinary) patience and guidance, but they can pay dividends in long-term retention. Freeing you from another round of hiring.