Spend time up front to nail the right hires, and build a strong, cohesive team.
Hiring is hard, regardless of your industry or the surplus of candidates in the job market these days. In 7.5 years in business at Metal Mafia, I have hired a lot of great people for my team--but I have also hired many more who were not the right fit. Somewhere after the fifth or sixth bad choice, I decided I must be doing something wrong in the hiring process and tried to figure out how I could recruit and hire more accurately.
Here's what I learned and how I modified our hiring process:
Slow down. When I first started hiring, I was in need of people quickly. I posted ads with a specific hiring date in mind and often ended up interviewing and hiring prospects who met only some, rather than all, of my criteria because I had no other options. Slow down the process, either by continually running ads and accepting resumés or by making yourself comfortable with the idea that a position may be vacant longer than originally anticipated in the interest of making the right hire.
Think of the hiring process as a sieve. The more candidates who contact you, the better off you are--as long as you put careful controls in place so that only those who might be the right fit remain in the sieve. Every opening I post contains specific instructions as to how to apply. Potential sales team hires, for example, are asked to submit a short letter including the answers to four questions along with a resumé. Those who do not submit according to the instructions are not detail oriented, regardless of what their resumé declares, and will not do well at my company.
Create checkpoints along the way. By making the hiring process longer, you can set up certain checkpoints that allow you to prescreen applicants for skills you are seeking throughout the application process. These checkpoints paint a more accurate picture of prospects than merely relying on what you are able to learn in an interview situation. For example, I am looking for candidates with fast and thorough follow-up, so in my process, I first call a candidate to request a 10-minute phone interview. If the candidate is unavailable when I call, I pay attention to how long it takes for him to call me back and judge by his response time how speedy and diligent he is about getting back to me.
Test candidates on skills. Asking questions in an interview can give you some idea of what a person brings to the table, but the real indicator of how suited she is to the position is whether she can perform the functions she is being considered to do. A candidate who applies for a sales rep position at my company will be asked to role play several selling situations with me in the interview. If she is still in the running when the interview ends, she will be invited back a second time to spend half an hour cold calling, during which I listen to how she approaches selling and how well she listens to the customer.
Get the team's input. Once the values, methods, and skills of the candidate are confirmed, the last step is to make sure he fits with your company culture. I hired a few candidates who had all the skills and talents necessary to do the job, but then turned out to be terrible in the position because of a personality mismatch. Now, a candidate's last stop in the interview process is to meet our six-person sales team. Each member asks one question and informs me, on the basis of the response, whether she feels the candidate is a good hire. If the team votes no, the candidate is not hired.
Time intensive though it may seem, this process has made our candidate pool better. Since we've made these changes, I've avoided bad hires, and our team has been more cohesive.
In 2004, VANESSA MERIT NORNBERG opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg