Peggy Shell, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Colorado, is founder and CEO of Creative Alignments, providing an alternative to traditional recruiting with a unique, time-based billing model and client-centric approach that makes recruiting more enjoyable and cost-effective for growing companies. We asked Peggy how to revamp recruiting practices to maximize efficiency and attract A-hires. Here's what she shared. 

Building successful teams is not easy. Recruiting takes valuable time, often at the expense of important day-to-day work. But getting the right people in the right seats is critical for business growth. A bad hire or a vacant role is just too costly.

So how can business owners build A-teams while maintaining high-level productivity?

The trick is to work smarter not harder by developing a strategic, streamlined recruiting process to get the greatest return on the time and effort you're investing in each step. Here are five ways to revitalize your recruiting practices:

1. Clarify what you need before recruiting.

Many companies make the mistake of either recruiting before they've clearly defined each role, or creating such a specific laundry list of qualifications that they're searching for a rare, elusive unicorn. Instead, work with decision-makers to establish:

  • The reason you're hiring for each role
  • What each role is expected to accomplish
  • How they will work with others, both internally and externally

Then, identify both must-have and nice-to-have skills and traits. In the job description, make clear which qualifications are critical versus desirable. This will prevent good candidates from self-disqualifying and help you quickly hone in on the best candidates. Once you think you've got a job description nailed, run it by others for a reality check.

2. See things from the candidate's perspective.

Recruiting is a sales and marketing function, especially with today's record-low unemployment and changing workforce demographics making it harder for companies to find the employees they need. We're currently in an employee's market: Job seekers can take their pick.

So how will you differentiate your company to stand out? Answer this question from a potential employee's perspective. Are there opportunities for growth or professional development? Does the company culture create a place people want to go to work every day? Is the product or service ground-breaking and fun to work on? Is leadership inspiring or passionate about mentoring? Beyond basic compensation and benefits, play up the perks to attract real talent.

3. Actively seek the people you want to hire.

When you post an open position on your website or job boards, you reach people who are actively seeking a job. This method misses a significant audience: Qualified people who are not looking for a job and therefore won't see your posting, but may be open to a new opportunity.

Be open-minded and creative about how you tap into both types of potential candidates. For instance, you could create a persona sketch of your ideal candidate to pinpoint where to find them. What would they do in their free time; what groups or clubs are they in? Seek them on LinkedIn groups, or post where they are likely to look, even if it's not a standard job board. Also, make the most of your network and that of your team. Establish an employee referral plan, incentivizing current staff to help fill the position.

4. Create an efficient, effective interview strategy and be ready to act fast.

A strong interview plan will help you get the most comparable information about each candidate, while not losing your favorite candidates because of long wait times. Remember, people have choices, and you don't want an ideal candidate to take another job because your interview process takes too long.

Assign different focus areas to each person on your interview team, which provides the opportunity to learn more about each candidate. After every interview, meet with the interview team to debrief while thoughts are fresh. This makes it possible to move fast with an offer letter when you find a great person.

If your interview process is lengthy, let the candidate know upfront what to expect to avoid them getting frustrated and dropping out. Regardless of how long your process is, keep candidates up-to-date and ask where they are in their search. If you've decided against someone, let them know sooner rather than later. Remember, candidates' interview experiences with your company will reflect on your brand, and therefore your future ability to hire.

5. Recruiting is a two-way street and doesn't stop at the offer letter.

Your favorite candidate is likely someone else's favorite candidate, too. Schmooze them with a SWAG bag, or reinforce your points of differentiation by having them engage with upper management or board members. When you find the person you want to hire, help them feel like they're already part of the team. If you just send an offer letter and wait, you're missing an opportunity to show them why they want to pick your company.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. On your new employee's first day, do things that will make them feel good about their choice. Let other team members know so they can welcome their new co-worker, too. Have a training plan in place that will set them up for success.

Adopting these small changes can make a big difference in your recruiting efforts. Start the year right with a solid plan and approach to filling your company with the people who will drive your success to new heights.