When someone is newly hired, there are great expectations both for the company and, of course, the new person getting hired. Rarely does either party go in hoping for the worst. And yet several studies show that new hires fail more than 50 percent of the time within 18 months.

For a successful start-up, improving those odds is critical to preserve valuable time and effort. Jilliene Helman, CEO of RealtyMogul.com, has become super effective at hiring in her company. The hiring process is one of her favorite parts of the job, and she embraces seeking out creative ways to beat the average.

Helman, a member of  YPO, founded RealtyMogul.com in 2013 and quickly expanded it to more than 65 employees in four locations. She was also listed on Forbes' 2015 30 Under 30 Rising Stars of Enterprise Technology. She takes an unorthodox approach to making sure the people she hires will perform well in the long term.

Try Helman's unique process for getting the right people on the bus.

1. Test them on the job application.

The job application is the first step in the hiring process, and can tell you plenty more than simple vitals, if you look for the clues. "It sounds silly, but one of the fastest ways we screen out candidates is by seeing if they fill out the job application in full.  And our job applications are not one page for a reason," Helman added. "We use them as our first 'test' of a candidate.  For those candidates who do the bare minimum and fail to fill out the entire application, we will not move forward.  It's a quick test on whether or not they are willing to put in the work and their first opportunity to exhibit excellence."  

2. Learn how candidates rate their former managers.

Everyone seems relatable in an  interview, but there are ways to surface his or her real outlook. "One of my favorite sections on our job application is a rating of former managers," revealed Helman. "If candidates rate all of their managers poorly and come into an interview slamming their former companies, they are probably not the right fit for a startup where things get tough. Every once in a while having a bad manager is totally realistic, but a pattern of poor ratings for managers might mean the candidate has a pattern and struggles to deal well with direction."

3. Find the Do-Ers.

No one is going to tell you in an interview that they are not detail oriented or strategic thinkers. You have to test those skills. "We use custom tests for each position to find the do-ers," explained Helman. "If you are hiring a marketing professional, they can tell you that they have been writing Google ads themselves for five years, but you really find out if you see in their testing that they are counting character counts per line - a crucial success factor in writing ads.  I cannot tell you the number of professionals that miss these simple steps."

4. Meet senior candidates on two different days.

Everyone has good days and bad days. When hiring you need to see consistency. People react to different stimuli in different ways and sometimes your best candidates might struggle in that opening interview. Helman recommends giving them two different opportunities during the process. If still in question as to which personality is real, ask them back one more time. If they are clearly uncomfortable each time you see them, then it is time to move on.

5. Ask unexpected questions.

Most people prepare for their interviews. You want to dig beyond the polish. "Candidates usually come prepared ready to answer the standard interview questions like 'What is your greatest strength?,' 'What are your weaknesses?,' and 'Why should I hire you for this role?,'" remarked Helman. "Think of questions that are outside of the box that will give you key insight into who this person is and what type of culture they will succeed in.  Some of my favorite questions are 'What is your pet peeve?,' 'How would you describe your best and worst manager?' and 'What one thing drives you to wake up in the morning?'"

6. IQ matters.

The resume can tell us a lot about a person, but their intelligence and ability to think creatively is not always evident. Helman's recommendation? "We use the Wunderlic IQ test for all job candidates. It's pretty impressive when you build a team of professionals all in the top 25th percentile in IQ." 

7. Make the conversation two-way.

One-sided interviews rarely let us see the potential dynamic between the interviewee and company executive. Many entrepreneurs hog the floor trying to close the deal. "It's not only about the company finding the right fit, it is as much about the candidate finding the right fit," explained Helman. "As the CEO, I'm typically the last to interview senior candidates, and I spend the first portion of the interview answering the candidate's questions." 

8. Take potential executive candidates out to dinner with their spouse/significant other.

Talented executives commit their entire lifestyle to a career. Family factors in the equation and can create failure if not supportive. "For executive talent, it's essential that their spouse/significant other understands what they are signing up for and are fully up to speed regarding the challenges and demands of a startup," emphasized Helman. "Meeting them in person is a great way to make sure you are on the same page.  And who doesn't love a nice recruiting dinner."

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside  YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016