By Alexander Westgarth,​ CEO and Founder of Westgarth Wines.

Unlike the vintage television spots for The Peace Corps, touting the institution as "the toughest job you'll ever love," recruitment is a tough job few even like, never mind love. The job too often tries a company's patience as much as it exhausts an employer's purse strings. It too frequently results in a surplus of superfluous resumes or a poverty of choices, which is tantamount to a false choice between the mediocre and the unqualified. Either way, the situation is the same: The numbers are irrelevant if no one has the skills and experience a business owner needs. Finding the right person, then, depends on asking the right questions. Otherwise, you will find yourself having to answer the question many executives shun and even more entrepreneurs seek to avoid: Where did I go wrong?

Specificity is the antidote to that scenario. You must be unambiguous regarding the candidates you want and the criteria they must satisfy. For example, if you want to hire a Senior Brand Manager who has an MBA from one of three schools (Harvard, Stanford or Columbia) and a minimum of five years of sales experience with a Fortune 100 company, say that plainly. Write a list of requirements, not a Bill of Rights, as the former is indisputable while the latter is, by its very nature, open to multiple interpretations.

I am in the midst of trying to hire a National Sales Manager for my own business. What I now know, and what every company should learn beforehand about the recruitment process, is, above all, to be clear. Say what you want so there is no confusion, no room for error and no reason for doubt.

Be blunt, too, without being boorish. You want to attract the best applicants while ensuring you do not repel candidates who share your philosophy and second your approach to business in general. If your post seems terse, remember the rule about clarity -- that nothing should detract from your vision, in the same way your choice of language should not sow division. Conditional phrases like "Only apply if ..." or "We will contact when ..." work best, since they repeat what you do and do not want.

Make it clear that you have a job to do, a job to fill and that yours is a workplace where there is plenty of space for camaraderie, collaboration and congeniality. In the meantime, explain in exacting detail what you are looking for.

Do not make the job tougher by treating it like a game or trying to game the system with short-cuts and shortsightedness. Say what you want, so you may get the person you need, without needless hassles and delays. From there, schedule a call with the applicants who best match your criteria. Have a conversation with them. Get a sense of the chemistry (or lack thereof) you have with each candidate. Then, and only then, should you schedule an in-person interview.  

Alexander Westgarth​ CEO and Founder of Westgarth Wines, a fine wine & spirit merchant specialized in investment grade wines.

Published on: Jun 13, 2018