A popular burger joint in a small town had a suspicious reputation: If you were female, slender and blond, you’d be hired on the spot. If not, don’t bother applying. Whether it was true or not, it’s definitely not the best advice on how to hire the right person. A much more effective way is to look for clues in resumes, conduct effective interviews and enlist the help of other employees.

Resume review

List your job opening on KSL Jobs. There, candidates can easily upload a resume and cover letter. This is where they will make their first impression and you can get a quick idea of who they are. Those who are seriously interested in the position will customize their resume to include experience relevant to your listing, so look for words that match your job description. A generic read probably isn’t worth your time. There are a few other basics you should look out for. 

  1. Are there any misspelled words or grammatical errors? Toss it. If they didn’t bother to proofread, chances are they’ll make other sloppy mistakes.
  2. Is it easy to read? Don’t waste your time searching for information. There are enough self-help sites available on the internet — everyone should know to keep it simple, concise and clean.
  3. Is it fluffy? We’re not talking about paper texture. Pay attention to word choice. Is it full of jargon and ambiguous words? (Go-to-person, familiar with.) Look for specific examples of what they’ve worked on or accomplished. 
  4. Does it make sense? Are dates and job responsibilities realistic? Jumping from mailroom grunt to junior manager in six months only happens in the movies. 
  5. Does it look like the person does a lot of job hopping? Multiple jobs for less than two years each is not usually a good sign. Probably skip this one.
  6. Does something make you leery? Starting seven clubs in college could make them sound like a go-getter. Or maybe a scatterbrain. Or someone trying to pad a resume.
  7. Is pertinent information available? Their name, phone number and (professional) email address should be included and easy to find. Leave the hunting for deer season.

Non red flags

While there is rarely someone who is the perfect fit, a tight employment market may require some adjustment in your expectations. Don’t discount the resume just because the work experience doesn’t exactly match your job listing. Instead, focus on their potential. If they fit otherwise, could they learn specific skills in-house?

Also keep in mind that not everyone follows the same career path. Different work experience, or even work gaps, shouldn’t discount the person outright. In fact, someone with an off-beat background could bring fresh ideas. So narrow down the actual skills they’ll need, and then determine if the candidate could translate their knowledge into this job. And if the candidate interests you, regardless of job history, invite them for an interview.

Conducting the interview

The interview process is to not only find out if the candidate will work well for you, but also if your company would work well for them. Make it comfortable for both of you. Consider it a conversation as opposed to a question firing squad. 

Deciding how to conduct an effective interview will depend, in part, on whether you will be online or in person. If you’ll be performing initial screenings via phone, plan five to 10 questions. For an in-person session — either Zoom or in the office — plan on 10 to 15 questions, although you’ll probably only ask seven or so. You’ll do better asking all candidates the same questions, so you are comparing fairly.

Telling questions

Most serious job seekers already know the basic questions to expect. What is your greatest weakness? Where do you see yourself in five years? To get a better understanding of candidates, try something more creative. Such queries will give you insight into how the person thinks about themselves and others. For example:

  • What school grade did you enjoy most and why? This could show how they get along with others, what interests them or how they solved conflicts.
  • What trait do you admire most in a parent? You’ll get an idea of what they appreciate in others, and perhaps in themselves.
  • What misperception do others have about you? This tells you if the candidate is self aware. 

Best fit forward

Aside from qualifications, a compatible employee will have similar behaviors and ethics. The best interview questions to assess cultural fit delve into what they value. Questions might include:

  • How do you stay motivated when working remotely?
  • How did you resolve a mistake you made?
  • What important lesson did you learn in your first job?
  • What would an ideal company look like?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?

Enlist the team

Your future employee will be interacting with other team members, so it’s helpful to see how they might do that. As part of the interview, take a walk around the office and introduce the candidate to some people they might work with. During this tour, evaluate how the person interacts.

  • Do they show interest in others?
  • Do they ask questions?
  • Are they respectful?
  • Do they look people in the eye?
  • Did they seem curious about the business and how it operates? 

You could also have your team conduct a second interview as a group. Then follow up with your staff, asking about their impressions. They may notice strengths you missed. Or, they may reiterate concerns you have and thus make it easier to rule that person out. 

Follow up

After your interviews, let the interviewees know what comes next. That could be another interview or an assignment. Explain when they might expect to hear back from you, whether it’s a yes or no. 

If you are choosing someone else, be courteous. Send an email with your decision and thank them for their time. You could also explain why you made your decision, or tell them what they did well.

There is no exact science for how to hire the right person. But you’ll be more successful in finding the best choice if you do some impartial evaluation along the way. Pay close attention to the resume, looking for skills that can translate most effectively rather than job titles. Ask questions that will give you insight into how they think and, consequently, how they would fit in with your company culture. Finally, ask other employees to help you evaluate candidates. 

Place your next job listing on KSL Jobs, where you can include all the details, requirements and benefits. Interested candidates can then easily apply from your listing.