Resources How to Hire 101

How to Build a Great Hiring Process Step by Step

Here’s the dream hiring scenario: you have an open position and a perfect candidate walks through the door and charms you with their obvious talent and culture fit. They start the next day and go on to become a high-performing, loyal employee. And let’s say they also make amazing chocolate chip cookies and share them with the team. Magic.

We should all be so lucky, but the gap between needing to make a hire and making the hire can feel like standing at the edge of a chasm with no way to cross.

A hiring process is like a bridge that leads you board by board, step by step, to the right hire. As CareerPlug’s Senior Director of HR, I’ve seen firsthand how the right hiring process can soothe hiring headaches and help employers confidently hire the right people. 

So let’s talk about how we can build that bridge and take the heavy lifting out of your hiring by nailing down your hiring process steps. 

Why you need a hiring process

Without a structured hiring process, it’s easy to fall into hiring traps such as:

  • “I’ve got a good feeling about them” . . . making decisions based on gut feelings 
  • “I just need a body in a seat” . . . short-term thinking 
  • “They remind me of myself” . . . hiring people exactly like you

If you make up your hiring process as you go, give different candidates a different experience for the same role, or are not evaluating candidates against clear, objective criteria . . . that’s not a hiring process either; it’s the wild west. You may make a hire, but you’ll be starting from scratch every time you jump into hiring again.

The benefits of having a standard hiring process include:

Before you begin: Know what you’re looking for 

Before we walk through the building blocks of the hiring process, there are some key things you should consider. 

At CareerPlug, we recommend creating an Ideal Candidate Profile before hiring new employees. This is an exercise where you identify the ideal skills, talents, and behaviors someone needs to succeed in your open position. Knowing who you want to hire will inform the hiring process you build. Click the button below to download our Ideal Candidate Profile Template to help you get clear on the kind of candidate you are looking for. 

Hiring process steps 

There is no one “right” way to build a hiring process, but here is a basic, hiring process flowchart that we use at CareerPlug:

Hiring process flowchart

I go over each of these hiring process steps and explain how we use this recruitment process flowchart in this video: 

Let’s walk through the six hiring process steps in detail. Ideally, you will be able to apply this basic framework into the context of your organization and use it to create a hiring process checklist. 

1. Review

The review is the first stage when you receive applicants and need to decide whether or not to move them through your hiring process. Here, you are reviewing resumes along with a few key questions designed to surface the most important qualifying information. For example, you might ask how many years of experience an applicant has in your field or if they hold a particular certification.

Shoot for around three to five of these qualifying questions (we call them prescreen questions) and rely on the resume to tell a broader story. At CareerPlug, we like to add at least one open-ended question to our job applications: What makes you unique? Answers run the gamut from a fun fact, a mini-cover letter, or an incoherent sentence.

Remember, at this stage (and every stage) you need to decide to move an applicant forward or remove them from the process. Resist decision paralysis where you leave candidates lingering in limbo without any communication. If they’re not a good fit, send them a polite rejection so you can both move on. 

2. Phone screen

The next stage in the hiring process is the phone screen. This is a short tele-interview between the hiring manager and candidate, usually lasting 15-20 minutes. In this stage, you’ll vet candidates based on basic qualifications for the role and validate your assumptions from reading their resume.

Ask questions about the day-to-day of their current job, what they like and what they don’t like, and why they are looking for a new opportunity.

The phone screen is also a good opportunity to ask questions about job preferences. Ask about their ideal work environment and company culture, what their ideal manager is like, and check to make sure the compensation you’re offering for the role is in line with their expectations. 

Give candidates time to ask questions at this stage – they are vetting the role too.

3. Assess

The next stage is to assess. This part of the process is adaptable and dependent on the position but typically gauges cognitive ability or specific job skills.

You might use a general assessment or one designed especially for the role. For example, when we hire software engineers at CareerPlug, candidates complete a coding challenge at this stage. In terms of general assessments, we have math/verbal and personality assessments within our applicant screening software that we use for many positions.

The assess stage is perhaps the most flexible of the hiring process steps. Think about 1) how imperative the results are to have early in the process and 2) the financial and time investment.

4. Interviews

For many positions, you may find that one face-to-face interview is sufficient. For senior-level positions, you might need two or three interviews depending on the number of internal stakeholders who need to be involved. Check out another video that explains the types and formats of interviews and how they fit into your hiring process: 

The interview process (virtual or in person) is where you can deep dive into your candidate’s experience, potential, and culture fit. Interviews are the core of the hiring process that can ultimately help you make your decision to offer someone a job. 

5. Verify

After your interviews, it’s time to verify what you’ve learned about the qualified candidate by conducting reference checks. 

The verification step may be the most neglected stage in the hiring process, but when people look back at hires that didn’t work out, they usually regret not completing this step. Reference and background checks take a little extra time and money to conduct, but they are worth it. 

Reference checks should validate what you’ve learned, giving you the confidence that you’re making the right decision. They can also give you insight on how to effectively manage this person.

It’s also important to remember that you’re not conducting reference checks in an attempt to discredit the candidate. At CareerPlug, we like to assume the best in people, so our stance when it comes to this step is “trust, but verify.”

6. Offer

You’ve made it this far; now, the last of the hiring process steps is to make the best candidate a compelling offer

I go over how to put together your offer and present it to your soon to be new hire in this video: 

At CareerPlug, we believe that the delivery of your offer is just as important as the offer itself. In terms of the actual offer, we like to make a big deal about this. We create a formal offer letter and put together a benefits folder for them to review. Then we walk them through each section and cover all of the key areas: compensation, benefits, work-life balance, and professional development.

It’s at the offer stage that candidates may express some hesitation. Ask them about the pros and cons they are weighing in their heads. You could also inquire as to whether they’re considering other offers. Not everyone is forthcoming with these details, but you would be surprised by how many are.

You won’t win them all, but you should be able to learn something from each one. Not everyone is going to be a match for your company and what you have to offer, but you can use this feedback to adjust your approach and be more competitive. 

A little more guidance for building your hiring process:

  • Take inventory of your current hiring process. Ask current employees for feedback around their hiring process with your company. Think about what is and isn’t working for you; grade your hiring process. It’s important to understand where you are today before deciding where to make changes. 
  • Implement a system that helps you stick to the process. Create a hiring process checklist and use an applicant tracking system (ATS) like CareerPlug to help you stay on track during every stage. 
  • The hiring process may not always run like a well-oiled machine as intended. Life is messy: the process gets thrown off, a step gets skipped by mistake, or you add another step. Flexibility is possible and necessary, but committing to honor a consistent hiring process will help you consistently make better hires. 

If you’re hiring, we hope you do get the best case scenario, and magic or not, you’ll find that some hires just click into place. When you build a hiring process you trust, hiring does get easier, great hires get more predictable, and you can get back to what you do best: running your business.

Learn how CareerPlug can help your hiring process.

Sticking to a structured hiring process is sometimes easier said than done. That’s why CareerPlug created the tools to make it easier for small business owners. Take a tour of CareerPlug’s hiring software today.

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