Smart choices: How to hire the best

Your organization’s continued growth and success depend on making smart choices and hiring the best. Today’s economy is exploding with talent, allowing you to be selective about the staff you hire. Yet, the crucial step to filling a position is finding the right talent for your organization – someone that has the skills for the job, easily blends with the culture, interacts well with the team and believes in your mission.

In his best seller, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes, “In the good-to-great transformation, people are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

To help you learn how to hire the best, it is important to learn about effective hiring and selection skills. Conducting a job interview looks easier than it is. And that’s the problem. According to studies based on the employment records of thousands of management and line employees, little or no correlation exists between the positive reports that emerge from the typical job interview and the job performance of the candidates who receive those glowing reports. However, this correlation goes up dramatically whenever interviewing becomes a structured, well-planned process – one that’s integrated into an organization’s overall staffing practices.

Serious job interviewer sitting at a desk in front of a job candidate.

Over the years, I have conducted numerous interviews and trained even more managers on effective interviewing and selection techniques. And I have gone on dozens of interviews. How the interview is conducted tells me a lot about how the company operates and the position.

If you are the one doing the interviewing, effective interviewing and selection needs to be a structured, well-planned process. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Before the interview

Know what you need. You can easily miss this step because you’ve got other responsibilities. Determine the key competencies required before you interview. If you are hiring someone in sales, for instance, create questions that will tell you whether the person has good interpersonal and organizational skills.

Advertise the position. Don’t just advertise in your local newspaper – cast your net even further!

Look at what works. What personality traits make someone a good fit for your culture? Is your organization laid back or formal? Do people work 9-5 or round the clock? Ask questions that will help you determine whether the candidate will adapt well to your organization’s culture.

Schedule multiple interviews. Conduct 15-minute telephone interviews to screen out inappropriate candidates. Have key people, those who will be working with the candidate, interview the top candidates, and ask for their feedback.

During the interview

Ask the right questions. Dig deep to find out whether a person is more comfortable with details or the big picture; is a self-starter or an order-taker. Create questions that will give you the answers you need. If time management skills are required for instance, you might want to ask, “What is your method for organizing your day?” Compare what each candidate says to determine who is strongest in this area.

Close your mouth and open your ears. Too often interviewers turn an interview into a grocery list of their wants and needs. Ask focused questions and then listen carefully. Take notes.

Go with your gut. . If you did your homework – that is, determined the key job requirements and asked questions that would ascertain the skills required – the hiring decision should be a natural next step. Sometimes, however, you can’t put into words why someone is or is not clicking with you. If you aren’t sure whether to trust your intuition, delay the decision for a day or two.

Here’s a final tip. After conducing all the interviews, I recommend that you use a simple grid to help choose the best candidate. Simply put the names of each candidate horizontally and put the job requirements or key competencies vertically. Then make up a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating. Rate each candidate from 1 to 5 on each of the job requirements or competencies. The person with the highest ratings is probably your best choice.

Above all else, consider input from each of the interviewers and trust your collective judgment. Put aside any and all stereotypes and select the best person for the job.

About the author
Judith Lindenberger MBA has a distinguished career in human resources consulting and is recognized for her innovation and excellence. The Lindenberger Group, LLC provides results-oriented human resources consulting, organization development, customized training workshops and personal career training to help individuals and organizations improve their productivity and performance. The Lindenberger Group is a two-time recipient of The Athena Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Contact them at 609.730.1049 or or