5 Steps for Success in Hiring

Oct 11, 2023

Because talent acquisition, the comprehensive process companies use to find and keep workers, is the foundation of any business, employers need a well-defined strategy for its implementation. Effective talent acquisition bypasses reactive recruitment in favor of proactive hiring. The difference between the two shows up in the quality of candidates: when recruiters scramble to get somebody (anybody!) on board, they risk bringing on workers who are unengaged and uninterested from the get-go. But when hiring professionals source candidates from carefully crafted talent pipelines, they land team members who not only possess the right skills but also thrive in their new workplaces.


The secret to a successful hiring strategy is curiosity: employers who continually question their operations, test new ideas, and take calculated risks will create talent acquisition processes that bolster businesses and their goals by bringing great performers on board. They are also adept at dealing with obstacles such as

  • a shortage of qualified candidates for certain roles (because of high demand, skills gaps, or the job location);
  • intense competition from other organizations;
  • difficulties in creating recruitment processes that are fair, unbiased, and legally compliant; and
  • inefficiencies that can lead to months-long delays in filling a role (which cost the employer time and money).


A well-designed recruitment strategy sidesteps many of those challenges by ensuring that a company has ready access to pools of talent so it can make efficient, unbiased hiring decisions. By incorporating the following five steps into their talent acquisition processes, organizations can find, screen, and hire exceptional people in record time.


Step 1: Planning and strategy development

A good plan enables good hires. In this initial stage, talent acquisition professionals work with hiring managers and other stakeholders to address the big-picture elements. The team’s first task is to identify staffing needs, devoting most of its attention to high-priority roles (but without letting less-pressing needs go unaddressed for long). Once the team has set its focus on a position, it can define the specific details (such as its job requirements and description) that will heavily inform the posting for the open role. (At a quick glance, for example, job seekers should learn that the organization wants to fill role X with someone who has Y years of experience and skills in Z.) This process not only helps attract candidates who are well suited for the job but also lays the foundation for successful onboarding by giving the future hire accurate information about and expectations for the role.


Next up on the hiring team’s to-do list is figuring out the hiring budget and timeline. Item lines on a talent acquisition budget can include fees for job postings, recruitment events, background checks, drug screenings, applicant tracking systems, recruitment software, external recruiters or staffing agencies, relocation expenses, and signing bonuses. Timing can strongly influence the budget: a team that wants to onboard someone quickly may need to devote a big chunk of spending on advertising and other strategies to speed the process along.


Step 2: Sourcing

Employers looking for new employees can draw on a wide range of search methods. Unfortunately, though, none of them guarantees success. In order to connect with the best applicants available, talent acquisition teams need to employ multiple and diverse strategies. Employers can consider the following possibilities:

  • Setting up employee referral programs
  • Advertising open roles in a wide range of locations (e.g., job boards, social media, podcasts, billboards)
  • Using job advertising tools to select ad spots that reach the most relevant and engaged candidates
  • Creating internship and returnship programs


Employers will find promising candidates when they use a broad range of recruitment strategies. Ultimately, however, these manifold methods point job seekers to the same place: the employer. That means employers must carefully craft their job postings, career sites, and employer brands to pique candidates’ interest and convert them into engaged employees.


Step 3: Screening

Since remote work became widespread, fewer job seekers are bound by location. The volume of applicants at remote-capable companies is up because a job seeker living in Boston can apply to a company based in Houston. With the uptick in application volume, talent acquisition professionals must spend more time on applicant screening so they can pinpoint promising candidates early in the recruitment process. An effective screening process not only makes for efficient recruitment but also minimizes the risk of poor hiring decisions.


Resume screening is the most common screening method, but it’s far from the only one. For example, applicants can be asked to sit for preemployment tests and assessments that help employers evaluate candidates’ knowledge and skills, work styles, and behavior. Applicants who meet employers’ expectations in all of these areas are more likely to thrive in their new positions.


Reference calls are another tool that can help eliminate bad candidates. The person making a reference call should confirm the applicant’s employment dates, job titles, and job duties. Checking these details can expose resume inaccuracies and exaggerations. Reference calls can also help employers gauge applicants’ behavioral traits, such as how they got along with their former colleagues and their ability to think creatively.


It’s important to remember that all screening strategies must comply with antidiscrimination laws. No assessment or reference call should inquire into a candidate’s personal characteristics (such as ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation). These strategies should assess applicants only on the skills, experience, and behaviors they bring to their jobs.


When used correctly, candidate screening can bolster an employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. As recruiters and hiring managers examine soft skills during the hiring process, screening can shift the focus from who the candidate is to what the candidate is capable of. This change in perspective reduces bias in the hiring process—the first step in achieving a diverse workforce.


Step 4: Interviewing

Once talent acquisition professionals have found the most promising candidates, it’s time to start interviewing. Decisions need to be made about several elements of this stage of the hiring process, such as the interview format and the number of interviews. The most important decision to make, however, is about the questions that will be asked. After all, the candidates’ answers to them will ultimately determine who gets the job.


Talent acquisition professionals may be tempted to reach for traditional interview questions, such as “Why do you want to work for our company?” and “What is your greatest strength?” These kinds of questions work fine to kick off the conversation. But interviewers should also consider asking behavioral questions, which reveal not what candidates have done but what they would do. This distinction helps an organization get to know candidates more deeply, which increases its chances of making the right hire.


Examples of behavioral questions include the following:

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to manage up. How did you do it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult teammate or client. How did you handle that relationship?
  • What are you looking for in a supervisor?
  • Tell me about how you work collaboratively while remote.
  • What’s something that made you better in your current role?


(As with the screening process, candidate interviews should focus on a candidate’s skills and experience. Interviewers should not ask applicants about their ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics.)


Step 5: Selection and offer

It may seem as though the employer holds all the power at this point in the process. But although the employer makes the job offer, the candidate is the one who decides whether to accept it. That’s why it’s imperative that the employer provide a top-notch candidate experience all the way through hiring and onboarding.


A good offer letter congratulates the recipient and contains enough information about the role (including responsibilities, compensation, and benefits) to enable them to fully consider whether they want to take the job and whether they want to negotiate different terms. Organizations should be responsive throughout the offer stage, with their talent acquisition professionals at the ready to answer applicants’ questions and address any counteroffers. By sending a clear signal to the candidate that it’s willing to go to bat for them, an organization reveals a lot about how it values its people.


Once a candidate has accepted an offer, it’s time to bring them on board. Because employers that fumble onboarding risk creating employees who are disengaged from the get-go, organizations should consider including a number of key elements in their onboarding programs:

  • Meet-and-greets. During the first few days, these can help a new employee get up to speed on who’s who and what’s what.
  • Goal setting. Within the first 30 days, a new hire should select their health plan, set up direct deposit, and touch base with HR. During this period, they should also develop a firm grasp on what their job entails and what their learning curve will demand.
  • Ongoing support. It may seem counterintuitive to include a 90-day check-in with onboarding. To ensure an employee’s success, though, it’s important to think of onboarding as a prolonged process. Use this check-in to answer any questions employees may have thought of in their first few months on the job and to address their issues or concerns.


How to improve the talent acquisition process

The longer and clunkier an organization’s hiring and onboarding processes are, the greater the risk that candidates will lose interest or be snapped up by its competition. Companies that use buggy technology throughout the application process, send five e-mails to set up one interview, and wait weeks before updating applicants are the ones most likely to lose their best candidates. Organizations can avoid that fate by taking three key actions.


Enhance the employer brand. An organization’s employer brand has the power to attract dream candidates—or to make job seekers wary of joining its ranks. To ensure that it gets the right kind of attention, an employer’s brand should draw on three elements: the company’s reputation, its employee value proposition, and its candidate and employee experience. These elements should inform and define every touchpoint a candidate has with the organization, and the company’s career site, job posts, and social media accounts should reflect and reinforce them.


Leverage technology and data. The fastest way to improve the talent acquisition process is to implement technology that not only speeds up recruitment but also enhances decision making. An applicant tracking system is a good start for this. Organizations should look for software that allows them to:

  • empower recruiters to attract job seekers, review applications, and communicate with candidates;
  • create profiles and build relationships with top talent; and
  • apply data and analytics to create a successful hiring strategy.

Additionally, using software to track recruitment metrics (such as time to hire, cost per hire, applicant-to-hire ratio, offer acceptance rate, and employee retention rate) can reveal where the company’s hiring process succeeds—and where it fails.


Prioritize a positive candidate experience. The candidate experience should offer applicants a preview of the employee experience. Talent acquisition professionals should communicate quickly and transparently (no ghosting allowed!) and aim to leave applicants with a positive impression, which will shape their perception of the organization and increase the likelihood that desirable (and selective) candidates will accept job offers. Organizations can foster that positive impression by providing clear and accurate job descriptions, using scheduling tools to book interviews, and offering honest feedback and timely updates throughout the entire process. In short, the hiring process is an opportunity for a company to show off its employer brand.



With increased competition over what seems to be an ever-shrinking talent pool, companies can’t afford to let their talent acquisition efforts slide. It’s critical that they solidify the elements that work and remediate those that don’t. When an employer nails all five stages of recruitment—job planning, candidate sourcing, screening, interviewing, and hiring—it can build a workforce that is skilled, engaged, and committed.

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