6 Proven Steps to Identify the Right Applicant

Hiring great people is one of the most important and most challenging things we do in our professional lives. The hardest part is often just knowing what to ask applicants to make sure we're getting the right person for the job. We know there are certain attributes the ideal employee will have, but what exactly are they and how do we test for those traits in applicants? And do it in the limited time you have? This pressure often leaves one feeling overwhelmed and even a little frustrated. 
 
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6 Proven Steps to Identify the Right Applicant

Hiring great people is one of the most important and most challenging things we do in our professional lives. The hardest part is often just knowing what to ask applicants to make sure we're getting the right person for the job. We know there are certain attributes the ideal employee will have, but what exactly are they and how do we test for those traits in applicants? And do it in the limited time you have? This pressure often leaves one feeling overwhelmed and even a little frustrated. 
 
 
 
Sound familiar? If you’re like me, this experience can feel daunting. I’ve gone through this many times myself and to put it lightly, it has not been fun. Yet, there was a silver lining that came with doing it over and over. All this experience helped me develop a system that makes this less painful while making hiring more accurate and effective. These 6 steps have worked for me and it can do the same for you!
 
Invest in Hiring Right - It's Worth It
 
Everyone wins when you get the right person in the right job. Teams get better employees that help them reach their goals and the individuals hired enjoy their work and live better lives. It’s worth the extra time to get right even if it takes more time. To learn more about why hiring accurately is so important, read this article.

The Process - What To Ask Applicants To Make A Great Hiring Decision
Now, here are the steps that will get you from a blank page to a world-class screening plan.
 
Step 1 - Start with the job description
 
Every job has a description. This is a list of the job’s requirements, or the qualifications or skills needed to be successful in a given role. If you have a detailed job description, an important part of your work is already done. By “detailed”, I mean it includes any and all information one would need to know before applying. While you don’t want a description that gets too specific and long, you also don’t want one that’s too vague.
 
If you don’t have a detailed job description, take the time to create one. It will pay off big for your applicants, and for you. Knowing “what” you’re looking for is the first step. Without that, ending up with the right employee will be due more to luck than data.
 
 
Step 2 - Identify the attributes of your ideal employee
 
Once you have the job description down, it’s time to get specific. Before you pick interview questions or who will be doing interviews, you must identify which attributes (AKA traits, characteristics, and/or skills) you’re searching for
 
This is where your job description comes in. Many, if not all of your desired attributes will be in the job description. Review it and write down the attributes that stand out to you as most important.
 
Important note: If there are any attributes that aren’t already identified clearly in the job description, then add them to it! Applicants should be able to tell right away if they are a good fit. This makes it easier for you and for them.
 
Example:
Here’s an example from a real job description for a pest control technician:
 

“We are seeking a hard-working, innovative, detail-oriented, and creative team player to join our operations department as a full-time Pest Control Technician. The individual we are looking for is also someone that enjoys working in a team environment but also excels at working at an individual level.”

Important Attributes From This Description

  • Hard working
  • Team player but also works well independently
  • Innovative
  • Detail-oriented
  • Creative

Though simple, this process still requires a bit of critical thought. For example, does it matter if you are looking for someone who enjoys working in a team environment, or just can work in a team environment? The clarification may seem minor, but it could prove crucial to helping you find the right applicant later on.

 

Step 2.5 - Group similar attributes together (Optional) 

There’s a good chance your list of chosen attributes will be long. This is not always a bad thing because your ideal employee will have lots of positive traits. If so, it can be helpful to group similar attributes together. Continuing with our pest control job example, here is how this could look:
  • Skills: Customer Service, Team Leadership
  • Culture Fit: Humble, Team Player, Hard Working, Creative
  • Feasibility: Salary Range, Start Date, Location
Now that you're organized, decide how you’re going to identify these traits in your applicants.
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Step 3 - Identify questions you can ask applicants without talking to them
 
There are many things you can measure before you ever have to look at a resume or talk to an applicant. Pre-screening questions can be a very useful tool for measuring these types of things. Many applicant tracking and recruiting systems, including third-party vendors can do this for you.
 
Read through your list of attributes, and for each one ask, “Can I measure this through a questionnaire?” Here are some examples:
  • Sales Experience - You want someone with at least 3 years of experience, as well as someone who isn’t too senior. So you can ask: “How many years of sales experience do you have?”
  • Location - If the person needs to be in a specific place to perform their job duties, you can ask: “Are you currently living in or willing to relocate to xxxxx location for this job?”

Remember: A questionnaire can't measure everything. This is a screening step that helps you spend more time on the qualified applicants and less time on those that aren't a good fit.
 
 
Step 4 - Find interview questions for your important attributes
 
After the initial screen, further measure the important attributes in your applicants through interviewing. There are pros and cons to interviews, but they are still a great way to determine an applicant’s fit. 
 
To know what interview questions to ask, go back to your list of attributes. If you feel good about any that the screening questions have already measured, cross those off. The remaining attributes need to be measured through interviews.
 
To find great interview questions for these remaining attributes, do a little research to find specific questions that measure those traits. There are many resources on the web to help you with this task. Career sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster have long lists of commonly used interview questions.
 
One of the strongest online resources is Hiremeasures.org, a growing library of interview questions that Journeyfront has made accessible to everyone. Search for interview questions that measure your chosen attribute, then select several that you feel capture the nuances of the attributes for the job(s) you are hiring for.
 
HireMeasures_Header
 
 
Step 5 - Group your questions into interviews
 
You often won’t have time in a single interview to measure all the attributes you’re looking for. For this reason, it’s a good idea to group the questions based on their subject matter. This allows you to focus on different attributes for each stage of the interview process. The most important questions get asked first to make sure there is enough time to cover what's most important.
 
This method also provides structure that helps whoever might be asking the questions so each applicant is measured the same way. For example, you could separate any questions that measure technical skills into an interview given by someone qualified to assess those skills. You also might group cultural attributes and questions together so team members can evaluate how an applicant could fit on the team.
 
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here, so do this in a way that works best for you. Just remember to keep the interviews to a reasonable time frame.
 
 
Step 6 - Put it all together
 
Now that you have your interview questions grouped the way you want to, bring it all together. Gather everything you've written in steps 1-5 and put it all into a single document or location. This will give everyone on the team a way to see and learn the process, which will also help them execute better. Whether it's a recruiter, a hiring manager or a team member, understanding this process is important for everyone involved in the hiring process. Like you, they will know exactly what to look for and how to screen for the right people. 
 
This step ensures reliability and quality across all applicants and interviewers. Interviewers will feel more  prepared to give each applicant a great experience and a fair, consistent interview that leads to good hiring choices. You'll have a great plan to hire right every time. 
 
 
Wrapping it up
 
Hiring is important and you should take time to do it right.
 
This process might seem tedious at first, but spending more time at the beginning will pay off big in the long run. Plus, like anything, the more you do this, the easier it gets. Your confidence and skill in identifying the right attributes for a job will also grow. Soon, you’ll be able to easily create the ideal screening plan for every job you need filled.
 
Now go forth and hire right!
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Do you want to improve your hiring process and the structure of your interviews? Click here!
Nick Lyon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Nick Lyon
Nick is a Co-founder of Journeyfront, the Worlds Most Accurate Hiring Software company. He is passionate about helping everyone get in the right job and has spent the last decade researching and building solutions that help match people to jobs in our modern economy. He is a husband and father of 5, and spends most of his time thinking about how to unleash the potential of those around him. His dream is to help everyone find a job where they will thrive, and make the workforce a better place for the next generation.

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