By Bryan Orr

Over the years I have hired hundreds of people, and in that process I have made a ton of hiring mistakes. Thankfully, the mistakes have been getting fewer and fewer as I have developed a few key techniques I use to get better results (and it seems to be working).

Here are my top practices for successful hiring.

1. Speak to Fears, Desires and Stereotypes

Put yourself in the shoes of the EXACT employee you want to hire. Imagine the things they like about their job, the skills they are most proud of and what work fulfillment means to them. Then think about the things that they don’t appreciate about the work they do, the challenges they face and the bad experiences they may have had or may be afraid they are going to have.

Now speak directly to those those desires and fears when advertising for the position. Speak just like you would if you were encouraging a good friend. Don’t sugar coat, don’t sell, just write honestly.

I have found that the best candidates are the ones who say to me, “Your job description was very unique.” If you want special people, write the job description like a human.

2. Tailor the Process to the Role

There are many different places you can post a job opening, and it’s fairly obvious that you don’t post on Craigslist for a C-level executive, and LinkedIn probably isn’t the best source for janitorial staff.

But have you considered that the method you use during the application process can be tailored?

Let’s say you are hiring for a highly technical position. Having an online application that has an intense technical questionnaire would likely be in order as a first step. With the first in-person interview being with a member of staff qualified in the particular position you are hiring for.

If you are hiring for a creative position, an online application with a place for links and file uploads of their work portfolio would make the most sense.

When we have hired for construction positions where computer aptitude is more uncommon and the most important skills are punctuality and reliability, we will often have them come to the office and apply in person as the first step.

3. Ask Odd Questions

Be careful not to cross any emotional, personal or legal lines, but do push the envelope to learn about the perspective of candidates during an interview. I usually ask a series of questions along the lines of, “When do you find you have the most conflict at work?” and “What type of people get under your skin?”  I keep pushing for more specifics and detail until they open up about some specific examples. You can learn a lot about a person when they share specific work experiences.

In general, a good interview question is designed so that it isn’t obvious what the “right” answer is and it instead sparks a conversation about how they view work, leadership, and co-workers in general.

I have taken to calling it the applicant’s “relationship to work” and I find people who take pride in the work itself are often the best candidates because they produce quality work with less management.

4. Listen for What You Didn’t Ask

Once you get an applicant talking, they will generally start to tell you things about themselves that you didn’t ask. It’s easy to dismiss these details because often you are focused on what YOU want to know. Instead, listen not for what you want to hear but what they want to say.

The things they talk about without prompting are the things that are the heaviest on their mind. They are also the topics that are most likely to come up again if you hire them.

5. Do a Written Preliminary Proposal

I always do a written job proposal outlining the position that I either give to an applicant in person, or email to them when I am in the process of making an offer. I do this BEFORE making an official offer so that they have a chance to see the position in detail prior to spending additional resources vetting them.

Questions will often come up during this process that assist in providing additional clarity. I do not call it a contract and I’m very clear in the document that the terms are subject to change at any time just to avoid potential legal issues.

All in all, hiring is more effective when you give it focused time and pay rigorous attention to detail. If people ARE your business, then spending a bit of time to find the right ones will be worth the effort.