Small Business Hiring Hacks

Do you need some tips on hiring great talent?

Hiring great talent can be tough. For many business owners, one of the most time-consuming parts of finding new employees is reviewing applicants. The three hacks below can help you cut down on the time spent finding the right candidates.

Hiring Hack #1: Reduce the applicant pool

It’s not uncommon to receive dozens or even hundreds of applicants for each job posted. Here’s a hiring hack where managers can cut the time to review incoming applications by including specific instructions for candidates in the job description.

First, specify the exact subject line candidates should use when emailing a resume. Ignore any applications that deviate from this subject line (unless something very creative catches your eye). This makes it possible for you to tell quickly if potential candidates are capable of following written instructions.

Second, include a simple instruction such as, “In your cover letter, answer the question: [insert any question here]”. The answer itself is less important than the action. You could be asking his or her favorite pro sports team within your city. Or, if the candidate is more of a dog person or a cat person. If someone fails to address this request in his or her cover letter, you can eliminate them as a candidate. All that matters is if directions were followed.

Hiring Hack #2: Ask unexpected questions

Ask a handful of questions candidates are unlikely to expect. You’ll get a front-row seat to how they react when put on the spot. For example, you might ask, “What’s the most surprising thing you learned when you were researching our company?”. The candidate’s answer will not only reveal if he or she did research, but also give you insight into how their initial perception of your company differed from a researched perception. These kinds of questions can provide a wonderful opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

Additionally, questions that test a candidate’s curiosity can be revealing. In Harvard Business Review‘s “Spotting Talent in the 21st Century,” executive search firm Egon Zehnder research found that curiosity can be the most important trait for leaders and employees. To gauge curiosity, ask questions like, “What’s the last really interesting thing you read,” “Tell me one fact you’ve heard this week that took you by surprise,” or, “What’s one non-work-related skill you’re currently working on mastering?”

Hiring Hack #3: Test their follow through

Good follow-up skills can be critical to success across industries. Evaluate a candidate’s follow-up savvy by making a simple, casual request at the conclusion of the interview.

For example, if the candidate mentioned he or she is going to a movie that night, you might say, “Please, let me know how the movie is,” as you say goodbye. Although this request may not seem important, a skilled candidate will recognize this as an opportunity to show his or her follow through and attention to detail. If the information is provided in a thank-you email (which every candidate should send within 24-48 hours), you know you’ve got a candidate who will not only listen for subtle cues in the workplace (from customers, suppliers, or co-workers), but also follow up on them appropriately.

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