We know that organizations want to hire people with the hope of improving organizational productivity. To do this effectively, organizations construct hiring processes to improve their chances of identifying talent that can add the most value to the firm. These hiring processes have the goal of gathering data points and reducing uncertainty about a candidate’s skills before actually making a hiring decision. But what are actually the steps involved in this process? Although there are several different ways to think about it, we believe it’s best to conceptualize the hiring process in the following way:
When organizations begin to think about hiring new employees, there’s a tendency to jump ahead and begin the talent search right away. However, in doing so, it becomes easy to overlook the crucial step that precedes actually searching for talent: thinking about the job they’re going to fill. This is most commonly known as job design. The fundamental questions of job design are 1) What is the job we have to get done? 2) What knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) are needed to do that job successfully?
There are many ways that organizations attempt to answer these questions, often dependent on the resources available and the timelines associated with making a decision, among other things. The more formal and structured approach to job design can be achieved through job analysis, which is generally thought of as a systematic evaluation of the job resulting in a determination of the jobs task composition, as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities required to carry out those tasks successfully. The more informal and unstructured approach would be a meeting amongst key stakeholders akin to “requirements gathering”, where conversations and determinations about job requirements and ideal candidate profiles ensue.
Once a better understanding of the job is achieved by answering the questions of what the job really is and what KSAs are needed to do the job successfully, organizations have to focus their efforts to figuring out where they can find the talent they need to do that job. This is known as talent sourcing, which is how a company generates candidate flow, builds a talent pipeline, and ultimately gets candidates to apply to their open positions. Depending on the nature of the job and the requirements regarding KSAs, there are an array of talent pools that organizations can tap to try to generate a healthy flow of candidates and build a talent pipeline for the position. Common examples of sources of candidate flow are college campuses, job boards, social media platforms, job marketplaces and more.
The first goal for a recruiter or hiring manager is to fill their talent pipeline with candidates. Once that is done and organizations have candidates applying to their open positions, they have to figure out which candidates are the best “fit” relative to the needs of the job and the organization. The process of figuring that out is known as screening, which involves a crucial exchange of information between job candidates and employers (Note: Candidates can also facilitate this exchange of information through various signals). The key to effective candidate screening is to deploy a series of screening procedures to obtain job relevant information from candidates, including interviews, assessments and more. The aim of this process is not complete accuracy as it relates to “measuring” talent, but rather it is about the reduction of uncertainty at each incremental phase in the process. If each screen delivers more useful information to you than the one preceding it, you can update your levels of certainty based on presented evidence.
Once organizations have obtained a sufficient amount of candidate information in the screening process, they have to make a decision of who to hire and whom not to hire. This is known as selection. This is always a tough one, because there is generally no one clear right answer. Rather, you ultimately have to make the best decision you can with the information you have on hand to predict which candidate has the highest likelihood of success in your organization. The most useful advice in making this decision is to treat it as if you’re picking a stock. More specifically, you should articulate an investment thesis for hiring this candidate, where you try to develop clarity as to why you’re hiring this person and what value they will create for your organization. If you cannot clearly articulate an investment thesis, it’s likely you need to go back to the drawing board.
Once a selection decision has been made, there is always a “gap” between a candidate being selected and becoming a fully productive employee. This gap can be thought of as a learning curve for the newly hired employee, where they have to get acclimated to the job, their team and the broader organization. Ideally, this process of getting acclimated can happen as quickly as possible. This process is known as onboarding. The process of onboarding a new employee only happens once, so it’s important for organizations to get it right. A successful onboarding process is directly correlated with a successful integration into the company as well as long term retention. There’s a lot of variability as to what exactly an onboarding process should entail, but it usually involves things like administrative paperwork, team member meetings, learning plans and more.
Once an employee has been onboarded, you can begin to mobilize them in the role and transition them to the employee and performance management cadence. At this point in the process, the employee should be at full or near productivity and producing value in their role. This does not happen just once, and in fact involves the ongoing work of encouraging employees to do their best work, providing the resources and opportunities to positively contribute to the organization, and hopefully improve their lives while you’re at it.
Although this might not be an explicit part of the hiring process, it’s important to align performance management with hiring systems to see how a new employee turns out after a hiring decision has been made. Oftentimes, you see companies make hiring decisions and not track how those decisions actually turnout. When some hires inevitably turn out poorly, they’ll still go back to refilling that same position with the same hiring process that didn’t work! This results in an endless chain of hiring, turnover and management frustration. Hiring should be a systematic self improvement engine, and the hiring process is something you can learn from every time. Both good and bad hiring decisions should be investigated, and the differences should be identified so companies can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
The company you build is only as good as the people that it is made up of. The hiring process is tasked with making sure you get the right people for your organization doing the work that you set out to do. There are good hiring processes and there are bad hiring processes, and the difference between the two is shaped to the extent your organization is committed to building talent as a sustainable competitive advantage.