How to Hire the Best Candidate: A Complete Guide

Shalie Reich
Shalie Reich

HR Consultant and Writer

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

How to hire the best candidate for a job

Hiring new employees — we all have to do it, but how do you find the best candidate?

With the never ending types of job interviews, different recruitment tools, and hoops to jump through, how do you make sense of it all? This process can lead to complete and utter exhaustion without some help to guide you along the way. 

To help you hire the right person for your company and avoid substantial workplace stress, we have compiled a list of the 15 proven ways to make the right hiring decision.

Step 1: Evaluate the vacant role

Start by assessing, with the hiring manager or similar employee, the strengths needed for the position. If the position is one that has other (current) employees, then perhaps evaluate their day-to-day functions and get a better understanding of the role before you proceed to any of the other steps.

Try to immerse yourself in the role, understand what job-specific skills and interpersonal skills are needed and see what experience may help make the position successful. The better you understand the position you are hiring for, the more effectively you'll be able to hire the best candidate to fit the mold.

Step 2: Create an ideal candidate profile

The most effective way to hire the best candidate is to create a candidate profile, a blueprint if you will, that describes what you're looking for as you're reviewing applications. We aren’t talking about the position itself just yet, rather a candidate that would fit your organization as a whole. When you're looking to hire the best candidate, build this profile by evaluating:

  • Desired level of past performance
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Company cultural fit
  • Growth mindset
  • Commitment

A candidate profile that reflects these points should set you up for success when finding the right person. We have to create the idea of what we are looking for before we actually start looking.

Step 3: Figure out where to look for candidates

This step can vary greatly based on the structure of your organization. Evaluate if you are strictly looking to hire remote employees or are you more of an in-office or hybrid model. With that in mind, also think about the possibility of internal or external hires, recent graduates or established professionals. From there, you can hit the ground running by compiling a list of places to look for candidates. Should you decide you're going to evaluate candidates outside the organization, there are a number of external recruitment methods that may suit your organization. Methods such as:

  • Company careers page
  • Job boards
  • On-campus college recruiting
  • Local job fairs
  • Social media

Make sure you’re meeting your ideal candidate where they are at. If you are looking for a recent graduate, maybe on-campus recruiting events will be the best fit. If you're looking for an established professional to work for your remote team, perhaps enlist the help of social media and look on LinkedIn for candidates. Knowing “where” you want to look for candidates can cut down substantially on your sourcing time and help you focus on the other aspects of hiring the best candidate.

Step 4: Decide on compensation and perks

Every candidate applying for your organization is going to want to know one key thing, “How much does it pay and what are the benefits/perks of the role”, so be sure to have this evaluated and established at this point in the hiring process. Look at all aspects of the compensation structure, that will include how much for the hourly pay or monthly pay, and benefits or perks that keep employees happy.

Evaluate how to maintain a competitive salary and benefits package by either increasing what your vision of salary might be for this specific role to meet the market need or add more benefits like an employee wellness program to attract the right candidates. Take the time and create a full package that will translate to the type of candidate you're looking to hire before moving on.

Step 5: Create a competitive and eye-catching job posting

Should your job posting reflect the position and have the roles and responsibilities clearly outlined? Yes. Should your job posting also have keywords that candidates may be searching for to ensure your posting is getting viewed? Absolutely!

In order to do this effectively, think about the perfect candidate and put yourself in their shoes. Try to envision what they would search for and make sure those keywords are in your job description to keep it competitive. This can help set your organization apart through the endless searching of job postings. You want to ensure the top candidates are applying for your job because they want to work for your organization, so don’t be overlooked and make sure you have the best job ad.

Step 6: Make applying easy

There’s a fine line between collecting all the necessary information to make the right hiring decision and making your candidate jump through a million hoops to provide you with their entire life story. Best practice here would be to request a résumé, perhaps an application with a few more company specific questions, and if it’s a high-level job, an effective cover letter.

Try to avoid requiring candidates to submit an application that simply restates everything on their résumé. You have the résumé — you don’t need both. Often, this will deter them from applying. Ensure your process is seamless and fits the needs of the role. Assess what you need, and at this stage, don’t over-complicate it, or you could miss out on the best candidate before they even apply! 

Step 7: Utilize a screening checklist that aligns with the job

Create a checklist with the basic information you want to garner off the top résumés and applications, prior to any interviews. Look for things like evidence of relevant skills and experience, quantity of time at each employer, progression throughout their career, and lack of résumé mistakes that shows they have great attention to detail.

Should this be an elevated position in your organization, you’ll want to add applicable degrees and certifications. Make the list consistent and applicable to the position and use it as a guide as you review the (hopefully) high-quality candidate applications you’re receiving.

Step 8: Review all résumés and applications

Perhaps the most time-consuming part of making the right hiring decision is reviewing all the résumés. If you’ve done the above steps effectively, you should be receiving some high-quality candidates — you could also be receiving some not-so-high-quality candidates, too. Utilize your checklist to filter through the applications in order to move on to the next step.

Remember to keep track of the candidates that will not be moving forward in the process in order to send a rejection e-mail — so the applicant doesn’t have to follow up after their interview. Even though you may not be proceeding with all candidates, not responding or acknowledging their application can leave a bad image of the organization and this could deter a quality candidate from applying in the future.

Step 9: Shortlist candidates

It’s time to evaluate the top candidates! The most common ways to do this are through a phone screen or email. Here, you’ll want to clarify any gaps in employment, job hopping or ask any questions you may have about your applicant to narrow down the best candidates to push forward to inviting for an interview.

Step 10: Complete all interviews

Now comes the fun part (for you!) — the interviews. The best advice you can be given is to utilize the tactics of a behavioral interview and throw away the standard interview questions. Come away from the ordinary “Tell me about your previous work experience and how it aligns with this position,” and move on to “Give me an example of a goal you reached in your previous position and how you achieved it,” or “give me an example of when you showed initiative, and how did that turn out for you?”

Behavioral interviewing allows you to look into the future by learning from the past instead of trying to filter through scripted responses. Keep the questions the same from interview to interview to avoid bias and take detailed notes to help review after the interview. Craft a few behavioral interview questions that pertain to the position and reflect the culture of your organization and find your best candidate!

At the end of a behavioral interview, end with a few questions that focus on what they want from the organization and how they want to get it. See if they are going to be one of the employees that stays around and wants to be promoted within the organization and what their long-term goals are. Evaluate if this fits into your company model before you proceed.

Should your organization have the bandwidth, conducting a successful panel interview is a great tool to have in your toolkit when hiring the best candidate. In today's market with the world of virtual interviews, having a second, third or fourth set of eyes on a candidate’s responses can be what helps make the decision about one candidate over another. These types of interviews are especially helpful to determine how your candidate will do under pressure (as they can require the applicant to come out of their comfort zone). The power of the panel interview at this stage can truly help your best candidate shine.

Step 11: Look beyond skills

For the next few steps, you’re going to need to be a detective. Here, you’ll want to evaluate the candidates’ professional profiles and see how they are coming across as an individual — a little trick of the trade that’s often overlooked.

Are the things they are sharing or liking items that would fit in with the culture of your organization? Could you see this candidate being happy long term with your company based on their LinkedIn profile? For example, if you come across a candidate that recently shared an article reflecting saving the wildlife in a specific third world country, and your organization supports a non-profit around the same idea, you’ve found a candidate that could fit into your organization on a personal level. You are evaluating the candidate all around, both their personal and professional future and how that can support the future of the organization.

Be sure to follow any social media screening policies your organization may have, or applicable state, local or federal laws. Be sure to not utilize this information to unlawfully discriminate based on the candidate’s social media mistakes, but allow this to help you hire the right person for both the position and the company culture.

Step 12: Complete reference checks

Some organizations are not permitted to give more than dates worked and if the person leaving was voluntary or involuntary, so this process might become a thing of the past, and leave us without the ability to ask critical questions when checking references. However, you can still check this by putting on your investigator’s hat and doing a little digging.

If an organization gives you a road block due to their company policy or applicable anti-discrimination laws, look at the candidates’ previous roles and previous companies. Check out the company reviews and see if you can get a better understanding of the culture in their previous company. This can tell you a lot about if your candidate would fit in with your organization. It’s a little reference check without the references, if you will, and can allow you some inside information prior to pushing candidates on to the next step.

Step 13: Prepare the pre-employment test

More common than ever are pre-employment tests or assessments prior to offering the job to a candidate. Please note, as long as it fulfills professional standards and does not discriminate, if you are in the US, you should have no issues with the EEOC and their regulations on employment tests and selection procedures. Use the same test for every candidate for each applicable position.

Ensure that the test directly reflects the duties of the role they are applying, for example: should the position require writing, give them a sample writing test, should the position require physical strength, perhaps requesting them to perform a particular task on site would be beneficial. As long as you stay in line with the job, this is an extremely beneficial step to test the skills of an applicant prior to an official job offer.

A great resource to use for a pre-employment test would be CareerHunter. Maybe it’s time your organization evaluated purchasing tests for your candidates to assess their skillset and see how they would fit into your role. As long as you're keeping these tests consistent, they can provide an extreme level of value to your hiring process.

Step 14: Offer the job

It’s best to do this over the phone before you send a written offer. It shows the candidate excitement, and you can even send the offer letter as you are speaking to the candidate and verbally go over anything the candidate may need.

Be respectful of their time and allow a few days to a week to make a quality decision. While you may think that providing them more time may allow them time to review other positions and move forward on those, typically, allowing more time gives them the freedom to evaluate the job offer and make the best professional and personal decision for their current situation.

Be prepared for negotiations on salary, benefits, or hours, when applicable, and be sure to follow your company process when these discussions happen, but most importantly, handle them with kindness and respect. When a candidate feels respected with their requests at this level of the hiring process, they are such more likely to select your organization.

Step 15. Do a background check

This step may be optional, and it may not be necessary for your location or organization. After a job offer is sent, your organization may choose to request a background check for further verification of your new potential employee. This step can prevent future surprises for your organization, and some companies (the financial industry specifically) may even require this for employment.

Remember that background checks cannot be used to discriminate in hiring and best practice. In some states, it is local law to request the background check after the job offer is accepted.

Key takeaways

And there you have it. With the roadmap and checklist provided, you’re well on your way to hiring the right person for your company. Set yourself up for success by putting in the legwork prior to posting the position and working through all the recommended steps during the hiring cycle.

Be sure to track how you are doing on all recruiting fronts to ensure you’re always hiring the right people and analyze your employee turnover to make sure there isn’t anything you can change. Trust the process and watch the quality candidates flourish at your organization as a result! 

This is an updated version of an article originally published on 26 October 2016.