How Employers Really Hire an Employee

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Man and woman talking at desk during job interview
Here's what the hiring manager is actually doing in order to get the best person on board. Tetra Images / Getty Images

Everyone knows how hiring works from the candidate's point of view. It goes like this:

  1. Job is posted.
  2. Candidates submit resumes.
  3. The recruiter reviews the resumes and does phone screens.
  4. The top candidates come in and interview.
  5. The hiring manager decides which candidate to hire.
  6. HR performs background checks
  7. The company extends an offer, the candidate negotiates, and then it's done!

Sounds easy, enough, right?

It is, until suddenly you're the hiring manager. Here's what the hiring manager is actually doing in order to get the best person on board.

Post the job.

When an employee submits her two week's notice, it's tempting to just take that job description and send it to the recruiter. Don't do that. This is your opportunity to evaluate the position. The things your current employee did may not be precisely what you want for the future. If you want to make changes to the job description, now is the time to do this.

You may find out that your boss wants the vacancy filled by someone else's team more than he wants you to have the open position. You'll have to make a case to keep the positions that you want.

Additionally, budgets may bind and limit your options. Say the person who resigned was a junior analyst and you really want to replace her with a senior level analyst. That means a higher salary -your budget may not allow for it.

Getting a job actually posted is a tricky maze of budgets, politics, and competing priorities. When that's all worked out, you need to make sure the job description actually fits the job. Don't leave out the boring or icky parts - you don't want to hire someone who can't handle the bad parts of the job.

Review the resumes.

If you have a recruiter you're working with, she'll probably do the initial review of submitted resumes. If you receive a resume through networking and are interested in including that candidate, let your recruiter know so she can include that person in phone screens and get the person to fill out the application.

This isn't just to fill the bureaucratic need of your Human Resources Department; it's because the company needs to keep records of who was and who was not considered for the position.

Speak as openly as possible with the recruiter - tell her the problems the person will face, not just the list of tasks for which the new employee will be responsible. This will help when she's screening the candidates.

Most likely, the recruiter will take the resumes and sort them into qualified and not qualified, and then narrow those down until there's a reasonable number of people. For some jobs, you might receive 100 applicants, and clearly you can't interview all of them. So the recruiter is invaluable in narrowing down that field.

For other jobs, you'll get three resumes, two of which are completely unqualified. Then, you'll need to decide whether the job is just that complex, so that there are few qualified candidates, or you're asking for too many qualifications for too little salary.

You may have seen job descriptions change during the hiring process - this is one of the reasons why this happens.

Interview the candidates.

It's weird sitting on the other side of the desk in a job interview. Suddenly you find yourself saying, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “What's your greatest weakness?” but you don't really know what to do with the answers to those questions. I mean, what's the right answer?

Instead of trying to come up with a list of questions to trick the candidates into revealing secrets about themselves, ask questions that allow a conversation to occur. Why a conversation? Because a job interview is a two-way street.

You are evaluating the candidate, but the candidate is also evaluating you and the company. You can use retrospective questions (“Tell me about a time when...”) and prospective questions, (“What would you do if...”) to find out more about the candidate.

For some jobs, you may wish to see a portfolio or ask the candidates to do a presentation or take a test. Don't expect them to put hours and hours of work into something for you to evaluate. That's not considerate of their time.

It is reasonable for you to want to see some of their work product, though, just don't make their time investment too demanding. (If what you are asking takes more than an hour or two of work, it's too much for a job interview.)

Just what are you looking for during the job interview? Well, that's going to differ from job to job, of course, but the main things are.

  • The candidate has the necessary skills to do the job
  • The candidate has potential to succeed in this job
  • The candidate can fit in the department. This doesn't mean the candidate has to be like everyone else. But it does mean that if you're the kind of boss who wants people in their seats by 8:00, and this person is more of a free spirit who wanders in whenever, the candidate and the job are not a good fit.

When you've found the candidate who is the best fit for the job (and you may never find the perfect person for a job, as perfect rarely exists), it's time to move onto the next step: the background check.

Background check

Some managers are anxious to fill the position and want to skip this step. After all, the interview told you all you needed, right? Maybe. Background checks before someone starts can save a lot of headaches in the future.

At a minimum, verify that the person held the jobs she said she held and doesn't have anything criminal lurking in her past that she didn't disclose on the application. (For instance, a shoplifting conviction from five years ago probably doesn't matter for most positions, but lying on the application saying that she's never had a conviction is a big problem.)

If your company does drug screens, it's critical to get the test done before you make a formal offer, or make the offer contingent on the candidate passing the background check. For some jobs, especially those with money management responsibilities, you might want to run a credit check. Make sure you follow all applicable laws with the background check.

And what about references? Unless the candidate has given you specific permission to speak to her current boss, don't do this. Most people haven't told their current boss that they are looking for a new job and your phone call or email may put their current job in jeopardy.

If it's critical to your company (for instance, if you need security clearance) make sure that you tell the candidate first so that she can prepare her boss for your contact.

Don't just ask, “Did you like working with Jane? Would you rehire her?” Instead, ask for examples of success and failures. Say, “This job focuses heavily on data analysis. Would you see Jane succeeding in such a position?” This yields better information than “Would you rehire?” because it deals with the specific job.

Make the job offer.

The offer isn't final until it's accepted. Remember, negotiation is normal so don't be shocked or offended if the person comes back with a counter offer. You can evaluate if what they are asking is worth it to you - or if you have the budget for it or not.

Offering additional perks instead of money can often bring you to an agreement. Just make sure that, whatever you do, you keep the position in line with similar positions at your office. Otherwise, you'll end up with a revolt on your hands when the current employees find out about the deal that the new employee received.

The job of a hiring manager is very stressful, but the recruiting is actually fun when you realize you might just find an employee who will make your department great.