Everybody talks about hiring the best people, but few actually do it. Why?  Hiring, like cooking, driving, or playing golf is a learned skill. Once you learn a process, steps, and follow them, your success rate improves dramatically. For 2012, hopefully, the beginning of the end of this nasty recession, make a resolution:  Hire the best, then watch your business grow. Here are five steps sure to improve your next hire:


If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you probably won’t recognize it when you see it.  Write a job description, no more than two pages. It should include the responsibilities of the job, the requirements and experience of the desired candidate, and a brief paragraph describing the particular challenges of the job & organization. Pass it around to everyone involved in the hiring decision. Solicit input.  Get buy-in, and get everyone’s fingerprints on the finished product.  Share it with candidates during the interview. Ask them for comments.


Make sure your compensation is in line with your industry and region. A common mistake companies make is setting compensation levels based on their internal pay structure. This is like buying a new car based on what you paid for your car eight years ago. It doesn’t add up. The best real-time compensation data available is what the strongest candidates are currently making. Ask them what their salary expectations are. Use common sense and avoid being penny wise and pound foolish.


Use their resume as your working document for the interview. Only interview candidates that provide you with a readable, well-constructed, mistake-free resume.

The interview is designed to elicit information. Ask open-ended questions, listen carefully to the answers, and use follow-up questions, including “why” to better understand their answers. Some questions you might ask:

  • What was your biggest accomplishment in that job?
  • Where did you fail in that job; what could you have done better?
  • Why did you do that, why didn’t you do this?
  • How did you make that decision? What factors caused you to decide to go left, go right?


  • Where did you grow up, what was it like growing up in that environment?
  • What was your first job, which of your first jobs did you like most, least?
  • Why did you go to college, who paid for it, how did you decide your major?


Divide the interview into two parts. Part 1 you ask the questions; Part 2, they ask questions. Hiring is a two-way street. It doesn’t work for one if it doesn’t work for both. Be honest and forthright in answering their questions. If they come to work for you, they will find out anyway.


Always do reference checks. Request names and phone numbers of previous bosses AND subordinates. If they are in sales, ask for customers.  If they offer friends, priests or rabbis, politely ask again. Ask their references for additional sources. This second level (references provided by references offered) will give you access to people not provided by the candidate. People interviewing for jobs rarely, knowingly, provide bad references.


The hiring process is not successful until you’ve hired the person you want. To that end, you must close the deal. Like any good negotiation, you have to figure out what they want, and give it to them. During the interview and reference checks, you will have learned what is important to them, what their values are. Closing the deal is not always about money. It could be about vacation or flextime (do they have young children), incentive compensation (are they in sales), commute time (can they work, in part, from a home office).  Find out what they want, what is really important to them, and if you can give it to them.  All wrapped up in a nice little bow.

A great team is a key ingredient of a successful business. Hire people better than you, hire people smarter than you.  Make every hire count; make it the best it can be. Then watch your business grow.


Douglas Reiter is President of The Douglas Reiter Company, an Executive Talent Firm providing Search, Consultants and Interim Managers for 33 years. Mr. Reiter holds an MA in Organizational Behavior, and is a CMC (Certified Management Consultant/IMC). He lives and works in Boston, MA.