Recruiting and hiring excellent talent is essential to a business, but all too often we can get it wrong. Here's what we can do to try to get it right.

Hiring excellent talent is a well-known pain point for many companies. There are volumes and volumes of textbooks, courses, and lectures dedicated to hiring practices, but as a business leader, how do you cut through the noise and get incredible employees in your company?

Just keep in mind, it’s a numbers game. Even if you’re running a highly attractive company like Google, you’re still going to make mistakes and end up with the wrong people in the wrong position. But it helps to think of the hiring process in batting-average terms-;even the best ballplayers will only have an at-bat average of .300, which means out of 10 pitches, they only hit three.

When you’re dealing with people, you need to allow for a wide margin of error. There are too many variables in the equation for there to be a perfect formula for everyone to follow.

With that said, however, there are a few best practices to make the hiring process go a bit smoother.

Listen to your team

When it comes to first impressions, the odds are not in anyone’s favor. According to a study by Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov, first impressions are often faulty. This is problematic in situations like an interview where first impressions, instinctively, carry a ton of weight.

While we can’t rewire our predisposition to judge first impressions, we can objectively listen to the feedback from our team.

A few years ago, a friend of mine-;we’ll call her Jane-;was one of the many interviewers for a new position at her job. There was one candidate that had a polarizing effect in the interview. Jane saw something in this candidate that no one else saw-;even though the candidate lacked certain required experience. While the other interviewers were ready to dismiss the candidate, Jane rallied hard on the woman’s behalf. They ended up hiring the candidate-;and she went on to be one of the best employees at the company.

Again, what we’re dealing with here is an imperfect system with too many variables. But you need to trust your team and their instincts. If they have a reason as to why they believe strongly in a person, hear them out.

Leverage your network-;and your employee’s networks as well

Recent research from Wharton shows that external hiring practices might actually be damaging to a company. Through his research, Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell noticed that external hires tend to get lower performance evaluations than internal employees who do similar jobs, they get paid more, and they are 18-20% more likely to exit the company.

This doesn’t mean we need to shut down external recruiting entirely. There is another way to recruit talent that might warm up our hiring leads and potentially lead to better results.

All too often we can take our networks and connections for granted, which in the hyper-connected age of LinkedIn, this should never happen. So, instead of opening up a job position to the world at large and hoping for the best, leverage your network to see if you can find talent that’s not so external.

This is why employee referral programs tend to work so well. If you’ve hired a star employee, then chances are they might know another star that they worked with them in a previous position.

Encourage transparency

There is nothing worse than hiring someone who turns out to be a completely different person than who they were in the interview. But, as hiring personnel, we rarely consider how it must also feel to that candidate when the tables are reversed. I’ve heard several stories from colleagues who were hired for what they thought was a dream role, but they quickly realized they were seduced into a toxic working environment.

In general, it pays to make sure everyone is as transparent as possible during the interview process. In some cases, you may even want to stress the value transparency to your candidates. Show them it’s a two-way street by being upfront about areas where your company is facing challenges. The right candidate will want to take on a challenge and do so on their own terms. And the emphasis you place on transparency in the interview will set the tone for that employee’s career with your company.

Think outside standard hiring practices

Doing things a certain way because “that’s how it’s always been done,” is an exercise in insanity. Just like with any digital campaign, it’s important to test out new methods from time to time. Why? Because times are changing, people are changing, and what worked last week, might not work tomorrow.

So, I encourage you to research and try new hiring practices. One thing you could try is changing up how you handle salary negotiations. When you’ve offered $100,000 for a position, and the candidate counters it by asking for $110,000 don’t just meet somewhere in the middle. If you have the budget, hold firm at the initial offer but present the candidate with the option to earn a $115,000 salary after a six-month trial period. This will give the candidate time to actually prove their worth while providing them with an incentive to stay with the team.

Wrapping up

The above methods aren’t a sure-fire win for all businesses. What works for one company may not yield the best results for another. The key is to never be afraid to fail your way to success. In the words of the great Bambino, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Continue experimenting with new tactics and making mistakes-;it’ll help to hone your hiring practices. Eventually, you’ll find exactly what works for you, your company, and your employees.

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