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You’re hiring under a time crunch. Here’s how to retain your new workers

These are the steps to take if you want to hire for talent—and longevity.

You’re hiring under a time crunch. Here’s how to retain your new workers
[Source images: oatintro/iStock; dlccar/iStock]
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Hiring decisions are some of the most impactful choices you’ll ever make. A good hire can improve your company’s culture, efficiency, and bottom-line success, but a bad one will ultimately have a negative influence. Couple that with today’s landscape amid the coronavirus, and you have a difficult task ahead if you need to hire fresh talent.

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Many companies had to lay off workers as the economy took a turn for the worse. However, the unemployment rate is slowly improving, falling to 6.2% in February. You might feel pressure now to snag the best hires before they’re all gone, but I recommend you wait; hire slow, hire smart. If you can help it, avoid joining the more than 70% of employers who admit they’ve hired the wrong candidate for a role. You can’t afford to make a snap decision, especially if your revenue took a hit during the pandemic, because the cost of wrong hires is high.

It might sound contradictory, but waiting will actually help you sift through candidates for top talent, because it’ll give you more chances to evaluate potential employees and determine their fit for your company. Successful hiring requires a time investment to ensure a long-term fit who can be retained and whose hiring won’t disrupt existing employees, leading to additional turnover. This means you need to “time the market” and create a large hiring window.

Twice in the past I’ve waited to hire until I was desperate. Both times, I settled for employees who looked good on paper but weren’t the right fit. These two poor hires cost me not only the expense of rehiring, but also some client confidence (as a result of charges) and employee confidence (as a result of working with less-than-stellar team members). If you want to save yourself regret, vet potential employees thoroughly by implementing three key hiring strategies.

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1. REQUIRE CANDIDATES TO RECORD A VIDEO

Ask candidates to record a short video containing their personal elevator pitches: who they are, where they’ve worked, and why they’d be a good match for your company. Include some general guidelines you’d like followed, such as the preferred video length and format, and provide a few delivery methods.

This exercise is beneficial for a couple of reasons (which is why 16% of employers rely on it). First, it tests candidates’ ability to follow basic instructions. You may not need a particularly tech-savvy employee, but you want someone who can meet your expectations and understand directions. Second, it shows you how prospects present themselves. Are they comfortable on camera? Did they dress appropriately? How well did they communicate? This could help you determine whether they could handle a customer-facing role, for example.

As a bonus, this strategy automatically separates the candidates who truly care from the ones who apply half-heartedly. It’s easy to send a résumé via email and respond to a callback, but filming a video requires a lot more effort. This strategy serves as an effective alternative to a first interview; accounting firm BDO saved as much as $1,000 per candidate using videos, according to a report by HR software company Yello.

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2. TRY A SKILLS TEST

Pre-hire assessments make companies 24% likelier to hire employees who exceed performance expectations. No matter the position, you should test candidates. The test could be a proofreading assignment, coding quiz, writing assessment, etc.—just find a way to evaluate the quality of a candidate’s work before he or she joins your team.

Have everyone applying for the same role take the same test so you can easily compare results. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 75% of HR professionals with hiring difficulties reported candidate skills gaps in 2019. If you can see how someone’s initial test compares to existing or potential employees’ assessments, then you’ll better avoid the skill-gap pitfall when you hire.

Once the tests are completed, schedule interviews with high-scoring candidates to walk through their results. Tests illustrate someone’s ability to think, but follow-up interviews demonstrate a candidate’s ability to communicate their thoughts. This process differentiator indicates whether they may need additional training regarding presenting, if applicable to the position.

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3. DON’T FORGET TO TEST FOR COMPATIBILITY

Don’t underestimate the importance of a company culture fit. Your team will likely work with the hire for years, maybe even decades, to come. Teammates build off of one another, so even one person who brings the group down can have a devastating effect on your business.

Use standardized evaluations to identify the personalities and working styles of your current employees. Pick one that has worked for you in the past. (This can also be a fun and helpful training exercise to encourage your team members to understand and work together better.) Then, ask prospective employees to take the same test to help assess fit: Do the candidates’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations match those of your existing employees?

At my company, our ace regarding this strategy is a guy named Art. He can evaluate candidates’ results and tell you what working with them will be like. I’ve known him for probably 20 years, and I’ve ignored his suggestions only three times. Unsurprisingly, I ended up eventually firing all three of those hires. Technical skills are trainable; compatibility isn’t.

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Hiring is already difficult, and COVID-19 made it even trickier. However, if you take your time now and hire the right people, you’ll save yourself and your company time and resources down the road.


Drew McLellan is the CEO of Agency Management Institute, serving 250-plus agencies to help the owners build profitable businesses that evolve and scale.