Recruiting is to hiring what marketing is to sales. If you don’t have a good recruiting system in place, your hiring process will be hit-and-miss. Just like marketing and sales, recruiting and hiring should flow from your strategic plan. As a business owner, ask yourself:

  • What kinds of roles will I need to fill in order to achieve my 1-year goals? 
  • My 3-year goals? 
  • My 10-year goals? 

The timing of your planned hires will likely vary according to your success in hitting your strategic targets, which in turn is likely to be affected by the economy around you. The important point is that your strategic business planning should guide you as you proactively determine the roles you will need to fill and the timing to fill them.

Systematically, you need a recruiting/hiring funnel in the same way you need a marketing/sales funnel. Just as you should always be selling, you should always be recruiting. Consider:

  • Do you need an internship program to develop potential hires? One positive experience for an intern is likely to be shared with their friends and classmates, so the potential ROI as a recruiting tool is large
  • When people start looking for a job, they typically turn to LinkedIn and the “rate your job” websites like Glassdoor, Indeed, UpWork, Monster, etc. Start with a company page on LinkedIn, then expand to other sites. Let them passively recruit for you.


Before you hire for a role, you need to decide what kind of person would best fill it. (Hint: it likely isn’t the first person available!) Design the role and the larger team by considering:

  1. What gap in your company are you trying to fill?
    1. Do you want someone who will primarily work independently, such as a salesperson?
    1. Are you trying to fill out a team roster, where each person does something different but has to contribute to the whole?
    1. What is the growth path for the role—do you want the new hire to grow into a higher-level role, or are you looking for someone who will likely fill the same role for the foreseeable future?
  2. What affective characteristics (values, personality types, level of emotional awareness and interaction, etc.) do you want the new hire to have?
    1. Because you know your company values (you do have written company values that you strive to live by every day, don’t you?), you want someone who shares those values. 
    1. A values match is (or should be) non-negotiable, so determining a values match should be upfront in the hiring process.
    1. What other characteristics are required?
    1. What characteristics do you want to avoid?
  3. What cognitive (skills, training, experience, ways of thinking) characteristics are needed to fill this role? 
    1. Differentiate between required (must-have) and desired (helpful to have) levels of need
    1. What tradeoffs between experience and formal training/education are acceptable?
    1. How much on-the-job training can you or your team realistically expect to provide, if an otherwise great applicant appears? Over what time frame?
  4. What conative (instinctive ways of working) characteristics are needed to fill this role?
    1. This is arguably the most-overlooked aspect of hiring, yet (after a values match) the most important
    1. Examples:
      1. Will the new hire need to follow specific processes and procedures exactly, or do you need them to be adaptable? 
      1. Do you want someone to be innovative and comfortable taking calculated risks, or do you want her/him to minimize risk?
      1. Is this a data-intensive role, or is only a knowledge of the basic facts required?
      1. Will the new hire need to be good at working with his/her hands, or will they need to be good at working with ideas and concepts?
      1. What is the tolerance for each of the above?
  5. How open are you to wildcards, i.e., someone who brings strengths and weaknesses you had not thought about? Make this part of your role design process.

When you have designed the role and have answers to the questions above, you are ready to design the selection process. Best practices in this phase include:

  • Aim for a positive candidate experience—you want the new hire to be excited about working for your company, and that excitement should be built by the hiring process
  • Include testing as needed, e.g., personality/values/ways of working tests. These will give you an objective view of how well they will fit into the role you have designed
    • While potentially stressful to the candidate, most people find learning more about themselves to be a positive experience
    • A test, in and of itself, is not a good basis to reject a candidate (and may not be a legal basis), but it can be used as an indicator of success or struggle in the role
  • For a role in which cognitive skills are required, ask the applicant to demonstrate their skills
    • A coder should write code to solve a real problem you face
    • A technical worker should demonstrate competence on the machinery she/he will use
    • Ask a manager to solve people or operational problems relevant to their role
  • Assess values, character, and cultural fit through interviews, using job-relevant questions that have been cleared by experts for legality
    • Example: this job requires travel 10% of the time, but those times are not always predictable. Is there anything that would preclude you from traveling when needed, including on short notice?
    • To be human is to have biases, most of which are unconscious. Be as aware as you can of how your biases might lead you to hire a sub-optimum candidate or pass over the optimum candidate
    • Ask for multiple examples of behaviors showing values, character, or cultural fit—most applicants will have one good story prepared, but someone who deeply embodies those things can come up with multiple examples
  • Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions, and evaluate the quality of their questions
    • Are they focused on the benefits to them or their ability to contribute?
    • Do they ask about things they should have researched prior to the interview?
    • Does their level of questioning match their experience and the qualities you are looking for in the role?

Lastly, let them know the next steps in the process and set their timeline expectations.

  • Ensure you meet any commitments you have made—if you said they would hear from you within a week, do that, even if the message is “We haven’t made a decision yet.”