According to Gallup, 50% of Millennials (compared with 60% of non-millennials) strongly agree that they plan to be working at their company one year from now. These numbers are staggering when you factor in the cost – both time and money – involved in hiring and training new employees. Here are three tips that will improve your hiring hit rate.

  1. Build structure into the interview process
    Identify the key skills and experience that are required for the position that you are staffing and then develop a series of interview questions that focus in on those areas. Do not ask questions that can be answered with a simply yes or no. The questions must elicit a detailed and comprehensive response. For example, if one of the key skills is working effectively with business stakeholders, you may want to include questions like:
  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a business stakeholder. What issue caused their dissatisfaction and how were you able to create a satisfied internal client?
  • Give me an example of when you were unable to satisfy a business stakeholder? What were the barriers to satisfying them and what you would do differently today?

Have each member of the interview team ask similar questions so that they can generate individual assessments on the candidates’ skills in each of the listed key areas.

2. Dig down three levels.  
In order to best gauge a candidate’s true skill set, you need to dig several levels into their answers. Only by offering follow-up questions can you get a sense of their level of involvement and mastery of the key skills desired. Using the same example of working effectively with business stakeholders:

  • Question 1 – Level 1: Tell me about a time when you were faced with a disgruntled business stakeholder? What issue caused their dissatisfaction and how were you able to create a satisfied internal client?
  • Level 2: Why did you decide to use this tactic with the client?
  • Level 3: If this tactic had not worked what might have you done next?

Given the importance of strong writing skills for most learning professionals, it is important to be rigorous in your review of any writing sample you are provided. Unless you dig three levels down into your questions of that writing sample you will never know their true involvement. Was it a significant upgrade of an existing product or a new learning initiative with all original content? Did the candidate follow existing templates and style guides? Was the writing sample edited by others? When reviewing writing samples I like to see samples developed during the learning and development project life cycle. This can include a design document, early drafts and eLearning storyboards. This is often much more revealing than reviewing the final draft.

3. Put the candidate in action.
Of all the pointers this is the most important. Experienced candidates prepare well for interviews and many can do a good job answering questions. But if you ask me talk is cheap. I want to see every candidate in which I have real interest do something for me that they would need to do if hired. If they are an Instructor, I want to see them deliver a 15 minute class.

If you are hiring a course developer, have them complete a quick writing test. I have seen too many instances where clients have relied on a candidates’ writing samples, only to be disappointed and surprised, when the candidate turned in their first deliverable.

For project managers, consider having the candidate illustrate a recent project on a whiteboard. Ask probing questions to see how they structure their projects, how they account for contingencies and how they maintain pro-active communication with their stakeholders.

Get creative. Figure out the key attributes of the position you are seeking to fill and figure out a method to have the candidate demonstrate those skills or experience that are key to success in the position.

The staffing process is time-consuming and costly. Placing more emphasis on establishing a formal interviewing process will pay real dividends in helping to identify top-tier talent and improving your hiring hit rate and staff retention.