How to Hire and Onboard Employees: The Complete Guide
In a competitive market, hiring the right people is as crucial as having a great product or service for your customers. Which is as it should be – after all, it’s the people that make your company successful.
But hiring can be a tricky game, for first-time managers and seasoned leaders alike.
For starters, the stakes are high. Hiring the wrong employee results in wasted time, money and decreased team morale.
(Just think of the investment that you and your team put into the integration of that new hire, only to have them walk out the door a few weeks later.)
On the flipside, hiring the right person pays dividends in terms of increased team productivity and a stronger work culture overall.
The long and short of it all is, recruiting is worth doing properly.
Table of contents
- Setting out your hiring strategy
- Writing job descriptions
- Attracting candidates
- Screening and interviewing applicants
- Making and closing the offer
- Onboarding your new hire
Are you hiring tactically instead of strategically?
When you think about how critical hiring is to just about everything your business does, it’s often a shock to realise how little strategy actually goes into the recruiting process.
Of course, this often stands to reason. For starters, many companies don’t have a dedicated recruitment team or HR department.
Recruiting, especially if you’re in a seasonal business like retail or hospitality, also tends to happen in peaks and troughs, so the tendency is to just pitch in and get it done, on an as-needed basis, as quickly as possible.
After all, recruitment is just eating up time that should be spent doing your “real” job, right?
Wrong. If recruitment isn’t something you’re being proactive and thoughtful about on an ongoing basis, this can lead to a lot of problems if you might unexpectedly find that you’re short of a lot of staff and that you need to hire many people in a short space of time.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to reach your ideal candidates and home in on the right hires. But it’s not enough just to recruit the right people. Great candidates are looking for what you can offer them in return.
That’s why this guide will also show you how to deliver on the expectations your new hires might have and how you can set them up for long-term success at your workplace.
Setting out your hiring strategy
The hiring process is an integral part of running any business. Whether you’re a small business owner, a team manager, or heading up the HR department, a large part of your role involves planning and strategising how you can bring in the best new employees to get the job done.
Right now, it might well be the case that each time you hire for your business, your process for shortlisting candidates to interview is widely different. It could also be that interview questions come to you in the spur of the moment rather than being mapped out in advance.
To avoid hiring on a whim, you first need to create and document a detailed plan for your company’s recruitment efforts at every stage of the recruitment process – from hiring to onboarding.
Here are some starter steps to guide you along the way to creating your comprehensive hiring strategy and plan:
Figuring out your hiring needs
Know of any companies in your industry that hired too many employees, too soon? Yep, us too!
It can often happen that a company overestimates the gaps in their team and hires more people than are needed, resulting in untold damage to your employer brand if layoffs have to happen down the line.
Here’s how to avoid this:
1. Look into how your current roles have evolved
Your current team members’ job duties are bound to have shifted over time. So, ask them! What about their current roles has changed? How has their current job description been updated?
All this takes is a quick interview with your members of staff to go over the responsibilities that are currently on their plates. Another good starting point is to use an closely-matching job description template as a starting point and tweak it as needed.
(Which reminds us – if you haven’t set up formal job descriptions for your current team members, there’s no time like the present!)
2. Assess what skills your team has (and what they’re missing)
Again, you can interview your current employees, talk to senior management and team leaders, or conduct a skills gap assessment/survey.
The skill gaps you uncover over the course of your research will be critical when it comes to hiring people that can bring the knowledge and skills you’re missing in your company. Before hiring new staff members, it’s worth having a think about how your team might be able to accomplish the work needed.
- Working out ways to improve processes
- Retraining current staff
- Eliminating work that isn’t strictly necessary
- Figuring out how to distribute the overall team workload more equally
This way, you can be confident in your determination as to whether or not a new hire is truly required for the team to operate efficiently.
3. Forecast the number of people you need to hire
The previous step should give you some level of insight into the new hires you’re going to need to cover critical gaps in your current company or department makeup.
You can also use things like annual revenue growth projections and seasonal demand spikes to help you gauge the number of new hires you’ll need to take on over the course of the year. And make sure you’re hiring well in advance of any major business changes, so that you can train up any new employees on time.
As you’re developing a sense of the roles you need to hire for, be sure to start listing out clear job expectations, metrics and objectives – this will be invaluable when writing job descriptions (we’ll cover this in the next section!)
Now’s also the perfect time to look at whether you need to hire full-time employees, or whether part-time employees, who have the option to work overtime as the needs of your business fluctuate, is a better option.
4. Map out your ideal hiring timeline
Finding it hard to figure out when to hire more employees?
Once you have an idea of the kinds of roles you actually need to fill, it’s time to actually prioritise your recruitment efforts. There could well be a position that can wait until later in the year when a new business initiative is due to start, for example, while you fill a more pressing gap within your business, such as front-line customer service staff.
5. Set out your recruitment budget
Now that you have more insight into your hiring activity over the next year, you can start calculating the cost of filling each position. This is called “cost per hire”, which is a key recruitment metric you should be tracking at all times. Your recruitment budget should also allow for other hiring expenses, such as advertising your posts and using an applicant tracking system.
Check out salary information for your role as well, so you can be sure you’re putting together the right offer. If you’re falling short of industry averages in your area, you’ll risk losing out on good candidates.
6. Assess your current hiring process
As the old saying goes, the first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one. Now’s the time for some honest self-reflection…
- In the past, has your communication with candidates about job expectations been crystal clear?
- Were you perhaps guilty of overstating the company benefits or career potential just a little?
- Did you get that niggly worry at the time you extended an offer to a new hire that they weren’t quite the right personality match for the rest of the team?
- Were you naturally more drawn to the candidate who shared the same interests as you, even though they weren’t that qualified for the role?
- Did you rush through the interviewing process because you needed someone in that role yesterday?
- Did you keep posting your jobs in the same old places as always, even though the applications you’ve been getting back were more than a little lacklustre last time around?
We could keep going on and on here… but the point isn’t to make you feel bad.
These are all incredibly common hiring mistakes. Realising you could have been guilty of some (or even all, no judgement here!) of these in the past is the first step to helping you make the right hire the first time around, next time around.
7. Benchmark your recruitment approach against your competition
While there’s no set hiring process that works for all types of businesses, you can stand to learn a lot from looking at what other companies in your particular industry are doing hiring-wise.
Here’s some quick ways to glean insights that you can apply to your own hiring:
- Do other companies like yours have a careers section/page on their website? Is the layout clean and attractive? Are they doing a good job of selling the company as a place that employees would want to work? Is there key info on there, like the company mission and values, benefits and perks? What about employee testimonials.
- Where are they posting their jobs? Hint: You should be posting yours in these places, too!
Writing job descriptions
If you’ve ever spent any time looking for jobs, you’ll likely have seen that most job descriptions seem to be a never-ending list of requirements. What they seem to do very little of is getting the candidate excited about applying.
Your job posting should be a lot more than this if you’re going to stand out from the heaps of vacancies out there. Why not make the posting all about the candidate, not you? What’s likely to make them want to work for you? What can you specifically offer them as an employer? What do they get to achieve every day at your workplace that they can’t get elsewhere?
Keep the following five points in mind when drafting your job description:
1. Start with a summary of what your company does
We know, we said make it all about them, but you’ll need to start by introducing your company, how you started, what you’ve achieved so far, why you love doing what you do and where you’re hoping to go to next.
After all, you want to hire people who are actually invested in the success of your company, not just looking for a job that pays the bills. So, help them self-select whether your place of work is right for them – what makes your company unique and attractive? Whatever it is, make sure it pops immediately!
2. Make your job description scannable
People tend to scan job ads to determine whether they’re worth a closer look. This means that if you’re not formatting your job posting with subheadings so applicants can easily scan through it, they’re probably going to click away and onto the next job.
3. Use the right keywords in the job title
Potential applicants are also searching for job opportunities using keywords, so a little dash of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is critical when it comes to helping people find your job. With this in mind, make sure you title your job under a recognisable, keyword-friendly title.
Prop tip: Where possible, include your city or town in the title – this helps your job get pulled into Google for Jobs for any local applicants in your area.
4. Describe the benefits of the job upfront
Before you go into the skills and experience required, or even the responsibilities of the role, you’ll want to hook the right applicants with the perks of the job.
5. Don’t go overboard with the job’s requirements
Compile all the different duties of the role and think about what qualifications and skills meet them. Keep this section limited to the actual requirements of the job and skip anything that’s not strictly necessary – you don’t want to deter otherwise-qualified people from applying.
Of course, job seekers should understand the position’s scope before applying. If in doubt, run your job posting by someone who’s held that position at your company before to see if it paints a realistic picture.
6. Run your job ad through a grammar/spell checker
Save yourself the embarrassment of a typo-ridden job posting – we highly recommend Grammarly for this purpose.
Even if you’ve written the most compelling job ad of all time, it won’t make much of a difference if no one sees it!
It’s important to get the word out about your opening in the places your ideal candidate is likely to go to search for jobs. There is a myriad of ways you can source candidates – paid and free – so don’t be afraid to cast your net.
Here’s just a sampling:
- Job search websites, like LinkedIn, Google for Jobs, Indeed and Glassdoor. While a Recruiter package on LinkedIn is pretty pricey, one-off job postings are relatively low cost. Indeed also has a search option which lets you filter CVs based on location and job title.
- Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Social media is a goldmine for attracting both passive and active job seekers. Twitter is an especially great way to connect with job seekers for free. All you have to do is simply tweet out about your job opening and make it searchable within Twitter by using a specific job search hashtag. Also, not only does Facebook offer paid job ad services, there are also Facebook groups for different industry professionals where you can post your job ads for free.
- Niche job boards that service your industry. These websites are great for finding very specific kinds of candidates.
- Employee referrals. Sometimes, you don’t need to do much advertising at all for your job. Why not ask your current workers if they know of someone who’d be right for the job? Encourage all employees to share job postings on their own social media profiles, too.
- Your own connections. This can be as simple as friends and family – they’re bound to know someone (or someone who knows someone!) who’s actively on the job hunt.
Don’t forget to track your ads’ performance
When it comes to your job ad, it’s not a case of set it and forget it.
To make the most of your time, effort and money, you’ll want to keep an eye on which job advertising channels are and aren’t working for you. Most job sites should be able to give you the following stats so you can easily figure this out and start changing things up if necessary:
- Total views
- Total applicants
- Applicant relevancy
- Number of interviews
- Cost per applicant
- Cost per hire
And last, but by no means least, remember that most candidates won’t immediately apply after first hearing about your job. When a candidate first hears about your career opportunity, either through a recruiter outreach message, employee referral, or job ad, they tend to look up your company website first to learn more about you, before taking the plunge and applying.
This means you need to have a dedicated careers page on your website. This page should work hard to convey your company’s vision, mission, values, purpose and culture (otherwise known as your employer brand) and what makes it a great place to work.
If you can, it’s a great idea to include pictures or videos (no stock photos allowed!) of real employees at your business.
Screening and interviewing applicants
It might feel like there’s always a sense of urgency to get that vacant position filled. When you’re short staffed, tasks build up, your staff start burning out and business performance takes a hit. It’s important not to rush the following steps in the interview process:
Through all of your recruiting efforts, your applications should start rolling in pretty quickly. If the role you’re hiring for is skilled or more specialist in nature, you can expect to receive less applications. If you’re hiring for an entry-level role with minimal requirements, then you can expect to receive upwards of a hundred applications.
Figure out how you’re going to track candidates
If you’re using an applicant tracking system (ATS) – like Workable or Greenhouse – it’s easier to narrow down your applications to the ones that are worth progressing to the next stage. If you’re going the manual route, then you’ll want to start by creating a spreadsheet to track your applications.
Include the following details, if possible:
- Applicant name
- The position they’re applying for
- Application source
- The date they applied
- Email address
- Contact number
- Link to CV/application form
- Availability (if hiring shift workers)
- Notice period required
- Whether they’ve passed the initial screening phase
- Whether they’re being invited for interview
- Interview notes
- Reference name
- Reference contact details
Having all of this key info housed in one place will save you time gathering details about multiple applicants from different sources.
If the idea of another spreadsheet fills you with a sense of impending doom, there are a couple of project management tools you can use for recruiting purposes. Trello and Asana, for example, have a free board system to help you track applicants through all stages of the hiring process.
Asana is especially handy as it has a calendar view option where you can see any upcoming interviews at a glance.
Conduct your initial screening
Any easy way to determine if someone is the right fit for the job is obviously by going through their resume. But wading through hundreds of resumes can take lots of time, which is why an ATS might be your friend here.
An ATS automatically runs through CVs and narrows down the best candidates based on your specific criteria. Using one of these, you can get through a whole pile of CVs in a matter of minutes. At this point, it’s a good idea to rank the candidates you have gathered from this and choose the top 10 to go onto the next stage…
Conduct your screening interviews
A screening interview can be conducted over the phone or Skype – depending on how many quality applicants you received and how urgent your need is, you’ll likely want more than one round of interviews to narrow down your candidate shortlist for in-person interviews.
The goal of the screening interview is simply to determine whether the applicant has the qualifications and enthusiasm necessary for the job.
To that end, you’ll want to draft up a shortlist of questions that helps you determine whether or not they’re a viable candidate for the position. The trick is to ask basic questions that gauge your candidates’ interest, experience and long-term career goals. As this process is a bit less informal, it’s a nice opportunity to ask questions like:
- “What interests you about this role?”
- “Why are you leaving your current job?”
- “Why do you want to work with us?”
Other options available here include group interviews – these are great if you’ve received a high volume of applications. Other methods like tests or even pre-interview questionnaires can help you reduce your pool of applicants to a smaller number of qualified candidates.
At this stage, you’re likely to have several applicants for the position left, which leads us to…
The in-person interview
We’ve all done one of these at one time in our lives, so you know the drill: the interviewee meets with either a single interviewer or an interviewing panel to answer questions and have the opportunity to ask their own questions at the conclusion of the interview.
In much the same way that you can expect your candidate to prepare for their in-person interview, though, you will also need to come prepared.
Work on your interview skills
Ever conducted a disastrous interview in your time? You’re not alone – interviewing doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
Have a think about whether your body language and phone manner came across as open and personable, or abrupt and unfriendly. Do you convey a genuine interest in candidate’s answers, or do you seem bored and distracted (thinking about that dreaded to-do list, maybe?) Think about how you’d feel if you were at the other end of the table and remember to treat candidates how you yourself would like to be treated.
Before your next interview, perhaps ask yourself the following:
- Can I talk about the business in detail (not just my own job)?
- Do I really understand what the role I’m hiring for entails?
- Have I read through the candidate’s CV beforehand?
- Do I know what questions I plan on asking?
- Are these questions legal to ask?
- Am I able to answer questions about the job perks and benefits?
If you can answer these confidently, then you won’t go too far wrong conducting your next interview.
Open on a lighter note
Start the interview on the right foot by telling the interviewee what it is you do, following up by inviting them to ask any questions they have about the role of business.
This helps with any initial interview jitters on their part and gives you a better idea of how interested they are in working at your company. Win win!
Avoid vague or general interview questions
Remember, the kinds of interview questions you ask are key to helping you make better hires and improve your candidate experience.
It’s better to stick to a structured approach in this instance, where you ask the same questions, in the same order, of each candidate. That way, your interview won’t veer off course and you won’t risk asking redundant questions to fill up the time.
When drafting your questions beforehand, remember to keep them as simple and open ended as possible.
Some good examples include:
- “What kind of working environment do you thrive in?”
- “Tell me about the relationships you’ve had with the people you’ve worked with.”
- “What’s something you’d be happy doing every single day for the rest of your career?”
- “Tell me about a time you set difficult goals at work.”
- “In three minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but that you know well?”
It’s also worth bearing in mind that interviews are a two-way street. While you might be conducting interviews during a busy and stressful time at work, you need to leave this behind you the moment you step into the interview room (which, by the way, should be clean and tidy!)
Let them know what’s next
Finally, don’t forget to be completely transparent about the timeline for hiring.
Be sure that your candidate is fully informed as to what comes next and when you’ll be in touch. The last thing you want is to appear disorganised (or worse, flaky). Follow up early and often and communicate with candidates at each stage of the hiring process.
Choosing the right candidate
With any luck, you’ll have one standout candidate for the role. In some instances, however, you might have two or three candidates that you’d be happy to extend an offer to.
At this stage, you’ll want to go back through your interview notes and consult with others involved in the hiring process. Chances are, there’s one standout criterion of the role that one particular candidate really nailed. This is the one you’ll want to offer the job to, first.
Vetting your potential employees
Over the course of the interview, it’s your responsibility to confirm that your prospective employees have a right to work in your country. This means you’ll need to ask to make a copy of any identifying documents, such as a passport. Depending on the type of industry you’re working in, criminal background and/or medical checks may also be in order.
Before extending a job offer, reference checks should be in place. Remember to keep reference calls short – 10 minutes at most. References from former employers and coworkers are a great way to get objective insights into your prospective hire’s performance.
Making and closing the offer
This might sound like the easiest part of the hiring process: You draft up the offer let, get it approved and send it over to the candidate. Done, done and done! But there’s a little more that goes into the job offer stage than you think.
Firstly, you need to:
1. Make your verbal offer
You’ll want to extend the job offer to your chosen candidate over the phone to begin with. This works well for both parties: candidates can decline at this stage (if, say, they’ve received another job offer) or make a verbal acceptance. This saves you a lot of time crafting offer letters if your candidate does decide to withdraw at this point.
2. Seal the deal with a written offer
All going well, your candidate will either have accepted the role or at least asked to see the offer in full before committing one way or another. Make sure your offer letter covers all the salient points of the role. This should include key job details such as:
- Working hours
- Expected start date
Note: You may need to review these terms if your best candidate decides to negotiate.
At this juncture, you don’t need to share information on internal company policies and processes (like your code of conduct, dress code, sick/personal leave. etc.) However, if you have these details handy in your employee handbook, it’s wise to share this along with the offer letter to avoid any potential misgivings on the candidate’s part.
Always communicate with candidates (even if it means they’re being rejected)
It can be a huge source of frustration to apply for a job, go through the interview process… and then, radio silence. Remember, applicants have spent time polishing their CV, filling out application forms and writing cover letters. Ghosting them during the hiring process is a big no-no.
Turning candidates down is all part and parcel of the recruiting game. Your candidates know this. It might feel like slipping away quietly and never following up is the kinder move, but it can mean huge damage to your reputation as an employer of choice. Whether through social media, Glassdoor reviews or word of mouth, applicants who feel like they’ve been unfairly treated by you won’t be shy about letting others know. And you never know – that person you rejected could be an ideal fit for a future job at your company. All it takes is an automated email letting them know they won’t be moving forward and thanking them for their time.
Onboarding your new hire
Signing on the dotted line is not a done deal – in fact, hiring the candidate is only the first step. The hiring process actually starts the moment you post your open position, and only ends when your new hire is properly settled into their role – which could be three or even six months later.
The right onboarding and training practices are essential to keeping new hires engaged and willing to stick around at your company.
What is onboarding?
Onboarding, in essence, marks your new hire’s introduction to your business. The right onboarding process can go a long way towards properly integrating that new employee into your company. The wrong one means a higher turnover rate and a less productive team.
Recommended reading: 4 mistakes to avoid when onboarding employees
Create an onboarding checklist
New hires who experience effective onboarding have higher levels of loyalty, performance and job satisfaction. Here are some of the don’t-miss steps that need to be part and parcel of your onboarding process.
1-2 weeks before their start date:
- Prep a workstation (this is dependent on the type of role you’re filling).
- Sort out any tech/tools they need to do their job (e.g. a computer, phone, headset, scheduling tool, etc.)
- Prepare instructions on any remaining paperwork you need from them (for Direct Deposit, etc.)
- Set them up with a company email.
- Send out a welcome email.
- If you’re not available to meet your new hire on their first day, ensure there’s someone else who’s ready to welcome them.
- Give them a full tour of your workplace and an overview of what their schedule will be like for the first week.
- Set aside some time to fill out any additional paperwork.
- Get some manageable work tasks/smaller projects on their to-do list so they can hit the ground running in their first few days.
- Provide well-timed feedback on how they’re doing with their first few tasks.
- Check in with them regularly and answer any questions they might have.
During the first week, it’s important that your employee has a firm understanding of what’s expected of them and where and who they can turn to for guidance. A great way to do this is by creating an onboarding checklist in a tool like Excel (or Asana) that contains:
- Reading materials to read to help them learn what their responsibilities are.
- A link to review your company handbook/company policies, clock-in procedures, etc.
- Info on scheduled introductory meetings with team members for their first few weeks on the job.
Setting the stage for long-term success for your employee calls for regular communication, clear expectations and a vision for the future. Start integrating new hires into your team’s day-to-day work where possible, but remember, they need training before they can really integrate into your business.
Recommended reading: Giving employees praise: How, why and when
What happens after that?
Over the course of this guide, we’ve looked at how you can build a process for:
- Finding the best candidates.
- Convincing prospective employees to work for you, rather than for your competition.
- Keeping track of all your applications.
- Selecting the best prospective hires from your pool of application.
- Onboarding your new hires so they hit the ground running (and want to stick around!)
Of course, in addition to our hiring above tips, you need to consistently invest time and effort into building your company culture and employer brand. Remember, as a hiring manager, you’re not just on the lookout for candidates that will “fit in” with your team, you’re looking for hires that will go above and beyond for your company and stay around for the long haul.