To Make Better Hires for Your Company, Embrace Your Inner Headhunter

Non-HR executives can use the following DIY tools to win the hiring game.
Guest Writer

One of the best parts of hiring in the digital age is that there is never a shortage of candidates. With all the recruitment websites, job boards and placement apps available to applicants and recruiters alike, you can post a job opening online and have no problem filling your hopper with more resumes than you could ever want. But, the reality is that most of the applications you receive are off the mark. The online resources that are so great at filling the funnel aren’t necessarily ideal for narrowing the field to a shortlist of qualified candidates.

Related: 5 Must-Ask Interview Questions to Determine If Someone's a Fit

Traditionally, executive recruiters have made their bones by presenting hiring managers with the best possible candidates. But, in 2017 headhunters are like travel agents: They can do a really good job for you and make your life easier, but if you have the time and skills you can often get the same or better results yourself. And for organizations that don’t have a large or sophisticated HR department (or a big recruiting budget), this can mean the difference between building a great team and settling for average employees who may deliver competence but not excellence.

No doubt recruiters still play a vital role in the hiring ecosystem, but non-HR executives can use the following DIY tools to win the hiring game:

Think of LinkedIn as your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for talent.

LinkedIn is a wonderful -- not to mention free -- source of information about potential employees, from their job histories to their interests outside the workspace. That’s pretty basic, but LinkedIn can do much more to assist companies that are trying to identify talent and do proper due diligence. Checking an applicant’s contacts list on LinkedIn for any mutual acquaintances gives you the ability to informally (and off the record) ask for an honest opinion about a candidate’s suitability for your position. In many ways, this vetting is exactly what a CRM system does for sales leads: It helps prioritize information so that people can make more informed decisions.

It may also be worth exploring LinkedIn’s Recruiter options, which offer expanded searches, custom communication and talent pipeline management; if you’re going to be your own headhunter, you may as well access a headhunter’s resources.

Related: 8 Reasons You're Losing the Best Talent to Your Competition

Mine your existing network.

Networking isn’t just for finding yourself a job -- it’s also a powerful way to identify good candidates for your own open positions. Just like your friends and former coworkers know you well enough to recommend you for an appropriate position, they also know you well enough to recommend people they know you’ll like. If you make a habit of leveraging your contacts for applicants, they will make a habit of coming to you first with talented people who might be good hires for your company.

Networks don’t need to be just comprised of your closest friends; they can include your college alumni associations, trade groups and other “loose” groups where people make meaningful connections. And one important networking "golden rule": It's always best to establish your network contacts well before you need to ask for referrals.

Related: 4 Reasons Employees Need to Be Involved in Your Hiring Process

Include other stakeholders in the selection process. 

One common mistake that executives make when they find a good candidate is to make unilateral hiring decisions. Bad move! That’s because other people in the organization -- even if they aren’t going to be working with a new hire -- can often pick up things that you miss. Get together with the leads of each team for which the new hire’s performance will be important (and that’s more than just the team he or she will be working with because every job impacts multiple teams) and ask them to take a meaningful role in the interview process. And that means a legitimately meaningful part, not a rubber stamp approval or a 10-minute meet-and-greet. Make it clear to everyone that their input is important and will factor into the hiring decision. This will create an environment where applicants gain a greater perspective on the company culture and participating employees will feel that they have a stake in the hiring process.

Learn to do a real interview. 

This may seem obvious, but interviewing is a real skill that takes a long time to master. Become familiar with performing screening interviews and behavioral interviews (and learn to skip the filler questions) to get at the heart of why the person sitting in front of you and is or isn’t right for a position. If you do multiple interviews (which is highly recommended), make sure each has its own purpose -- for example, one interview to find who has the right technical skills and the next to see which candidate is the best fit for the team.

Related: It Takes 128 Applicants to Make a Hire -- Here's How to Hire Smarter and Faster

Know the market.

Educate yourself on candidates’ salary expectations in your industry in your region. Some jobs are still very much an employee’s market, and employers who can’t offer competitive rates and benefits will lose out on the best candidates. This will not only give you a good baseline to set your offer but a keen understanding of how to adjust that offer for top candidates. We’ve all fallen in love with a candidate only to find out that their desired pay is impossible to meet.

Becoming your own headhunter is about more than just circumventing the need for an outside resource. It’s about developing the skills to make sure you interview the right people. Many positions are improperly filled because the interviewers had a flawed field of applicants in the first place. When you know how to find the right people to interview, you drastically increase your chances of finding the perfect fit for each role.

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