After almost a year of economic uncertainty, the economy is healing and job numbers are rising steadily. Competition for great talent is heating up, and many companies are expanding their search to include remote workers. In this environment, startups that want to compete for talent effectively will need to focus on smart strategies to fill their pipeline, and adopt a structured hiring process to make the best hiring decisions.

Based on my work helping over 4000 companies develop structured hiring processes, I would like to recommend three basic techniques that any business can use to identify great talent for the jobs they want to fill.

Start With A Plan

First, the key to becoming great at hiring is making sure that you have a plan for how to fill the role. Common sense, right? But why then do I see company after company with no plan? Here’s a typical scenario. Somebody needs a job filled, so the job description gets posted on a website. After a while people apply and then you start to do interviews. After the interviews, people discuss the candidates one-by-one: “I just met Rajesh. He seemed really good. What should we do next?” Someone says: “Let’s interview him again.” Meanwhile, your colleague interviewed Rachel and asked very different questions of her than were asked of Rajesh. If you ask someone who’s involved in this hire: “Where are we with filling this role? Which of these candidates is the best for the role? What’s the next step?” the answer most likely will be: “I don’t know.”

This halting, unstructured approach would have been laughable back in 1908 when the Model T was being assembled. No one would say: “So what do we do next? Maybe we should pick up some bolts and see where they fit?”

Whenever hiring managers talk about how their company’s recruiters are not able to find the right talent, my first question is to ask whether they actually sat down to discuss and agree on the attributes and qualities needed for the job. Then I ask whether they created a written plan to find and hire the right talent.

Any company that wants to set up a structured hiring process needs to start with an organized kickoff meeting where recruiters and hiring managers align on two things. First, what the business needs of the role are and, second, how success will be measured for that role. Teams can then build the list of attributes a candidate will need to be successful in that particular role. This list will be the scoring rubric used to evaluate candidates during the interview process.

During the actual interview, each interviewer should have an interview kit that provides a clear purpose for the interview and set questions they should ask to assess each of the attributes on the scoring rubric. In a structured hiring process, the focus is not on what the interviewers felt or perceived. Instead, it is about how the candidate displayed attributes that will lead to success in the role.

Differentiate Between The Job Description, Job Post, And Ad

My second recommendation relates to job posts, job ads, and job descriptions. Many organizations do not make a clear distinction between these three documents:

  • The job description is the internal document which outlines the responsibilities, requirements, expectations, pay, and so forth.
  • The job post lists the open role on an organization’s website, with enough information and enticement to appeal to talented people so they decide to submit their information.
  • The job ad is a placement on an external site like Indeed or ZipRecruiter, meant to get people to click through.

Companies need to take the time to customize these documents to fit the audience. It’s no surprise the best candidates are not interested in vague materials.

Personalize Your Approach To Candidates

And third, it’s important to understand that great hiring has become more like great marketing. In the past we were able to market by putting up a billboard or newspaper ad, and maybe some customers would respond. Just like in marketing, now what you have to do in hiring is move from something that feels very general and ad hoc to something targeted, organized, systematic, and measurable.

Don’t send one-size-fits all emails to targeted talent. Instead, stand out from the crowd with a differentiated approach. Forget the once-and-done sourcing of the past. It must now be a continuous process, given the mobility of the best talent.

To attract great talent at will you must be able to take a portfolio approach versus one favorite sourcing method. That means investing appropriately across the continuum of sourcing strategies; being intentional in how you build your corporate brand to stand out from the competition, and matching the sourcing technique to the role being filled.

Daniel Chait is co-author of TALENT MAKERS: How the Best Organizations Win Through Structured and Inclusive Hiring, and CEO and co-founder of Greenhouse. Before Greenhouse, he co-founded Lab49, a global firm providing technology consulting solutions for investment banks. Chait is a frequent speaker on the topics of recruiting and entrepreneurship, and a guest-lecturer at business schools and conferences. Daniel graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Computer Engineering in 1995.

Hiring talent stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock