Recruiting: How to hire the right candidate?

 Employees are the heart and soul of a business. You can have a great business model or a large sum of funding, but you won’t succeed without the right people to drive your goals forward.

Bad employees can negatively influence your business in many ways. They can affect the whole team by lowering morale and causing inefficient workflows. They can also damage your reputation with existing and potential clients. An unproductive hire can thus cost your business a lot of money. Not to mention the time and effort wasted in finding and training a new employee in replacement.

So how do you avoid hiring the wrong people? In the most basic sense, the right candidate should fit the culture of your company and possess the skillset you need. However, the first impressions of a candidate’s personality and skills can often differ from reality.

How then, do you really know if someone is a good fit? And what kind of interview processes can you implement to get an honest, telling sense of the candidate?

For our sixth edition of the Speaker Series, our experts from, @i-potentials, @bookastreetartist, @foodpanda and @12grapes sat down and explored all aspects of “how to hire the right candidate” – from where to source candidates to the interview process.


For those of you who couldn’t make it, or simply want a refresher, here is a recap:

On how to get the “motivated and quick-learning” candidates everyone wants:

From an inbound perspective – as long as you have a clear vision, a passionate idea with deeper meaning, and good conditions – people will automatically and organically become interested in working with you. Having a nice concept beyond what you can offer economically as a new employer is important. Nowadays, millenials care more about your impact to society and whether or not you have a deeper mission.

Focus on the positive aspects about your business. Find what it is about you that makes you stand out instead of focussing on the same aspects as everyone else, such as free club mate, ping pong table, etc. There must be something that connects your company to the “ideal candidate”, and you should find out what this is and appeal to it.

Once you have a concrete message, how do you transport this message to attract candidates? The answer: show off your culture. Whether it’s opening your doors to the public or phrasing your job descriptions to sound like it’s you talking – captivate candidates so they can imagine what it’s like to work for you. People want to know how they can contribute, so make sure to give them an idea of what they can bring to the specific role, and what they can grow into.

Final tip: when you hire, always try to be fast. The best candidates always have opportunities and know how to apply for jobs. Similar to what you want to do in every relationship – kick your recruitment relationship off on a good note and get them excited about your business in the first chat.

The bottom line is, combining a clear vision and concrete offering with good communication of the role will make it easy for people to decide whether or not they want to apply.  

On how to find out whether a candidate is really a good fit:

Consider a short discovery call to start. It can be between 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and you will gain a good first perception from their tone of voice, energy level and whether or not the person knows what the company is about. If everything goes right, invite them for an interview. Basic questions first, because you have to put the person in a comfortable position, and chitchat questions can relax them for the rest of the interview. Then the second stage would go into what the candidate thinks their role is, to analyze whether they understand the tasks and what is expected of the position. Third stage should be a bit uncomfortable, mainly because you want to ask tough questions to see how the person reacts under pressure.

Another approach is to make candidates apply using an old school application letter, which will automatically weed out people who are too lazy to fill it out. For the candidates that pass screening, ask applicants to answer a few questions, solve cases or work on a trial task. You can learn a lot about how a candidate feels about the role based on their communication skills – whether they are willing to do it, how fast they reply, etc.

Finally, to help you gauge the candidate’s suitability to the role, get them to do a few tasks that would be a part of their daily duties if they were hired on. It’s always best to see an applicant in action to truly understand whether or not him/her is capable of doing the required job. Customer support agents, for example – you have a lot of people who could be a fit; maybe they don’t have any customer service experience, but they’re communicative and extremely personable. Real tasks will help you see if they can work under pressure, and also show you small things about their way of work you wouldn’t be able to learn from a conversation.

On creating repeatable and scalable interview processes:

In the beginning, you need a very good base of rules, solid structure and very clear communication channels and methods. Then, start slowly growing and training people that could project what you constructed in the beginning. A great way to scale your recruitment process is to train employees to be interviewers. When you let existing employees grow their own teams, they will be much more invested and willing to get the best fitting candidates onboard. Establish a recruitment system and make it as transparent as possible. All applicants should undergo the same process, and everyone in the team can use the same procedure to compare different candidates. This will not only keep your recruitment process uniform, but analyzing differing results to the same set of interviews will also allow for more clarified decision-making.

On favorite interview questions:

“What are you passionate about?”

If someone says something standard, challenge them by following up on a basic answer. For example, if a candidate’s passion is travel, then ask what is their favorite place they’ve been to and why. By digging deeper into a general answer, you can learn a lot about someone’s personality and motivation. Plus everyone wants to hire passionate employees, and you can gauge what it is that really drives them.

“Can you describe yourself in a nutshell?”

This question is interesting because, there is no right or wrong way to answer this question. It’s more about how the candidate answers it and what they focus on. The more open a question is, the more interesting and telling answers can be. People have to decide what is important, how long to speak, and what to mention. It’s a good way to see how analytical a candidate is based on how they structure their answer.

“What do you do outside of work?”

Understanding what people like to do outside of work can tell you a lot about what kind of person they are. Also, people normally wouldn’t lie when answering such a natural question, and you can get a better sense of their honest self instead of the proper image they try to project in an interview.  

“Can you describe the most complex problem you solved in the last 6 months?”

It’s not about the complexity, but more to evaluate their ability to reduce down the problem. This question helps you gain insight on how a candidate approaches problem-solving, how they face conflict and how they resolve the issue.

Once again, we would like to thank our speakers, Eva, Franziska, Mario, Veronika for their expert advice and insight, and to Daria for the fantastic moderation. A big shoutout to the team at Office Club as well, for helping us smoothly run the event. We look forward to seeing more of you at our next Speaker Series event. Please let us know if there are any specific topics or questions you’d like for us to tackle. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you would like to get updates on future events.

See you next year!

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