How to Hire Employees: 7 Best Practices That Attract Top Talent
It’s been a rough few years for businesses and employees alike. After surviving the rollercoaster of the pandemic, people face a slowing job market, banking crisis, and layoffs—and many are worried about their job stability.
In a recent BambooHR survey of 1,500 employees:
- Nearly two-thirds (66%) admit to looking at other jobs due to economic uncertainty.
- One in four (28%) explore other job opportunities weekly.
For HR professionals and managers, these statistics translate to a lot of recruiting potential. To take full advantage of the opportunity, optimizing your hiring process is critical, especially if you’re hoping to recruit people who are currently employed elsewhere. Close to 40% of people hired in 2022 said their current employer reached out to them first, showing active recruiting is an important piece of the hiring puzzle. But there are many other pieces to consider.
Finding, vetting, and engaging new people is a potential minefield for businesses. In a 2023 BambooHR hiring survey, 83% of employees said they’ve had bad experiences during hiring or onboarding for new jobs.
That’s why it’s so important for you to audit your hiring process and create a balance between two priorities:
- Presenting an attractive opportunity, one that’s focused on the full employee experience, so you can draw from a larger pool of diverse, qualified candidates.
- Streamlining and refining the recruiting process, so even the people you turn down have good things to say about the experience.
Looking for an easier way to find and hire great people? BambooHR is the complete HR platform that helps you seamlessly move from recruiting to onboarding—no more messy syncs or copying and pasting new hire info. Learn more with a free demo!
What Is the Definition of an Employee?
According to the IRS, an employee is anyone who performs services for you—if you control what and how their work will be done. For example, if someone's work must be completed on specific days or at set times, they're legally considered an employee—even if you give them the freedom to work from home.
Key Takeaways: What Are the Steps in the Hiring Process?
KICK OFF RECRUITMENT
The first stage in the recruitment process involves finding top candidates, i.e., those with the best skills, experience, and personality for the job.
MEET CANDIDATES DURING INTERVIEWS
The interview stage is when recruiters and hiring managers communicate directly with top candidates and determine which candidate’s skills and experience are the best for the company’s needs.
MAKE A COMPETITIVE OFFER
The offer process is the last stage in the hiring process, when the employer makes a formal invitation to a candidate to take a role at their company.
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How to Hire an Employee (7 Steps)
1. Create a Job Description
Your job description should include:
- Title: Decide on the name of the position.
- Purpose: Provide a brief description of the role and how it contributes to the goals and mission of the organization.
- Responsibilities: Create a list of daily tasks and expectations of outcomes.
- Qualifications (and education, if applicable): Include the skills the employee needs to be able to do the role, including soft skills (e.g., empathy, resourcefulness, patience).
- Experience: Outline what someone in this role needs to know or have done to be successful. Be sure to differentiate between what’s actually required and what you’d prefer.
Beyond outlining the gap you’re trying to fill and setting clear expectations, job descriptions also help HR and hiring managers standardize job interview questions and candidate assessments for a position.
2. Write a Job Posting
The job posting (or job ad) is the marketing version of the job description and helps define your employer brand—it needs to sell both your company and the job to potential candidates.
Job seekers want to know what’s in store for them with your organization, from specific details about benefits, compensation, and career development to whether or not they can entrust their financial future to your organization.
In our 2023 Hiring Survey, we found that most candidates want to know about:
- Benefits offerings (68%)
- Workplace culture (61%)
- Total compensation details (59%)
- Personal career growth potential (56%)
- The company's economic stability (53%)
In addition to the basics—such as the title, duties, and qualifications—your public job posting should include these elements, usually in this order:
- Whether the position is remote or hybrid
- Development and career growth opportunities for the position (e.g., leadership training, tuition reimbursement, etc.)
- Information about your organization, including its culture, values, financial goals, and why a potential employee would want to work there
- Any required legal language, such as being an Equal Opportunity Employer
Finally, it's crucial to ensure that your job posting uses inclusive language—both to attract a broad range of candidates and to help protect your employer brand. Even when it’s used unconsciously, biased or exclusionary language in job postings harms your recruiting effort by discouraging qualified candidates from applying.
Here are a few ways to be more inclusive and attract a diverse pool of qualified candidates:
- Don’t list specific degree requirements unless absolutely necessary for the position. Requiring a degree when one isn’t necessary discourages qualified people from applying.
- Use neutral pronouns, like “they” instead of “he” or “she.”
- Choose gender-free job titles, such as “site supervisor” instead of “foreman.”
- Avoid gendered terms, such as “aggressive” or “nurturing,” that might skew masculine or feminine.
- Avoid terms that imply an age preference, such as “energetic” or “mature.”
“Your organization and your leadership team reflect the population in which you’re based. If it isn’t, assess your candidate pool sources and introduce interview practices that look for specific skills and weed out biases."
–Cassie Whitlock, Director of HR | BambooHR
3. Publish the Job Posting
Once your job ad is ready, it’s time to share it! But where’s the best place to look for employees? More importantly, where are they most likely to be looking?
According to a 2022 ZipRecruiter survey, posting jobs online is going to be your best bet—60% of people who were recently hired found their current job online.
Tips for Posting on Job Boards
- Consider your budget. Some job sites charge a flat rate; others offer a pay-per-click model alongside a budgeted limit per month. Most boards also have a free plan, but your listing might get bumped down into invisibility or removed after a certain number of applications.
- Maximize your investment. Identify past postings or campaigns you ran that resulted in the best quality of candidates, and start there. Also, consider where your competitors post their available jobs so you’ll show up in the same search results.
- Integrate your applicant tracking system (ATS). An integration makes it easier to post jobs directly to job boards, and then you also have access to applicant information in your ATS, which helps streamline your recruiting process and save time.
Consider, too, that 77% of job seekers want to learn everything they can about a company before applying for a job, and they do so in a variety of ways. In our hiring survey, we found that candidates rely on:
- Company websites (70%)
- Glassdoor, Indeed, or Blind (58%)
- Asking hiring manager questions during interviews (53%)
- Word of mouth (48%)
- Social media (46%)
Although job boards are important, be sure to actively market your employer brand and employee value proposition. Keep your company website and social media channels up to date on current product goals or projects, job offerings, and company events.
It's also smart to engage current employees. HR managers and recruiters can give teams a sense of ownership in your employer brand by creating a referral program.
Create a seamless experience from application to offer letter.
BambooHR® Applicant Tracking helps you manage and personalize every candidate's experience. And with our Hiring Mobile App, busy recruiting teams can easily collaborate and stay connected with candidates.
4. Source Qualified Candidates
A shaky economy is a scary thing to face as a business, but it has its upsides in hiring. For over half (55%) of HR managers, the top benefit of economic instability is recruiting from a bigger talent pool of qualified candidates.
However, 58% also say the biggest downside is getting flooded with applications that don’t fit the job.
So, how can you widen your search for employees without overwhelming yourself with candidates who aren’t qualified? Here are a few ways to be more creative, cast a strategically wider net, and find more qualified candidates.
You don’t need to look for employees all that far from home. Internal hires come with immense benefits, including:
- Faster time to hire: You already know them and have access to their background information, performance history, and previous managers.
- Faster time to productivity: They already know a lot about how things work internally, so you don’t need to spend as much time onboarding them to the overall culture and organizational processes.
- Higher employee loyalty and satisfaction overall: When you hire internally, you show your employees you’re serious about their career development and investing in their future.
Recruit from Layoffs
Hiring recently laid-off workers is an opportunity to hire qualified people who are aching for a trustworthy employer.
Commenting on 2022’s tech layoffs, Greg Adler, COO of a tech talent enablement company, explains, “A lot of the time it’s got nothing to do with the competency of the individual. There’s a tremendous opportunity for a lot of the smaller companies to give that tech talent a new opportunity in a different type of environment.”
According to research by ZipRecruiter, laid-off workers really are a viable candidate pool is in how fast they’re re-hired. In fact, 37% of laid-off tech workers got a new job within one month. That number jumps to 79% when the time period is expanded to three months.
In our 2023 Hiring Survey, we found that many HR managers think along the same lines. More than half (52%) see layoffs at other organizations as the perfect opportunity to snap up good talent. Plus, one-third say they’re more willing to hire someone who has been laid off.
But even if we set aside layoffs, many people have been feeling restless post-pandemic and would be more than happy to hop into a different industry for the right opportunity. In a BambooHR 2022 survey, almost 90% of U.S. workers could see themselves working in an industry other than the one they were currently employed in.
Include Non-Traditional Candidates in Your Recruiting Pipeline
A non-traditional employee is someone who might get overlooked or eliminated by employers because they don’t quite fit the mold of what’s expected. Also called “hidden workers,” these people aren’t being considered for a variety of reasons.
For example, non-traditional employees might lack specific credentials, have gaps in their employment history, or may be in the process of immigrating or relocating.
However, non-traditional employees can bring key strengths to organizations:
- Cost Savings: 60% of employers with experience hiring “hidden workers” say they cost the same or less to hire than traditional candidates.
- High Performance: Nearly two-thirds of these same employers also say, once hired, these formerly hidden workers perform “better or significantly better” in work ethic, quality of work, employee engagement, and other desirable qualities.
- High Productivity: 90% of executives who have hired people with a criminal record (also called fair chance talent) say they’re hard workers, going above and beyond in their role.
- Culture Enhancement: 93% of executives also say fair chance talent have good working relationships with their managers and coworkers.
- Less Competition: This is a woefully neglected labor pool. Despite being willing and able to work, hidden workers rarely make it from applicant to candidate (20%) and rarely get hired (7%). The upside is you can more easily tap into and recruit from this diverse pool of talent than in the overcrowded traditional talent space.
5. Interview Candidates
Start with a phone screening.
A phone screening is when the recruiter or HR manager calls the initial group of selected candidates to narrow it down to the most qualified, relevant people. That way, hiring managers don’t have to spend time interviewing each and every candidate, and they can focus on the most promising people.
Your top priorities should include:
- Checking the candidate has the requisite experience or skills
- Getting a sense for their soft skills (e.g., how well they communicate and listen)
- Helping the candidate better understand the position and gauge whether or not they’re well-suited for the role
- Asking for the candidate’s preferred salary range
Take advantage of video interviewing tools.
Technology can certainly still help you hire more efficiently, especially during the interviewing stage.
If you don’t have a dedicated recruiter who can make screening calls, you can lean on prerecorded video screenings to help speed things up. You can send the same screening questions to several applicants, and you don’t have to schedule a specific time to call candidates. They can record their answers whenever it’s most convenient for them.
Video interviews are often standard for remote or hybrid positions. But even if your organization doesn’t hire for remote positions, you might consider doing video interviews as a way to recruit from a wider geographic area or to reduce the commuting burden on local candidates.
Standardize the interview questions and candidate assessments.
Getting everyone in the interview process on the same page helps reduce personal bias and ensures all candidates are treated more equally. Instead of going with their subjective “gut feelings,” hiring managers and other interviewers rely on a more structured approach, and HR keeps everyone aligned and accountable for their decisions.
Here are a few ways you can create a fairer, more objective interview experience:
- Educate yourself and your hiring team on unconscious biases. By recognizing that everyone has unconscious biases, you can work together to avoid decisions based on hunches.
- Train interviewers on what not to ask: Make sure hiring managers know never to ask questions (whether directly or indirectly) about protected characteristics including race, gender, sexual orientation, and more.
- Ask candidates the same set of questions. Of course, you’ll want to leave room for interviewers to dig into specific answers or ask follow-up questions, but having standard interview questions will help ensure each candidate gets treated fairly.
- Create a scorecard with the most critical job skills, so each interviewer understands what’s essential to the position. This also makes it easier for interviewers to collaborate and compare candidates.
Create a longer list of final candidates.
This is another important way you can increase the diversity of your candidate selection. In a study on gender bias, extending the final list from just three candidates to six pushed people to go beyond an impulse to list candidates of a single gender and consider a broader range of possibilities.
“Adding a few more candidates,” the authors conclude, “can...reduce the odds that you’ll shun qualified female candidates simply because male candidates come to mind first.”
However, the researchers also warn that the work to counter bias doesn’t stop with making a longer list—each candidate needs to get full consideration for the process to truly be fair and for organizations to successfully bring more diverse perspectives and experiences into their company.
Keep candidates up to date on where they are in the hiring process.
To create the best candidate experience, make sure to communicate throughout the interview process, including when they can expect to hear from you and who will be reaching out about next steps.
For the candidates you reject, don’t ghost them—let them know what you’ve decided and leave things on a cordial note. You never know if they’ll be good for another position down the road, in which case you’ll want them to still think well of your organization.
Even if you never hire a candidate, they might still leave a review of their experience or post about it on social media. Treating them well all the way through the candidate experience helps you maintain a positive employer brand.
"If your interview process is structured, organized, and clear, that’s your baseline. Now you can make sure that unconscious bias is addressed the best you can with fallible humans.”
–JD Conway, Head of Global Talent | Rocket Lawyer
6. Conduct Reference Checks
The norm is for candidates to provide three references, but it’s more about the relevance and quality of information the references can provide (and whether or not you can get a hold of them).
If a candidate gives you four CEOs as references, but none of them can say anything specific about the person because they didn’t work directly with them, then it really doesn’t help you or the candidate.
Make it clear in the application that references should have direct knowledge of a candidate’s work-related skills, even if it may have been a setting outside of work, like volunteering or mentoring.
When requesting references, keep these best practices in mind:
- Ask the same set of questions for each candidate. Just like during interviews, sticking to the same set of questions ensures fairness. Avoid all questions about protected characteristics. Aim for questions that help you better understand the candidate’s relevant skills and qualifications for the role (see above for examples).
- Only speak to people who have first-hand experience with the candidate, such as past managers, professors or teachers, and colleagues. Listen for patterns as the references share their comments.
- Take glowing reviews with a grain of salt. Most candidates will only provide a list of references they expect will say good things.
- Never contact a candidate’s current employer without their permission. Their boss may not know they’re entertaining the idea of leaving.
7. Make the Offer
Tips for making a formal offer include:
- Call the candidate before sending an email. A quick conversation can help you gauge their level of enthusiasm and confirm their interest right away. Also, the job offer is the first step in building the employer-employee relationship, so you want it to start off in the best way possible.
- Give information on the total rewards. Compensation, benefits, bonuses, incentives, recognition, and more are among candidates’ top considerations when deciding whether or not to accept an offer, so be ready with that information.
- If possible, get a commitment on the phone. Some candidates—especially those with skills in high demand—may want to take time to consider the offer. It’s fair to ask them for their initial thoughts, though.
- Put everything you discussed in writing. Email the candidate to make sure the candidate understands the full scope of the offer.
According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), every offer letter should include the official title, supervisor's name, start date, base salary, and any additional items discussed during the interview process.
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Bonus: Hiring an Independent Contractor
Here are a few questions to consider for hiring an independent contractor.
- Is the person being hired for a temporary project?
- Will you allow them to choose where and when they perform the work?
- Will you require them to use their own equipment and supplies to perform the work?
- Do you need them to come in with expertise (rather than training them yourself)?
Depending on your hiring budget and your organization’s needs, you may still want to invest in an employee. For example, you might hire someone for a short-term role and then move them to a different position.
However, hiring an independent contractor can help you quickly fill a gap and spend less in salary and health benefits. You’re also not responsible for paying payroll taxes and typically wouldn’t train them.
However, misclassifying someone as a contractor when they’re really an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) could land you in legal trouble. Rules also vary by state, so be sure to check your local regulations.
What Is the Process for Hiring an Independent Contractor?
When hiring an independent contractor, you can follow some of the same steps you would when hiring an employee, such as:
- Defining the job you need done
- Posting ads
- Sourcing potential candidates
- Interviewing individuals
- Checking references
Instead of a job offer, however, you’ll want to create a statement of work agreement that outlines deadlines, ownership rights, payment details, and other legal details of the arrangement.
Next Steps: Prepare for the Onboarding Process
Once a candidate accepts the job offer, you can start the onboarding process. The main goal of onboarding is to create a good foundation for the new hire, so they feel happy to have accepted the job and excited to start work.
Onboarding should also do the following:
- Introduce a new employee into your organization and culture.
- Get the proper paperwork in place.
- Train the new employee on the work they’ll be doing.
Get administrative tasks done before the new hire starts.
There’s a lot happening in the first few days. Make things easier on everyone by automating the more routine (though crucial) onboarding tasks, like gathering payroll information, completing and signing tax forms, and communicating company policies.
Make time for personal connections.
Integrating new hires is crucial for retention. People who have a best friend at work are twice as likely to feel satisfied with their job compared to people who don’t have a friend, which means they’re less likely to go looking for another job.
Fit the onboarding timeline to the role and your organization’s needs.
There’s no “one size fits all” timeline for onboarding. “It’s important to base your onboarding time frame around your company’s needs,” recommends Cassie Whitlock, HR Director at BambooHR. “It isn’t as simple as choosing a ‘good’ or ‘adequate’ amount of time. You need to decide for yourself how long you should spend on onboarding.”
While there are administrative tasks you definitely need to complete in the first few weeks, the total time for onboarding will vary. Cassie recommends evaluating your resources:
- What is the level of support you have for onboarding?
- Do you have buy-in from your senior leadership and management teams?
- How can you tap into other teams to enrich the process?
Ready to learn more about onboarding?
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- Financial Anxieties, Layoff Fears: How U.S. Workers Feel About Their Job Prospects (2023 Data)
- The 35 Best Interview Questions for Candidates
- 10 Diversity Recruiting Strategies to Support Inclusive Hiring
- The Definitive Guide to Onboarding
- How Long Does Onboarding Take? 10 Ways to Improve Employee Experience
- 10 Powerful Onboarding Process Examples You Need to Try
- 20+ Onboarding Tasks That Help New Hires Feel Welcome [Free Onboarding Checklist]