20-Step Guide to a Recruitment and Hiring Process that Works

Building a hiring process is one of those things that is worth getting right before aggressively hiring. Having a defined recruiting and hiring process will save an incredible amount of time for any organization.

I’ve been directly involved in building these processes and hiring hundreds of people, mostly for startups. The stakes are high if a company is lacking an established reputation (like a startup). I’ve been in the position of trying to convince people to join my team from Amazon or Microsoft. When I think about a more established operation, there’s something to maintain in terms of your online reputation. Or maybe there’s something to improve upon.

Candidate experience is a very important part of building your company. Every person a company “touches” will now have an opinion about the organization. Might as well make it a good one.

Not wasting time internally is equally important. Having a thorough recruiting process and hiring process will help focus a team’s energy on the steps that matter. It will lead to better input from key people on the team and ultimately better hiring decisions. I think this is very important to get right so I’ve laid out my thoughts and some of my own experiences.

Let’s take a look at my 20-step recruitment and hiring process, and then I’ll go into detail for each step.

20-Step Hiring Process

  1. Identify the hiring need
  2. Find 3-5 ideal candidate profiles
  3. Create the job description
  4. Set the salary and leveling expectations
  5. Get buy-in from key stakeholders
  6. Create a recruiting plan for the position
  7. Set up the interview process
  8. Post the job
  9. Conduct outreach to “Tier 1” candidates
  10. Sort applicants properly
  11. Conduct phone screens
  12. Distribute applicant assessment or skills test
  13. Preparation for the interview
  14. In-person interviews
  15. Interview recap
  16. Background check
  17. Reference check
  18. Offer decision
  19. Verbal offer, offer letter, and negotiations
  20. Start date and onboarding

#1 – Identify The Hiring Need

Hiring needs can come from a few different places depending on how the company runs. The obvious one is the hiring manager. It might also come from the CEO, head of operations, or sometimes an external resource.

The important thing in this step is to identify who the hiring manager will be. This is the person who the potential employee will report to. About 70% of the time this is very clear. The other 30% of the time, it comes down to deciding between a couple different people or orgs depending on how the company is structured.

Sometimes Identifying the Hiring Manager is not Simple

I’ll give you one example. Let’s say there’s a need for a more technical product manager who would be responsible for implementing new features on the website. The product department works on email marketing, design, site speed, new features, user management, etc. The content department owns the creation of new content on the website, including the look and feel of the site and the home page.

The product team is responsible for executing the work that enables the content team to produce higher quality content. The direction for what the product manager needs to do will come from the content team. However, the content team is made up of writers and editors, not technical design or development people. The product manager role would have no choice but to report to the department head in content since that might be the only person who understands the product manager’s work.

Does that content department head have the technical knowledge to oversee that role? How many direct reports does the department head have in product vs. the department head in content? Will the product manager role be woking on things outside of just enhancing the website for content needs? There’s a lot to consider here.

My best answer is the person still reports into the product team with a dotted line and meetings with the content department head. There could be an argument to build a product team within the content team. Maybe the product department head doesn’t exist yet, or the person is not a strong manager. The product department head could have OKRs focused on developing new product features that are not associated with the ability to publish content on the website. In that scenario, the content team will constantly be battling for the product manager’s attention.

These decisions are fluid and based on how your company structures its teams (no wonder why startups re-org so often!).There is a cross-functional benefit to having a team member from one department executing for another department. Just be sure the workload and priorities are transparent.

Long story short: Think about what team the hire sits on. Make sure the hiring need is there long-term. Nail down the hiring manager from the start.

Next Steps After Hiring Manager is Identified

Once the hiring manager is identified, he or she responsible for creating the JD (step 3) and moving things forward in the hiring process. I like to be clear about the impact or why I’m making the hire at this point.

I might need to hire to reduce someone’s direct reports from 10 to 5 (I don’t recommend having more than 6 direct reports for any senior managers). The new hire may directly correlate to revenue. Let’s say I want a $100k budget to hire a conversion rate optimization specialist. I can do the research and show that a 10% lift in your on-page conversion rate will lead to a $30k/month increase. My new hire is paid for in just over 3 months. If it’s a sales person who has a role to acquire new business, I can point to the estimated value of that business.

Things get trickier when you’re talking about more creative positions. Personally, I’ve hired a lot of writers, editors, designers, and marketers. The metrics that matter in that world are inputs. I think about creating X more articles per month, closing the content gap with our competitors, and growing our audience through targeted, keyword focused content that I know we can monetize someday. Usually, in a business, the top dog wants to hear about revenue. At the end of the day, humans are at work to produce more money or save money (think HR, retention, employee happiness, avoiding turnover, etc.).

I’m not saying this is how I view the world, but I’ve been around enough CEOs to know that is how they view the world. Whatever the reason for the hire, be able to explain this to any higher ups.

#2 – Find 3-5 Ideal Candidate Profiles

In all my time working with internal and external recruiters, sharing example profiles has been the single most successful tool in communicating who I want to hire for the position. I don’t care what they look like — I’m talking about their experience.

I like to find 3-4 options of ideal candidates when I’m working with recruiters because I don’t want them to feel boxed in by the job description. I’m a believer in relevant experiences and accomplishments over education, but I feel there’s a nuanced balance in most cases. I’m willing to bend on the job description if means finding the right person.

Let’s say I’m hiring a writer and I want 5-7 years of writing experience and require a bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, or writing equivalent. First, not all 5-7 years of experience are created equal. Neither is the bachelor’s degree.

If I’m running a reviews website, I want that experience vs. a news writer. I’m looking for the 3 years of experience at Consumer Reports and a Journalism major from Northwestern University. I want to make sure that person gets in the mix. I also want to interview the writer who never went to college but started 3 successful blogs.

If I can find these profiles of people, it opens things up for recruiters who may or may not understand my hiring needs based on a formal job description. It also triggers a process that I outline in step 9 (outreach of “Tier 1” candidates). These ideal candidates are my primary targets when I’m trying to hire!

How to Find Ideal Candidates

Have you ever had this idea in your head of the perfect person you want but you don’t really know if they exist? I have, a lot. I’ve found that these people do exist. I just need to spend a day going deep into LinkedIn, reviewing respected companies, searching various job titles, and I can find them.

A LinkedIn Premium account is required. Ideally, I like to have access to a LinkedIn Recruiter account, but those don’t come cheap.

Starting with the basics, I do keyword searches for the job title and variations of the title. I check to see if I am connected to anyone or if my connections are connected to someone. Then, I scroll through people who have the title or keywords I searched for and click on some that look interesting.

On the right sidebar it says “People also viewed” and “People you may know”. That’s where I click on the people that have a similar title or work at a company I respect. I continue this process and go deeper and deeper, discovering new people and companies that might have the talent I’m looking for.

Getting lost in LinkedIn for hours is worth it. I actually found the best hire I’ve ever made this way. Also, this is part of recruiting, building the job description, and doing competitive analysis. I didn’t get to writing the JD yet on purpose. These profiles help form the JD. I like to take a real person’s experience and use it to help form the JD.

Depending on the position, this process can be used by the hiring manager (for more senior hires) or the recruiter (for more mid-to-low level hires).

#3 – Create the Job Description

Every open job needs a job description. Every position change internally at your company requires a new JD. Yes, the job description is primarily uses for external facing purposes (recruiting), but it gets used to monitor performance after a hire is made.

That’s why I believe the hiring manager should always create the job description. I understand these are also the busiest people at the company. At a minimum, he or she should outline the requirements in bullet form so the recruiter can fill in the details. But the hiring manager owns this document throughout, and the recruiter uses it as their tool over time.

What to Include in a Job Description

This is fairly basic, but varies company to company. A job description should always include:

  • Responsibilities – Details of the position and who the person will work closely with.
    • Example: Develop strategies for A/B testing to optimize opt-in rate for our email newsletter.
  • Requirements – Technical knowledge required to do the position and soft skills that are vital to the role.
    • Example: Proficient in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.
    • Example: Capable of communicating complex ideas to a non-technical audience.
  • Education and Experience – Usually the minimum requirement (or a range) for years of work and education experience.
    • Example: 5-7 years of experience in an editing role with a consumer-facing brand.
    • Example: Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree required in English, Journalism, or equivalent major from an accredited university.

Outside of the details above, I like to add some personality to the JD, but it depends on your company. It’s nice to paint a clear picture of some qualities of the type of individual I’m looking for.

Here’s an example of something I might use: You motivate and inspire your team to think beyond what already exists. You have a deep knowledge of how products and services work, but more importantly, you take the time to understand which product or service is best for specific types of people.

I would probably go even deeper than that and talk about teamwork and collaboration or other important things to shed light on how the company works together.

Also include a description of the company on the JD. It’s best practice to explain what stage the company is in, what the company actually does, and where it is located (important today to note where the position is located as well).

#4 – Set the Salary and Leveling Expectations

I have this step after the job description in the hiring process because there’s a chance you get it wrong if you start with salary first. I’ve experienced situations where I thought we had to find a person that was very high level and pay over $100k when in fact the exact profile we were looking for was more mid-level and cost $70k. It gave me wiggle room to bring someone into the position without massive expectations and I was then able to promote the person quicker after seeing quick success (win-win).

The same has happened in reverse. There have been times when I’ve looked for someone to run a specific part of an operation and then found someone who can run the entire operation, meaning I can now move on to build something else that is valuable to the company. If that person costs slightly more, but I’m getting something previously unimaginable, it’s worth the extra cost knowing it can accelerate the growth of the entire company.

I would definitely set the salary and level of the position at this point because key stakeholders are getting involved in the next stage. “Level” here refers to the company leveling system, which identifies a company’s pay paradigm and how you do hiring or promotions. Along the same lines, consider things like individual contributor vs. manager and fairness to current employees when thinking about salary expectations.

I recommend being prepared with a few options for salary and leveling. What is the most the company is willing to pay if I get everything you dreamed of from this candidate? This is where the profiles I went digging for on LinkedIn become valuable. These are more tangible real-life examples, not just words on paper.

Sometimes I know the positions well and you can move forward quickly. Other times, it’s unknown if the company needs a Level 4 person or a Level 5 person. Sometimes there are choices, like an established Level 5 vs. a Level 4 with more upside. I like to focus on one salary range and one level, but also be ready for the next level up and down to remain flexible (on certain positions). The goal is to find the best candidate for the job and the company at that point in time.

#5 – Get Buy-In from Key Stakeholders

Everything should be ready to post the job from the perspective of the hiring manager and/or recruiter. Usually, someone else has to have final sign off at this stage. It could be finance, HR, or the CEO. This is the time to present the salary range, explain the role, and provide examples of what it might look like to hire a higher level person in the role (extra cost, what it means for the company, etc.). I don’t think this requires a meeting if it’s already well-thought out. Just shoot the details over in an email to get any. feedback and escalate to a meeting as needed if there is any confusion.

Getting the perspective of someone who is out of the weeds at this stage is valuable. Most times, he or she won’t have the same technical knowledge and understanding of the position. It’s a good gut check to make sure everyone gets it. Remember, every job posting is a representation of your company.

Once you get buy-in and make any edits, the next stage of the recruitment process is to create a recruiting plan for the position. Discuss the position with the key stakeholders, ask if they know anyone for the role or if they have any recruiting ideas. Connections can be game changers and sometimes one idea can unlock a pipeline that can deliver the dream candidate.

The only other thing to cover here is how many positions are being filled for this role. Sometimes it’s one and others it’s many. Best to get on the same page from the start in case there are multiple candidates the company really wants to hire.

#6 – Create a Recruiting Plan for the Position

The recruiting plan should outline the estimated time to fill the role, tools or additional accounts needed, an itemized budget, and exactly where the recruiter will be targeting candidates.

Each position won’t be the same. Some roles are worth targeting a more niche job site. For some positions, the recruiter might want a select few candidates. For other, a large applicant pool is necessary.

This is also a good time to get the position set up in an ATS. (If you don’t have one yet, check out our review of the best applicant tracking systems to find one that will work for you.) I highly recommend using an ATS for any company with more than 10 people. To me, it’s a necessity to remain efficient and always good for documentation purposes.

As part of any hiring process, the recruiting plan should also outline when the position goes live, internal announcement of the position (highly recommended for transparency), the interview process (step 7 here), where the position will be posted, and any candidates being targeted with manual outreach by the recruiter.

#7 – Set up the Interview Process

This is a very important step to get right. Once it’s set up, it’s usually mirrored in your ATS to move candidates fairly through the steps, staying true to the process.

The interview process dictates how a candidate is assessed and which people get access to the next steps. Each step moves a candidate closer to connecting with more of the company. The process is part of the candidate experience, which can reflect negatively or positively on the company. Don’t underestimate what it feels like to be on the other side. It’s hard enough to switch jobs and join a new company.

My high-level interview process includes:

  • Recruiter phone screen
  • Skills test or assessment
  • Manager phone screen
  • In-person interview
  • Internal interview recap

I get more into details on some of these shortly. This is every step a candidate needs to successfully pass before I consider making an offer. Even before this, they already passed the initial screening. I wouldn’t do anything less than this, and keep in mind some of these steps are going to take many hours.

Once the process is set, align it in your applicant tracking system to automate the process. Within the ATS, you should be able to add your team to various steps of the process and it will automatically notify them via email. All feedback should be documented in the ATS for each relevant step.

#8 – Post the Job

Pretty simple here. Get the job live. Double-check to make sure it’s on the company careers page. Post it on the company’s social media account (if that makes sense).

I think it’s good to notify people at the company about an open position. It shows transparency and someone internally may want to apply.

As for strategies on where to post, that depends on the position. In some cases, I want it live in as many places as possible. But if I’m making a higher level hire, I want to be more targeted with the search. ATS software helps do some initial screening, but every candidate the company touches means more work for the recruiter. Be mindful of this.

#9 – Conduct Outreach to “Tier 1” Candidates

Most larger companies will rely on the recruiter for everything. I tend to agree, but I’ve also had tons of success doing my own outreach.

There’s something a bit more flattering about getting a message from a co-founder or CEO compared to a recruiter (no offense, recruiters… we love you). People get hit up by recruiters nonstop. In tech, specifically in Seattle or San Francisco, there’s a constant swapping of talent. Facebook wants to get Microsoft people, Microsoft wants Amazon people, Amazon wants Facebook people, Uber is suddenly in town, and here comes Airbnb. It goes on and on. All recruiters are doing the outreach.

If there’s someone I really want to hire, I would reach out as the hiring manager, and of course communicate this to the recruiter. It’s not really outside of the process. I’m just trying to get them interested and actually in the process.

So what is this “Tier 1” candidate anyway? It’s someone who I’d consider paying at or above the highest threshold of your salary requirement for the position. It’s the dream hire. But even if I don’t hire them and I just get to talk to them, that can be extremely helpful.

Sometimes I realize I’m looking at something the wrong way based on the person’s feedback and experience. If he or she doesn’t want the job, there might be a friend who wants it. It’s always good to make connections for the future. Something may change (it always does) and the person might come back a year from now to fill a different role.

Most of these candidates will be happy with their current situation. Some may not respond at all. But the upside is worth the time of reaching out to the top 5-10 ideal candidate profiles.

#10 – Sort Applicants Properly

Less technical jobs and positions with less requirements will likely attract a larger pool of candidates. Sorting applicants is a necessity. A good ATS helps but there is some manual work involved here.

I like to sort into three basic yes, no, maybe piles. The no pile you absolutely rule out. The yes pile are the ones you definitely want in the next stage. The maybe pile, I recommend getting another person’s feedback on (preferably the hiring manager).

Also keep in mind all of the other open positions at your company. It’s very common to get applicants who would be a great fit for something else at the company, but the person didn’t come across that original job posting.

Most job postings are active for 30 days. Candidates will continue to flow in while others are moved to next steps in your hiring process.

If, for some reason, the pipeline is dry or the candidate flow is weak, I recommend changing the job title to something that is more highly searched. It’s best practice to take down your posting and re-post because it will appear at the top of feeds vs. being buried.

For some positions, a skills test will be included during the initial application process. For others, it comes after the phone screen. It just depends on the role and the level, but I wanted to highlight that the application process often includes questions or some sort of mini test.

#11 – Conduct Phone Screens

At this point, candidates have advanced beyond the initial application phase. It’s time to get to know them better.

I like to keep phone screens at 30 minutes. Sometimes I’ll go over if the screen is going really good, but as the recruiter on the initial screen, keep things dialed in. Remember, the goal here like any other stage is to make a determination on advancing to the next stage or rejecting.

Both the recruiter and the candidate have questions at this stage. It’s best to lay out the conversation to the candidate from the beginning. Here’s a good structure to go by:

  • Recruiter talks about company background
  • Recruiter asks candidate if he/she understands the position
  • Recruiter explains the position
  • Recruiter asks pre-determined questions based on candidate’s resume and experience
  • Recruiter allows time at the end for the candidate to ask questions

I don’t like pre-determined rules, but a candidate with zero questions is usually a red flag. I also have a bias towards hiring curious people.

Depending on how the call is going, this is an opportunity for the recruiter to sell the company to the candidate. Most candidates arrive at this stage from an application process but some may have been actually recruited. That might change the way the call is approached. If the call is going well, conversations about company culture might come up, future growth, or what the company is building.

Make sure to ask about some basics, like if there is any issue passing a background check. Then, try to get to know the candidate more. Ask about future goals, working style, and likes or dislikes about the person’s current work situation.

Hiring Manager Phone Screen

When the candidate passes a recruiter phone screen, the next step should be a hiring manager screen. I can see an argument for putting it after the skills test, but getting the hiring manager involved now can make for a better candidate experience.

I tend to keep these less formal, get the candidate more comfortable, and provide a more in-depth look at the role. I usually use this time as a hiring manager to explain my working style, how the team functions, and what the expectations are.

I also like to repeat 1-2 questions that the recruiter already asked. What you’re looking for here is consistency in the answers. It’s very common for candidates to share more or less depending on who is on the other end of the phone screen and the level of comfort.

#12 – Distribute Applicant Assessment or Skills Test

For some positions, this might come earlier but I like it positioned here because it’s best for the candidate experience. I’ve seen situations where companies get negative reviews due to their hiring process. The main reason for that is asking too much of the candidate up front before speaking with them.

This is especially the case when hiring writers. Everyone wants a writer to take a writing or editing test. Writers have accused companies of using these tests to get access to free work that the company may use in the future. It’s important to establish trust in every step of the process.

By now the candidate has proven to have the necessary experience or requirements for the job, he or she has connected on the phone in a positive way with someone at the company, and now it’s time to see the ability to do something related to the role at the company.

Skills Test, Personality Test, or Both?

There are a few options here, including personality tests and skills tests. I think both are helpful. I’m not opposed to putting the personality test earlier in the initial application process as well.

Years ago, I used Plum.io to get an idea of a candidate’s tendencies. It’s not the holy grail of determining who will fit a position, but roles tend to be better fits for certain type of people. For example, if I’m hiring for a data science role, I want to see someone who is highly organized (conscientiousness) vs. creative. A designer role might be the opposite. Again, I don’t buy into this fully, it’s just another directional tool to help find the right person.

The most important thing is nailing the skills test for the role. The hiring manager needs to spend a lot of time making sure this test aligns with the actual role. I like to see if this person can actually do the work before making the hire. These tests should be very difficult to pass. I also like to see room to explain the thought process behind answers.

Here are some examples for various roles:

  • Leadership or management roles: Test for situational decision making and big picture thinking. Provide a challenging situation for the candidate to solve. Pull from a real example. Have candidates draw up an ideal org chart for a team. Ask them to weigh in on a specific process or how they would execute a certain project.
  • Writing roles: A three-part writing test. One to see if the writer gets the tone of the publication and does his or her research. Another to test the structural organization of an article (editing but at a higher level to organize content logically for the user). One more research-based test to see if the writer can find proper supporting sources to create content.
  • Designer roles: Have the designer share examples of favorite pages on the internet and explain why. Ask what improvements in detail can be made on a website. Have the designer mock up a new page type for a specific initiative.
  • Sales and outreach roles: Test an email pitch for a specific initiative. Also test the candidate’s response to a challenging mock email.
  • Data roles: Test the organization of a large data set. Have the candidate put together a mock Excel sheet from scratch to organize a set of data.

Make sure the test ties into the work the person will actually be doing. Leave room for commenting and explanations to see the person’s thought process.

#13 – Preparation for the Interview

The more prep for the individual in-person interview, the better the hiring process will be. Broad preparation for interviewing the role itself is a baseline necessity and ensures a fair hiring process. Outside of that, have an additional 1-2 unique questions prepared for each candidate based on their individual profile.

Review the candidate up to this point in the process in your ATS. Each person in the hiring process should check out the experience and background of the candidate as well as the assessment test. The recruiter should have notes to review from the initial phone screen so the interview team can check those out.

The interview loop should already be established at this point, but it’s good to check schedules and prepare everyone. Sometimes a member of the team might be out of the office the day of the interview. I always try to substitute someone of the same level as a replacement or someone in the same department and closest in level.

Have a default time set up for each person on the interview loop, but check in to see if anyone wants more time. A good starting place is 30 minutes for low-to-mid-level positions, 45 minutes per person for higher level and management, and an hour for leadership or department heads.

The Interview Loop

A good interview loop will assign a specific area of focus for each interviewer. I believe this is the best way to get great all around feedback. I will do some slight crossover into other areas of focus if I’m the hiring manager to ensure consistency in the candidate’s answers.

The loop should include at least 4 people, including the hiring manager. I like to have a combination of a hiring manager, the department head (might be the hiring manager), a peer (either someone with the same role or a closely related role), and a strong interviewer from another team or department.

The order is somewhat important. I recommend the hiring manager go last. The hiring manager has already talked to the candidate on the phone, and has a chance to gather small feedback along the way from other interviewers, leaving room for further questioning or clearing up uncertainties.

What to Look for in the Interview

I’m not going to serve up hundreds of interview questions here. Instead, I want to highlight a few areas of focus and things to keep in mind.

I believe keeping these 6 things in mind will elevate the talent at your company and improve the hiring process:

  1. Make sure you are asking questions that directly tie back to the company core values.
  2. Look for people who expand the culture, not those who just fit the culture.
  3. Someone who is exceptional, not just “good enough”.
  4. Valuable traits like passion, vision, common sense, curiosity, and humility.
  5. A person who has actually accomplished something themselves.
  6. Continued growth, risk taking, and signs of progression.

#14 – In-Person Interviews

Time to bring the candidate into your office. If the office is remote, everything should be set up on video conference (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.).

This a hugely important part of the candidate experience. Even though we’ve been operating during COVID times, let’s assume the interview is taking place in an office. The meet and greet is an overlooked but vital part of the process. Make sure the candidate is not left confused and wandering around upon arrival. Show them the office and let them see the environment. I’ve found this alone to be a great recruiting tool (if the office environment is good!).

The meet and greet tends to fall on the recruiter, but have a backup person as well (maybe the hiring manager). If there is no recruiter, use the first interviewer. Most people coming in for an interview are very nervous. This is a good time to make them comfortable, get them water, show where the bathroom is, where the interview will take place, and who they will be speaking to first.

It’s really challenging to stay on time during interviews. But it needs to happen. People have schedules to stick to. The process can’t be disorganized or hectic. Interviewers will always go over. Either the next person to interview or the recruiter has interrupt to move the process forward. Just set the expectations ahead of time that this may happen.

Make sure every interviewer takes notes during their interview and enters the feedback into your ATS or HR software.

The recruiter, being the main point of contact should also finish the process at the end of the loop by walking the candidate out. The other option is to use the final interviewer.

#15 – Interview Recap

Once the interview is wrapped, it’s important to get all the interviewers together to discuss feedback on the candidate. During this 30-minute meeting, I like to go around the room and give each person 5 minutes to share any feedback. Everyone reveals their opinion of the candidate usually with a strong yes, yes, or no.

Sometimes these go super quick and everyone is on the same page. Other times, it requires digging in and asking each other questions about their feedback. The important thing is to share any concerns or hesitations. The good news is that this should already be documented in your ATS to avoid groupthink during the live process.

The goal at the end of the meeting is come away with a consensus opinion on making the hire or not. Depending on the people in the room, it may be appropriate to discuss salary, level, and other expectations.

In some circumstances, the entire hiring team may need an additional discussion if there are multiple candidates that the team likes. It might come down to a choice between two or more people or it could be time to include the CEO or Head of Finance in the conversation to see if there’s more budget to bring on multiple new hires for the role.

The recruiter should walk away armed with the information to make a verbal offer, but there are still a couple final steps.

#16 – Background Check

The background check is a necessity in any hiring situation. We plan to review the best background check services soon to provide recommendations on our favorites. There are plenty to choose from and some HR software solutions include background check built in with third party services.

Keep an eye on state laws that are continuing to change. Earlier in the process, I noted that the recruiter should ask the candidate if he or she will have any issues passing a background check. That’s in anticipation of this step. There could be something on a background check that your company doesn’t view as severe, but if the person was not honest early on, that’s going to be a red flag.

#17 – Reference Check

Make sure to speak to at least two references from the candidate. Most companies ask for 3 references, but people aren’t always easy to get ahold of. If you can’t get in touch with references, ask the candidate for more. This is the final piece to making a decision and an offer.

During reference checks, here are some things I like focus on:

  • Ask questions that tie-in to your interview findings or specific situations that the candidate highlighted (situations the reference was involved in).
  • Ask about strengths (single best quality) and weaknesses (what do they wish the candidate did better?).
  • Ask how to best manage or work with the candidate.
  • Ask about any problems or issues in the workplace.

If everything goes well, there are consistencies between all of the references responses and your interview process. If something is not adding up, it’s time to circle back up with the hiring manager.

#18 – Offer Decision

Another circle up could be required at this stage if the recruiter finds something off with the reference checks (it’s happened before). Most likely, it’s time to make the offer. The recruiter should already have the green light if the background and reference checks have been passed.

The offer letter needs to be prepared once the decision to hire has been made.

#19 – Verbal Offer, Offer Letter, and Negotiations

With a fully fleshed out offer letter, the recruiter is now equipped to make a verbal offer to the candidate. In most situations, it’s sufficient to just have the recruiter make the offer on the phone. Sometimes the hiring manager may sit in on the call as well.

During the verbal offer, there might be some initial negotiating from the candidate. The most common thing that is pushed back on is the job title itself (assuming this is a mid-level or higher employee). Salary negotiation or commentary around the offer also happens here.

Common discussions may include relocation costs, signing bonus, quarterly or yearly bonus, the salary itself, and benefits or other perks. A savvy candidate is going to try to extract as much as possible before arriving to the company.

I’ve had negotiations at this stage around vacation time, work-from-home days, more pay, relocation pay, start dates, and more. It’s important to be firm on some things and show that you’re willing to check with HR on other things.

At the end of this stage, verbal acceptance (and a start date) is the main goal so that you can send the offer letter. The candidate may have more questions when receiving the formal offer letter. Higher up positions will have more negotiating and back and forth. It’s also common for department head positions to negotiate directly with the CEO or another executive given the stakes of the hire.

#20 – Start Date and Onboarding

The offer has been accepted. The start date is determined. New hires usually start over 2 weeks after accepting the offer. Sometimes the start date is further out in the future.

For start dates more than a month away, it’s important to stay in touch with the new employee and not lose that initial spark from the interview process. Yes, the hiring process is complete, but I always want everyone to come in on a positive note and things can change in people’s lives.

That’s why I also like to set up an on-boarding schedule in advance. It makes the new employee feel like there’s something tangible waiting for them in the new role. It’s also a good idea to have the hiring manager do an email check in or possibly a quick update of what the department has been working on. Anything to make the person feel they’re in the loop. If the company is in a startup environment, so much can change in a month.

Final Thoughts on the Hiring and Recruiting Process

A meticulously outlined hiring process is vital to bringing in top talent to your company. Detailed processes help by laying out the framework for all key stakeholders and ensure fairness. Follow the hiring and recruitment process as closely as possible, but there will always be instances and situations that occur beyond control and outside of the process.

Make sure the team is critical while hiring. The need to hire can get in the way, but don’t let it mess with the process. I’ve seen investors push executive to “make a big name hire” for a new department head or new business channel. I have honestly never seen this work out well. Every time, it leads to a good hire “on paper” and someone who not only does not fit the company culture, they don’t even expand it.

Hire people that actually do things. People who have accomplished things. People who are interesting. Hire people who have skills that the company or you are lacking, but make sure they understand how their skills contribute to what everyone is trying to accomplish.

Be extra careful hiring managers or leaders who will take on management of existing employees. It is already disruptive to company culture and wrong person can make it way worse.

I’m giving all of these warnings because I have experienced the damage the wrong hires can do, but in all honesty, I’m talking about 2-3 people out of the hundreds I have hired. There’s nothing more rewarding than finding the right person and helping them to be in a position to succeed.

Best of luck with the hiring process. Hopefully some of these stages I outlined are beneficial to helping build and grow your company. Questions or just want to drop me a note? Feel free to reach out at mike@hradvice.com.