The selection process – from interview to job offer
With a fair amount of applications coming in, it looks like you’ve been able to attract several job seekers. But how do you sort through them all and select only the best of the best?
Create a cream-of-the-crop shortlist
Going through applications and creating a shortlist of candidates can often be the most challenging and time-consuming part of the recruitment process. Here’s what you need to do:
Settle on a number for your shortlist
Find a number you’re comfortable with and keep a few in your “maybe” pile in case things don’t work out with your initial shortlist.
Create a set of criteria based on your job description
List the must-have attributes of the job. Make a second list of nice-to-haves, which can be a tiebreaker when choosing between candidates with similar skills or experience.
Choose those who tick (almost) all the boxes when it comes to the essentials and check for any nice-to-haves that give candidates an edge over others.
Deliver the news
Deliver the good news to those who were shortlisted and inform them of the next steps in the recruitment process. Send a thank you note to those who didn’t make the cut and wish them all the best in their job search.
Interviews: the getting-to-know-you stage
Now that you’ve got a promising shortlist, it’s time to narrow it down through the most exciting part of the hiring process – the interview. This is where you learn more about your potential employees, and where potential employees learn more about you.
Before the interview
Decide on these items before doing the interview:
how many interviews you’ll have
how much time you need for each interview
the types of interviews you’ll be doing
the questions you’ll ask for each interview
You can’t ask, do, or say certain things during the interview. If in doubt, contact an employment lawyer for advice and read the guidelines on how to avoid discrimination and any privacy laws you need to keep in mind. Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission page on prohibited employment practices. You’ll also need to visit your state’s labor department website to learn about privacy laws specific to your state.
Types of interviews
Choose the type of interview that best suits the requirements of your job. It can be one or a combination of the following:
Phone interviews or video calls
These types of interviews work best for remote workers or those who can’t come in person because of long travel times, childcare, or other circumstances. Quick phone interviews are typically used for initial screening of candidates to get a feel of how they’ll fit into the role.
These interviews can be one-on-one or include a number of interviewers. Bring in anyone else the candidate will be working with – such as a manager or a teammate – to get a second or third opinion. They can help confirm your observations, spot anything you’ve missed, or even prove you wrong. But make sure not to bring in too many people to avoid overwhelming your candidate – the sweet spot is usually two interviewers for each interview.
Typical in-person interviews are held in a meeting room, but why not try something different? You can show candidates around your workplace, introduce them to your team, and see how they interact with people or show interest in your business. You can also put candidates in a more casual and relaxed environment – take them out for coffee to know more about their personality.
If your job requires certain skills, you can test those skills through skills-based assessments. This can be an interview where candidates answer a set of technical questions, a written exam, a test project, or a series of short tasks in a work environment. Make sure assessments don’t take too much time and only evaluate a candidate’s ability to do the necessary tasks for the job.
Whichever type of interview you choose, be consistent and fair. Make sure you ask the same questions and use the same approach for all candidates. Try to keep interviews conversational and don’t let them go on for too long – an hour or so will do.
Questions to ask during the interview
Interviews help you choose the best person for the job, so ask a range of questions that will determine if a candidate is the right fit. Get them to open up by asking open-ended questions instead of yes-no questions.
Some questions will be specific to the job or a person’s career or work experiences, while others will be general questions you can ask all interviewees. Here are examples of what to ask candidates during interviews:
At the end of the interview, thank interviewees for their time. Let them know when they can expect to hear back from you and what the next steps will be.
Make an offer they can’t refuse
The fun part is over – it’s time to get down to business. Use all the information you’ve gathered – cover letters, CVs or résumés, interview notes – to inform your decision. If other members of your team are interviewers, meet with them right after an interview to discuss their thoughts on a candidate.
Top tips for selecting a candidate
Here are three tips to help you decide which candidate to pick:
Try to be as fair and objective as possible in your decisions.
Challenge any implicit or unconscious bias you have by pushing for diversity. Different perspectives encourage creativity and innovation and help you find the best solution to a problem.
If you get stuck in the decision-making process, trust your instincts and do what feels right for you.
Before making an offer
It’s a must to do a reference check before making an offer. References give you feedback about a candidate’s past performance that can help you finalize your decision. Ask your chosen candidate to provide at least two references and for permission to contact them.
A written statement is good, but speaking with references over the phone is even better. Ask them questions that can verify a candidate’s skills or character.
Perform reference checks on your second or third picks so you can make them an offer in case feedback from your top candidate’s references isn't good or your chosen candidate doesn’t accept your offer.
If all goes well with your reference checks, it’s time to draw up an employment contract. An employment contract is a written agreement between employer and employee that clearly outlines the terms and conditions of employment.
What to include in an employment contract
Employment contracts must include the following information:
hours and place of work
whether employment is casual, fixed-term, full-time, part-time, or permanent
start date (and end date for fixed-term employment)
entitlements such as leave and holidays, holiday work pay, and more
Other terms of employment included in the contract are benefits the employee is entitled to receive, how employment relationship problems will be resolved, notice periods when terminating employment, trial or probation periods, what happens if you restructure or sell your business, and confidentiality clauses, among others.
When in doubt, seek legal advice to make sure that your employment contract has no unlawful terms and follows all relevant employment and labor laws.
Make a formal offer
Once you’ve drawn up the contract, it’s time to offer the position to your chosen candidate. Give them enough time to consider your offer and to seek independent advice about the contract, and let them know when you’ll need their decision.
Here’s a sample job offer email:
Your chosen candidate might not accept your offer outright, so be open to any questions they have or items they want to negotiate. Once you’ve both agreed on the changes, you and your potential employee need to sign the employment contract. Keep a copy of the signed contract for your records and provide a copy to your employee.
For more information on how to recruit employees, check out our 12-step checklist for hiring employees.
You can also check out the SBA page on hiring and managing employees.