How to Hire Someone You’ve Never Met
March 17th 2021
Small businesses are looking to hire more workers, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report for February 2021. The report found that “56% of small business owners reported hiring or trying to hire in February, up 5 points from January.”
While that’s certainly good news for the economy, many companies are having trouble filling the openings they have. NFIB found that, “Fifty-one percent (91 percent of those hiring or trying to hire) of owners reported few or no ‘qualified’ applicants for the positions they were trying to fill in February, up 5 points.”
Given that many companies are still working remotely, finding and hiring job applicants is tough right now – even tougher if you want to meet potential hires face-to-face.
When in-person interviewing is not possible or advisable, here are some tips for making the right hire from afar:
Be clear about the job’s requirements. Whether you meet candidates in person or not, you’ll save a lot of time in interviews if you are super clear about what skills you need your new hire to have. What kinds of experiences would be useful? What kind of software should they absolutely know how to use? What kind of personality will be a good fit for the team that person will join? What are the must-haves and what are the nice-to-haves? This will help you attract résumés from people who have the skills you need.
Get on the phone. When you’ve identified some initial applicants who may be a good fit, schedule a 15-minute phone call to get to know them. Ask for more details regarding items on their résumé that interest you, whether that’s about a previous job or their hobbies, and offer to answer questions they may have about your current opening. At the end of the call, ask yourself if this is someone you’d want to work with.
Put together a hiring team. You may want to let the people who will be working alongside your new hire have a say in who they’d prefer to have join their team. That doesn’t mean they get the final say, but having 3-4 people participate in the interview process can give you that much more information and feedback. That’s extremely useful when you’re not able to sit across a desk or table from each applicant.
Get on video. Fortunately, video conferencing tools like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet make it relatively easy to connect with job applicants visually. Invite applicants for 30-minute video meetings to further explore whether they might be a good fit. Ask the tough questions and push them to demonstrate they’re more than capable of doing what you need them to. Pay attention to body language, tone, eye contact, and self-awareness.
Have the team interview them. You can schedule a group Zoom interviews so that your hiring team has a chance to get to know applicants. What caught their eye on the applicant’s résumé, for example? Or what does the candidate do outside of work? Why are they interested in leaving their current job? Sometimes talking to peers reveals information a potential boss won’t necessarily hear.
Verify their information. Sure, you could call their references, who will no doubt have positive things to say. But you could also take your due diligence a step further and see who you might know in common on LinkedIn or Facebook. Consider reaching out to those people to get a reality check on your potential new hire. Or find a former co-worker at a past job and see how they view their colleague. It’s always better to do more checking up front and be confident in your hiring decision than to wish later that you had invested more time getting to know your candidates.
Compare notes. Some companies use a scorecard that rates each applicant on various aspects important to the company, such as capability, personality, work ethic, and other elements that have been linked to success in the job. Get your hiring team together, in person or virtually, to discuss your observations and ratings.
When you’re confident that you have the right person for the job, make an offer.
Many companies use a 90-day probationary period to give both the employee and the company the opportunity to determine if there’s a good fit. Giving yourself that trial period may also help reduce any anxiety you’re feeling about hiring someone from afar.