The 10 Steps To the Best Recruitment Process

The best recruitment process is the one that suits to your company. Design it with these 10 steps

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If you want to have a recruitment process that does things right, this guide will explain you how to do it. Without selling you any product you don’t need, we will see how you can put in place the best recruitment process for your company or team. We based this guide on both personal experience and research findings (mainly published on the Harvard Business Review).

Defining The Best Recruitment Process

The fact that we will explain you the best recruitment process is a bold claim. We deliver on that, but before we do so it is important that we are on the same page on what the best recruitment process is. There are some functional requirements to that (what does it accomplish?) and some non-functional requirements (how does it accomplish it?) as well.

Of course, the best recruitment process serves its purpose. And its purpose would be to hire great candidates, people who can do the job and integrate well in your company, both delivering value and getting value out of that at the same time.

There are many ways to hire great candidate, but they are not created equals. Some ways are better than others, and you should keep that in mind in your recruitment efforts. Specifically, the best recruitment process:

  • Makes the candidate feel welcome and empowered, regardless of if he gets the job or not
  • It is not frustrating for the candidate and for the interviewers
  • It is free of any bias or prejudice and truly evaluates the ability to do the job
  • It is cost effective, and not a minute longer than it should be
  • Additionally, it provides learning opportunities to improve (both for the candidate and the company)

If that entices you, and you want to hire the best candidates while make everyone feel good about it, you are in the right place. The recruitment process we are about to explain will address just that.

We can consider the recruitment process as a pipeline, a set of step that you and your team should execute more or less sequentially. As you will see, most of those steps are simple enough that you can implement them right now.

Creating The Best Recruitment Process

1. Define What You Want

We know that the goal of any recruitment process is to hire great talent. This includes enticing those talented individuals to want to work for your company, reach out to them, assess they are capable, and extend them an offer they can accept. Lots of things to do. Hence, it is important that you set expectations right at the beginning, and ensure expectations are realistic.

So, the first step is to define what kind of talent do you want. To know that, you need to be clear on how your organization and team is structured. This will feed into the next step, which is creating the Job Description.

For us, the best recruitment process starts before creating the Job Description because having great talent is not enough. You also need to ensure you have the right position where you can put the talent to work and succeed. This is what this step is about. If you are looking for how to do an hiring process, you probably need at least one more employee because you can’t do what you need to do with the current workforce.

The first step is to see if your workforce can be rearranged in some way. Maybe someone can be promoted, but most importantly responsibilities may be shifted. This is especially the case if there are some ownership problems for which you can’t exactly tell one specific individual that is responsible for something. If you have many things, tasks, or projects with shared ownership, that is an important red flag that you should spend time rearranging your team.

You want to have a clear idea about who does what. Once you do, you will end up either with a new position that is specific (you know exactly what she will be responsible for), or maybe you will realize you don’t need a new hire after all. When ownership is defined people are more efficient, so it is possible that you can do the same amount of work (or even more) you did previously without clear ownership.

If you find a new vacant role with clear responsibilities, you can move to the next step in the recruitment process.

2. Create (and Maintain) Job Descriptions

Once you have split responsibilities appropriately you can start work on job descriptions. A job description is an integral part of the best recruitment process. It is nothing fancy, just putting in writing the description of responsibilities and expectations for a given role.

In other words, once you have a clear picture of responsibilities, you should write them down to create the job description. Here, do not focus on responsibilities only, but also on the characteristics a person needs to have to do that job effectively. And when adding such characteristics, be mindful to think if what you are writing down really adds value. I read so many job posting with “the ideal candidate thrives under pressure” or “at least 6 years of experience with technology X are required”. Why is that? What would happen if someone does not meet these criteria? Why would he fail in the job? Maybe he would succeed anyway.

Another key point for a successful recruitment process is that job descriptions are not exclusively about hiring. Most companies commit the error of writing job descriptions only when hiring candidates, and then never look back at them. The problem with this is that our world changes rapidly and dramatically, and it’s hard to keep tab on everything that is happening.

One of the first thing in a recruitment process is to post a job description so that candidates can apply
Tell the world that you are hiring.

Great company use job descriptions constantly. They do not create them just for hiring, but rather to describe the jobs they have already filled. Ideally, any given role reports to a manager, and that manager should be responsible of writing that job description. But she should not do that alone. She should consult and actively ask for input for the person who is in that role. This description is then updated once or twice a year as responsibilities inevitably change.

Here, it is crucial that you set the right tone for the discussion, and that you actually have the discussion. If you don’t, responsibilities will shift because market and customers demand so, but you won’t capture it. This will cause discontent in the employees and cause attrition (that is, people getting dissatisfied and leaving). If you capture how responsibilities evolve you can get a sense if it is time to promote someone, change organizational structure, or change the way you pay people.

The key bonus of keeping job descriptions always up-to-date is that when it is time to hire someone in a given role, you have a description that really reflects what the person will do. With this in mind, it is time to discuss what you should include in the job description.

For the best recruitment process possible, include the following items in any job description:

  • Describe the role at high level and why it is important for the company (e.g., “We need a software developer to automate our internal processes so that we can save time by providing our services to customers in an automated way”).
  • List the common tasks and activities you expect the role to do (e.g., “writing new features in the backend”, “respond to bug tickets and provide fixes”, “design user experience”, “talk with customers” etc.)
  • Describe the scope and level of ambiguity you expect for the role (e.g., “directly work on the team goals”, “work with clear instructions” vs. “finds new problems and solves them”)
  • List the characteristics needed to succeed, optionally providing a rationale for it (e.g. “5 years working with Node.js as this is a complex system with many moving parts and it is not well documented”)

3. Recruitment Process Application & Posting

The best recruitment process starts with the application. That is when a potential candidate sees a job posting (typically online) and starts to believe he can do the job. He then needs to provide his contact details as well as some information, generally the resume, to testify he can do the job.

In this phase of the recruitment process you want to make the job easily discoverable, simply to apply for, and you want a quick way to discern qualified candidates from unqualified candidates. Identifying who is qualified gets harder and harder as the role becomes more senior, deals with higher level of ambiguity and wider scopes.

For low-level roles, an online assessment or quiz can be a great way to test the candidate level before even looking at their resume. You can do them freely on Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. Some platforms such as LinkedIn or Indeed offer the possibility to run some pre-screening questions, but those are too simple to yield any valid result in our view.

Another good thing about the best recruitment process is that it hires for attitude for entry-level jobs, because skills can be trained while attitude normally cannot. And, as part of that, even for senior jobs, never compromise on attitude. That is, even if the candidate has the perfect skillset, if the attitude is not right do not hire them.

Sometimes, I ask candidates to provide their personality assessment from That has been developed by psychologists and it is a test that scores any candidate on some important dimensions, such as leadership, creativity, independence, willingness to disagree and so on. For each position, I know what is the target level of each dimension (and do not share with the candidate) and I can use it to skim candidates before even calling them.

This application phase should be managed by the human resources, not by the business managers. This is because, potentially, anyone can do it, so you don’t need to drain a manager from his time.

4. The Phone Screen

The next step in the recruitment process is the phone screen, to validate the candidate has indeed the right attitude and skill, he is willing to take on the job, and has a chance to succeed through the interview process.

This is done in two phases: checking the material the candidate has provided, and then calling the candidate confirming what he provided and ensuring he got the job description right. The goal of this in a wider recruitment process is so that only candidate who can succeed move to the real interviews.

The phone screen aims to quickly confirm the candidate background and understanding of the position
Call all the candidates for a phone screen. It is a quick step, so do it.

This is an administrative step, so it is generally done by the HR representative, typically a recruiter. The recruiter will call the candidate and confirm the experience, ensure they have read the job description and understand the requirements, and so on. It is in this phase that you want to pair each candidate to a recruiter.

The recruiter will be the single point of contact for the candidate, answering any questions through the interview process, scheduling interviews and owning the process as a whole (ensuring interviews are scheduled and that the company makes a decision on whether to hire the candidate or not).

5. Single Session Interview

Fantastic, we now have a candidate that qualifies for the great bulk of the interview process: the interviews. You want to interview the candidate multiple times, and more specifically have the candidate be interviewed by many different people. However, if then you do not hire them, you will have wasted many people’s time. So, it is better to start small, and have a preliminary 1h session to ensure the candidate can withstand a longer round of interviews.

The purpose of the first interview is to decide if the candidate can communicate his value to the wider set of interviews. It should be a deep interview handled by someone who is familiar with that type of role, even if not that role specifically. That is, it can be a manger or a peer of that given role, even outside the team that is doing the hiring (for example, if you hire a software engineer, another software engineer in a completely different team might do this phase).

Here, you want to ask behavioral questions because they are the best predictor of future performance. Those are questions that start with “Tell me about a time when…”. Be specific, ask about what the candidate did as an individual, and not what their team did. Try to define in advance what you want to assess: do you want to see if they are proactive? Ask “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond”. Do you want to know if they take responsibility for things? “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager”.

One person is enough to run this interview. The outcome of this is simple, that person will decide if the candidate moves to the next stage or not. No complex assessment, profile descriptions, follow-up questions and so on. Do we move this candidate forward or not?

To make your recruitment process really the best, communicate promptly with your candidates. Ensure they understand how the process will work, how much time do you need to let them know if they move forward or not (a couple of days at most) and ensure they get a feedback. Even for the candidates you do not hire, you want them to leave with the idea you are a great company. This is where the recruiter can help you: she will follow up with all the candidates.

6. The Interview (Bulk of Recruitment Process)

The main chunk of the recruitment process is the interview, or rather, a set of interviews. This step serves the purpose to predict if the candidate will succeed in the role. It is natural that, as a manager, you will want the prediction to be as accurate as possible.

To assess if the candidate can do the job, asking behavioral questions about past experiences is the best way to go. It is hard to fake answer to those, and you can use them to see if the candidate found himself in situations that are similar to the ones he will encounter in this role, and how he faced them. So, once more, ask questions that sounds like “Tell me about a time when…” and dive deep into various items (when a customer asked for something but you know they needed something else; when you had no data but had to make a decision quickly; when you failed at work; etc.).

The purpose of a recruitment process is to hire candidates who can do the job
In the end, the purposse of the recruitment process is to hire candidates who can do the job.

To have an effective recruitment process, define some dimensions you want to assess candidates on in advance, and prepare a set of questions for each dimension. For example, Amazon has Leadership Principles and ensures candidate behave according to them in the interview process. Create your own principles, or assessment dimensions, and identify which questions can help you understand if the candidate embodies them.

Here, you want to have multiple interviewers, and multiple interviews. However, the number of interviews should be set from the beginning and based on the role you are trying to fill, not the candidate. More junior roles can be assessed with 3 interviews, more senior roles with 5. Never go beyond 5 1h interviews, because research has shown that the marginal benefit from the 6th interview onward is negligible. Try to pack those 5 interviews as close as possible, ideally on the same day, and have one different interviewer for each interview. That’s the whole point of this process. If you can afford only 3 interviewers, then you can give only 3 interviews.

Each interview should be a 1-to-1 between the candidate and the interviewer. People to involve in the process should be the hiring manager (the person the new hire will report to), peers, and people outside the hiring team that can provide a different angle. Each interviewer should take notes during the interview, so that they can remember what happened (and please, inform the candidate you are taking notes, she may think you are distracting otherwise).

7. Hiring Committee

Once the interviews are finished, all interviewers should meet to decide if the candidate is to be hired or not. This is the hiring committee, a crucial component of the hiring process. This is a 1h meeting where all interviewers discuss the performance of the interviewer and share their notes.

The purpose of this discussion is to ensure bias is eliminated. Plus, if the candidate was not convincing on a topic to an interviewer, but provided a compelling story on that topic to another interviewer, this meeting will make it bubble up. I like to conduct it by first having a vote (hire vs. no-hire) point blank. Then, everyone exchange notes and people are allowed to change the vote.

In your hiring committee that runs the recruitment process, you will want to have people with technical knowledge about the role you are filling
On your hiring committee, ensure you have people who are technical about the role your candidate will perform.

How many votes do you need to hire a candidate? That depends on your company. I would say a strong consensus is needed, probably 4 out of 5. Additionally, you want the hiring manager to vote for hiring, as well as people outside the team. People outside the team are important here because they do not feel the pressure that comes from working understaffed. While people in the team (hiring manager included) may want to lower the bar just to hire somebody and fill the role, people outside the team will prevent them from doing so.

Hold this meeting soon after the interviews, ideally within 2 business days. You want people to have fresh memories about the interviews, and you do not want to lengthen the interview process more than needed. Then, the hiring manager communicates the decision of the committee to the recruiter, that follows up from there.

8. Extending an Offer

Of course, if the decision is no-hire, the recruiter will simply let the candidate know there is no match at this time and move on. We start to see something different if we do want to hire somebody.

In this case, the recruiter wants to reach out to the candidate as soon as possible (in case they are in talks with other companies as well) and present them with the offer verbally, and then follow up with a written summary of the offer. Of course, this means the company needs to be prepared in advance on how much they want to pay for this position, how they want to structure compensation (base pay, bonus, benefits etc.), how much they are willing to negotiate and on which items. If there are clear rules on that, then the recruiter can move quickly.

At the end of the recruitment process, you will want to extend an offer to your candidate
Extend an offer to the candidate and come to an agreement.

Hopefully, the candidate will accept the offer. In that case, we can move to the final stages of the recruitment process.

9. Background Checks

Background checks are common especially in the North American market. They set at the very end of the recruitment process, after the candidate has accepted the offer, but before they start working. The goal of these checks is simple: ensure the candidate provided factual information in the interview process.

There are outsourcing companies that can do this for you, but you may have your HR team do this as well. You typically want to contact previous employees, educational institutions, and check for criminal records. The only purpose of the background checks is to ensure the candidate did not lie in the interview process, not to discover additional information to withdraw the decision.

It is worth spending a few more words on criminal records. There are two types of things to be checked here: criminal records and pending charges. Criminal records are past crimes that have been committed, and for which the person has already discounted the penalty (jail time, probation etc.). Pending charges are ongoing court proceeding which may result in a penalty, but no crime has been attributed yet.

This can be controversial, but you should not consider criminal records, but only pending charges. Pending charges, while they are not tangible, have the risk of becoming material, and you risk losing your candidate if they do so, or having a candidate that is not appropriate for the role as he is a criminal. Criminal records instead are past errors, the candidate has already paid the price for that, and should be ready to be reintegrated in society.

Having said that, use your judgment considering the situation and the role.

10. Onboarding

No recruitment process is complete until onboarding is complete. Onboarding starts from the moment the candidate accepts the offer up to 6 months into the role. There are tasks you want to do before the candidate joins, and others you want the candidate to do after he joins. Some are run by HR, some by the manager and team, others by the candidate himself.

Specifically, here you want to ensure:

  • The candidate has all the tools he needs before the starting day (laptop, email access, badge, any special equipment, a car etc. – whatever he needs for the role)
  • There are people ready to receive the candidate at the office or remotely on the very first day, and the candidate has clear instructions on where to go, who to meet, and who to call in case of issues
  • The manager has a clear path of things to do for the candidate in the first month: training to watch, projects to start working on
  • The manager has a list of people the candidate will need to meet, and by when he will need to meet them
  • There is a 1-to-1 meeting between the candidate and the manager that happens weekly, starting on the first week

The details of the onboarding plan will change from company to company, role to role, and team to team. Those as specifics. The goal, however, is always the same: ensure the candidate is up and running as soon as possible.

Recruitment Process in Summary

A recruitment process is a big thing in a company, it is the main driver of recruitment success. No guide can be 100% comprehensive on your specific case, but hopefully this one gives you a general idea on how to move forward. With this in mind, you can start building and tweaking a recruitment process that works in your circumstances.

One area where it is always worth to dive deeper and learn more is interviewing. If you want to do that, I recommend you to start here.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio