How do you know when and if you have made a successful hire? Gut instinct could be valuable, but this is hardly quantifiable. You could also wait a year to see how a new hire has performed and identify their level of productivity. However, future information isn’t helpful when you are actively hiring now and need to do so with confidence. And while a great handshake may still make the largest impression on hiring managers, it is hardly the ultimate litmus test.

Resting on a narrow definition under the very broad topic of quality of hire is a challenge because every organization and manager has a different perspective of what success is and therefore, what a successful hire looks like.

So, can a hiring company actually identify a successful hire? Can this be done before an offer is even extended? Are there tools and mechanisms to help HR professionals and hiring managers determine quality of hire in their final candidate selections?

Yes, you can. And indeed, there are.

In this article, we will share ways to help you define what a successful hire looks like for you and how to measure quality of hire throughout the recruitment process.

Why Defining and Measuring Quality of Hire Matters

Success means you have accomplished a goal with results that provided a favorable or profitable outcome. That little word, goal, is rather important. You can’t be successful at something until you have first defined what you are working towards.

However, defining and measuring quality of hire isn’t just about reaching a goal of having repeated successful hires. Consider the reason why you measure other aspects of your business. Without monitoring processes, strategies, and outcomes you can’t improve.

Understanding what a quality hire looks like for you also helps identify vulnerabilities and gaps in your hiring process.

  • Are you missing key steps in evaluating candidates?

  • Have you identified the traits, skills, and capabilities most needed?

  • Are there areas where you may be able to relax some of your qualifications and requirements?

What a successful hire looks like for you will be defined by metrics based on your business needs and your internal hiring process. And much of this can be influenced just as much by the performance of current and past employees as it is by the economic and market influences on your business. In other words, you need to look at the past, present, and future of your organization to fully define and measure what a successful hire looks like for your organization.

Here’s one more important point to understand. What a successful hire looks like for you may not match your closest competitor or any other business for that matter. Sure, there will be plenty of overlapping and similar attributes of strong candidates, but only you can define a successful hire for your organization.

With that out of the way, the rest of this article will outline how to think about and establish your criteria for a quality, successful hire.

Setting the Criteria of a Successful Hire

The most effective way to determine what a successful hire looks like is to identify the objectives of the role you are filling. This means answering two essential questions.

What does a successful new hire need to accomplish?

Think beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of the role you are hiring for and consider what you want or need someone in this role to produce or attain for your organization. For a sales-related role, this may be defined as a target volume of new business they will close. A marketing role could have a goal to generate a certain number of new leads or to expand your brand’s reach.

Every role and position has key performance indicators (KPIs) that track output, progress, and overall results. Think about these metrics when detailing your ideal (but realistic) accomplishments for this role.

Another way to consider this is to envision what success, in whatever terms you use, might look like at the end of the first year for a new hire in this role.

What is needed to reach these goals?

With your ideal accomplishments for your open position identified, the next component is to clarify how this will be achieved. Specifically, your aim is to identify the optimal tools, talent, and personality a successful hire will possess.

What skillset, qualifications, education, or experience will help a new hire not only perform the duties of this role but to excel?

What abilities will aid them in providing optimal results? Expand your mind a bit here and consider transferable and soft skills that would be assets to their position.

Finally, consider personality traits and interpersonal skills that will help a new hire integrate quickly into your business and company culture.

Use current and past employees as a guide to help you refine your list of desired accomplishments. What are the skills and capabilities of your best employees? Do they have any specific education, training, or certifications? How and where do these individuals stand out most?

Be honest with yourself though. Evaluate how you might answer these questions for your lowest performing employees, and especially for individuals you may have let go. What desirable traits and characteristics would have completely changed their work performance?

How to Identify Your Top Candidates

When you have clearly outlined what you would like your successful hire will look like, the next phase is to provide a framework to help you identify your top candidates and how each measures up to your criteria. This involves two critical components.

Create a detailed scorecard

One of the most effective ways of measuring successful hires is through a candidate scorecard. This is a rubric based on your identified essential tools, talent, and personality characteristics allowing a hiring manager or HR professional to easily identify and score attributes each candidate has.

When implemented fully, a scorecard tool simplifies the processes to help you make informed decisions using accurate, relevant information. This is where planning your hiring process becomes so valuable.

You will need to create a detailed card for each role you are hiring for and for every candidate that is evaluated. While there is no science in how your scorecard is formatted, it is important to include the following details:

  • A brief but clear overview of the position that will guide the rest of your scorecard and provide a reference point during your interviews.

  • Two or three sentences that define your expected outcomes for the first year.

  • List the essential competencies and requirements for each of your three defined areas (tools, talent, and personality). For example:

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Business Management or a related field

Deal complexity: Track record of closing deals over $100M in revenue

Competitive: Has the desire and drive to be a top performer

How you score each attribute can also be fairly simple with something like a yes/no, or something a bit more such as perfect/match/no match. The important piece is to be detailed when listing your attributes and requirements. The more specific you are the easier it will be to identify your next successful hire.

One note of caution though. Don’t confuse detailed attributes for overly restrictive search criteria as this can push your candidate search out of scope. Consideration should be given to related and transferrable skills and talents. This is where the partnership and guidance of an experienced recruitment firm are helpful.

Using a candidate scorecard takes the subjectivity out of hiring by allowing you to compare candidates objectively and decide based on data that is structured in a consistent format rather than a gut feeling. Additionally, scorecards ensure that all candidates are treated fairly throughout the hiring process while helping you measure the quality of a potential hire. Moreover, they allow you to quickly identify what skills they could bring to the table, and any red flags in a candidate’s background to avoid.

Follow a structured interview process

With your hiring criteria and method of measuring candidates in hand, the next component in identifying a quality candidate, and therefore making a successful hire, is to follow a structured interview process. Using a structured interview process means that every candidate will experience the same series of actions and will be evaluated against the same set of criteria.

The more important part is that your hiring managers and HR professionals can avoid falling prey to many of the “voodoo” hiring tactics floating around such as pure gut instinct, death by a thousand interviews, or playing the roles of prosecutor or psychologist.

Here is a brief outline of our interview process:

  • Phone screen. Brief 15-30 minute conversations to help determine if there is a potential match to the defined hiring requirements, and for the candidate to gain enough insight to decide if they have an interest in the opportunity.

  • Face-to-face interview. Whether in-person or over a video call, it allows the opportunity to more adequately score and measure candidates against the defined ideal criteria. Our preferred format is the “A method” where the candidate reviews their resume and career history from past to present, explaining their responsibilities, accomplishments, and reasons for leaving each role they have held.

  • Work sample. Think of this as a test drive for both parties. Potential hires complete a simple project or task that accurately reflects the real work they would be doing in the role. This step allows us to see how candidates might perform and for the candidates to gain a realistic picture of the position.

  • Happy Hour. If a candidate has progressed this far in our interview process, we want to give the rest of our team a chance to engage with them too, and to understand how they will fit into our company culture. This also allows the candidate to ask any remaining questions about our company and the position in a relaxed and casual atmosphere.

How to Hire With Confidence

Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball or personality test that will guarantee with 100% accuracy that you will make a successful hire every time. However, you can take several definitive steps to greatly improve your odds of making a quality hire. And with each successful hire you do make, you will continue to learn and develop your hiring skills.

Establish your hiring criteria with a clear understanding of what you want a new hire to accomplish (particularly in their first year) and the tools, talent, and personality needed to achieve that. The more clarity you can provide on what success looks like for your organization, the easier it will be to spot a candidate who could be your next successful hire.

This information will form the foundation for how you will evaluate candidates and what you will measure them against. Holding to a structured interview process will also ensure you maintain consistency and a clear path for making any needed adjustments.

For more guidance on developing a solid hiring process to improve your quality of hire, get our Guide to the Recruitment Process here. Your hiring process should never be left to chance or random actions.

a guide to the recruitment process