In this guide we will show you how to eliminate bad hires and recruit the best person for the role to achieve our 92% retention rate! Make the investment, no more guessing.

This post is all about getting away from the old way of hiring who you think is the best candidate, aka ‘Guessing’, by establishing what the role actually requires and matching candidates to that benchmark.  So, keep an open mind. If some of this feels a bit uncomfortable, or too much work, try and work through that feeling and do it anyway.  What have you got to lose? You came here looking for answers, remember?

The thoughts and tools that I am going to show you have come from over 20 years of experience, learning best practices and adapting to new technology and continuous change.

I can assure you I have sat through the recruitment processes hundreds of times, in a multitude of different businesses over the past 20 years. I have witnessed this process work time and time again.  I regularly receive feedback from clients and business partners like this:

“We’ve seen an immediate benefit from using your method for our recruitment process which has eliminated poor recruitment decisions, a significant and major benefit that cannot be underestimated. It emphasised the need to develop high potential employees through this process to allow them to excel in their role.”

Damian Chesser

Managing Director, Comet Stone

“This system has helped me offer a new solution to clients and it really complements what I bring to the table and as a HR consultant it allows me to be innovative and at the cutting edge of best practice. I find staff are much happier in their roles and organisations are happier with their staff performance.”

Michelle Mc Donagh

Managing Director, Aspire HR

I know that you are a very busy person. I also know that you’re the sort of person who’s willing to invest some time to increase your effectiveness. You must invest in recruitment and see it as your organisation’s future potential. You might want to imagine how relieved you will feel when you stop guessing and are not worrying 24/7 about whether you have the right people in the right seats to secure the future of your organisation.

If you complain in the future about the type of staff you have then I will know that it’s because you haven’t done the work, not because I haven’t tried to help you. The employees you have in your business are a reflection of you. If you are unhappy with your employees, you only need to look in the mirror and ask yourself how you attracted them.


“The Harvard Business Review points out that as much as 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions.”

Do any of these sound familiar to you?


  • Needing to fill a job quickly.
  • Over trusting first impressions.
  • Not really knowing what you want.
  • Not really knowing what you need.
  • Putting too much weight on experience.
  • Trying to hire another you.
  • Being overly impressed by education.
  • Paying unrecoverable fees to recruiters.
  • Wasting time writing job descriptions that you don’t fully understand.
  • Having a poor on-boarding process.
  • Thinking you can train the employee to be what you want.
  • Not knowing the right questions to ask a candidate.
  • In the end, you had to rely on your ‘gut feeling’, aka, Guessing!


If you’ve managed to avoid these mistakes altogether, then congratulations. You are in the minority.

This probably comes as no surprise to you, but hiring is difficult and mistakes are expensive. Why so many hires fail is something that can be less clear, but it often boils down to the improper gathering and analysis of information. The data available to the recruiter and how it is interpreted plays a key role in the success or failure of hiring good employees.

Harvard Business Review researchers reasoned that many companies fail to hire and retain the best talent because without an effective recruitment process in place, they inadvertently treat hiring situations like an emergency. As a result, about one-third of promising new hires depart within three years.

When I speak to friends and clients about recruiting, one of the biggest issues I always hear is “I can’t put that much time and effort into it” or “I can’t afford it, it’s very expensive”.  Do you know what my response is every time?

You can’t afford to NOT do it!

THE TRUE COST OF A BAD HIRE When calculating the cost of a bad hire, small companies typically just count the expense of advertising the position and the recruitment costs involved. HBR found that the cost can usually amount to three times an annual salary.

In another study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), they found it could cost up to five times the amount of a bad hire’s annual salary. And the higher the person’s position and the longer their tenure, the more it will cost to replace them. The report also found that “bad fit” hires have an impact on four distinct parts of their companies:

  • Productivity
  • Retention
  • Performance
  • Culture

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Forty-one percent of hiring managers estimate the cost of a bad hire to be in the thousands.
  • It takes five weeks, on average, to fill a staff-level position and 7.5 weeks to fill a management position.

So, the facts speak for themselves. Hiring is not easy, it can be very expensive if not done correctly and the majority of people are doing it incorrectly.

With that in mind I’d like to show you how you can create a really effective recruitment (and onboarding) process. One of the things you’re really going to love about it is that you will see results rather quickly. In six months’ time, when you’re spending more time working with an engaged and fit for purpose team, you’ll look back on this moment and be grateful you decided to adopt it.

This guide is broken into the following 5 sections:


  1. Understanding the job.
  2. Setting the Benchmark.
  3. The ideal candidate form.
  4. Matching the person to the job.
  5. Develop and Manage your talent.


Delivered to you as a 5-part email course with all templates and worksheets included.

Section 1: Understanding the job.

If the job could talk, what would it say?


How do you know what the job truly needs?

Most businesses are quick to answer this question with, “Let’s take our top performers and try to clone them,” or, “I know what it takes, I’ll just tell you…”, but this approach limits objectivity and promotes bias. A lot of people take their instincts and knowledge and use a ‘figure it out as we go’ approach to hiring. They write a brief job description for the job posting and then never look at it again, turning each interview into casual chats. This is the most common way to end up making a bad hire decision… If you use these methods it is very easy to misjudge the actual needs of the job. For example, if you only have C-level employees when you are looking for A-level people, should you clone the C-level employees? And how will you know you have C-level employees unless you benchmark what the job actually requires and measure your people against it? Or consider if you decide to just hire individuals like yourself! Clearly defining the job and the requirements that are necessary for someone to be successful will help make the recruitment process much easier. This is because you then have a blueprint for evaluating each candidate against the role requirements to find the best fit. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just ask the job what it required? Well, we all know that a job can’t talk. So where can we get this ‘truth’ and how can we know it’s accurate?

Identify Subject Matter Experts.

It is important to understand why the job exists, how success in the job is measured, the history of the position and how it fits the company strategy. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are people, typically within the organization, that have a direct connection with the job, an understanding of it and, often, a stake in its success.  People who are familiar with the position can explore, validate and quantify its “reason for being.”   SMEs can be chosen from role incumbents, employees who formerly held the position, the manager and / or a former manager of the position and key managers / staff who interact closely with the position on a regular basis. Ideally have three but not more than ten people with current actual working knowledge of the position. Their expertise will help you build a much more comprehensive job profile than you can do on your own. If you do not have sufficient SMEs internally then look for people with the relevant experience outside of your organisation. Their input in itself can be an interesting wake up call.

Identify Key Accountabilities.

Facilitate a session with all SMEs to arrive at a consensus regarding the exact Key Accountabilities of the job (3-7 at most). Quantify, prioritize and establish measurements for each on the Key Accountability Sheet. Identifying the Key Accountabilities for a job requires taking a close look at what really matters. You must eliminate all bias from the subject matter group and truly understand what is required for superior performance in this role. To do this requires taking a close look at what is really important. When someone says they are responsible for doing ‘X’, the Key Accountability is discovered by asking “Why” they are doing “X” using a cascading investigative approach. Accountabilities define the reasons why the position is necessary in the first place. They are the background for determining the skills, knowledge, behaviors, motivators and experience required from the candidate.

Key Accountabilities Worksheet

Download a copy of our worksheet which shows you step by step how to clearly define the Key Accountabilities for your position. Includes job position Key Accountability examples to help you discover whats needed for your position.

Section 2: Setting the Benchmark.

Your blueprint for success!


Identify the Behaviours, Driving Forces, Competencies and Acumen the job requires.

Benchmarking a job minimises bias and provides a clear objective and collective voice to what behaviors, motivators and skills the job needs. When Job Benchmarking is implemented properly, it will have a direct effect on your business’ bottom line. You’ll not only attract the best candidates, but you’ll save time and money by hiring the right people the first time and reducing the learning curve with new employees who are strategically matched to fit your company.

Creating a Benchmark for the Job.

We have already discussed the first two phases in Section 1 – identifying your Subject Matter Experts and defining and prioritising the Key Accountabilities of the job. Now let’s look at the next two – The SME Survey and the Ideal Candidate Form.

The SME survey.

In this phase I use our TTI psychometric assessments. Obviously you can use whatever tools you prefer. Having completed the Key Accountabilities exercise with the Subject Matter Experts you then facilitate the online completion of Acumen, Competency, Reward and Behavior assessments for the role, using your 3-7 KAs to eliminate personal bias. This usually takes about 45 minutes. The benchmark report is automatically produced from this exercise. Think of a benchmark as a “360 degree Survey”, but one that is not asking about a person but rather a job, completed by those that know the job best, to create a benchmark for the job. The end results will tell us:

  • The behaviors most needed for a job
  • The motivators the job rewards
  • The skills required to perform at a superior level
  • The acumen needed for superior performance

The report also generates specific questions for interviewing under each of the Competency, Driving Forces and Behavioural headings. Email a copy of this Role Benchmark to all SMEs.  Give them an opportunity to review and reflect and send you whatever feedback they think appropriate. I usually allow a day or so. If there are a number of significant changes then you may wish to quickly reassemble the SMEs for an online editing of the benchmark. This is a 15-minute exercise, if necessary at all. The fourth and final phase of the process is to compare talent to the Job Benchmark using comparison or gap reports which we will cover in Section 3.

PRO TIP You should fully document this process and all the results, creating a file for this job. You can then use this documentation for talent selection, development and future recruitment needs. Imagine having a complete benchmark for every job in your business? Wouldn’t it make your recruitment, development and succession planning process so much smoother?

Section 3: The ideal candidate

Filter out the noise.


Create an Ideal Candidate Form.

The next step of this process is to create an ‘Ideal Candidate Form’. We do this by taking our Key Accountabilities and Benchmark and combining them with the hard skills required from the candidate. Some of the things you should consider in this process are what:

  • education or training qualifications do you expect the ideal candidate to have to be able to do the job?
  • level of work experience are you looking for?
  • specific skills and knowledge must they already have to do the job to the standard you require?
  • communication skills do they require?
  • overall personality/disposition are you looking for in the person?
  • personal attributes must they have? Define them very clearly.


Design communication material.

Now that we have our job clearly defined and know what the ideal candidate looks like, we must advertise the position and collect job applications. In the past it may have been a chore for you to write a description and advertisement for a job listing, but with all the previous work you have completed, this stage is very simple. It should take you no longer then 30 minutes to craft your job advertisement. Your advertisement should be split into 4 short parts:

  1. Start by writing an exciting description of the position. Keep it short while at the same time promoting the opportunity that is available to the successful candidate.
  2. Next, take your Key Accountabilities and explain in no more than three paragraphs what the Key Accountabilities of the job are, what they require of the person, why they are important and why the job exists.
  3. You should then describe the Ideal Candidate using the key information you defined in your ideal Candidate Form – Education, Experience, etc..
  4. Finally give an indication of the package that is available to the successful candidate.

All of the above should simply fall out of the previous work that you have done. It is more of a question of editing it down to the appropriate size whilst telling enough to attract the right type of candidate and eliminate the wrong type. I suggest using LinkedIn for your job postings. I find it simple and convenient as well as being good value for money. For my last recruitment project, over the space of 4 weeks our job posting on LinkedIn cost €260 from which we received 86 applicants, about 20 of whom passed the initial pre-qualifier process, that we then narrowed down to 5 really strong candidates through the initial screening from the Ideal Candidate Form. >> Download Sample LinkedIn Job Advertisement.

Screen candidates based on hard skills.

Now that you have a pile of job applications it is time to start sorting the good from the bad. The real candidates from the time wasters. The pre-qualifiers are used here. We tend to look at the applicant’s hard skills such as experience and qualifications at this stage and remove the ones who clearly do not fit for the job. You should be able to narrow your list of applications down significantly to the strong candidates that you can then do the initial screening on. Ideally you should end up with a choice. I usually aim to have 3-5 candidates at this stage.

Ideal Candidate Form

Get our Ideal Candidate Form worksheet. It will show you step by step exactly how to identify your ideal candidate. It also includes a comprehensive list of hard skills with an infographic and a sample of a real successful job advertisement.

Section 4: Matching the person to the job.

The results are in.


RECAP ON YOUR PROGRESS Before we dive into section 4, the interview process, lets have a brief recap. You may not think it, but you have completed some very important and valuable work. You have:

  • identified your job, what it truly needs for the position to be a great success.
  • identified a group of Subject Matter Experts – people who understand the job from different points of view. You have used this group to build a job comprehensive job profile, identifying the behaviours, driving forces competencies and acumen that this job requires.
  • from this you have built a benchmark for success in the role.
  • then built an ideal candidate, listing the Key Accountabilities and hard skills required. And you used this to narrow down your applications to 4-5 solid candidates.

The next step is to begin the interview process and further narrow your candidates to the best two people for the job. Ready? Let’s go…

Prepare for the interview.

Have your shortlist of candidates complete the chosen assessments. As I said we use our TTI assessments for this, but you can use whatever assessment tools you prefer. Using your job benchmark, prepare a job talent comparison report. This compares the shortlist candidates to each of the 25 competencies, 12 behaviours, 12 driving forces and 12 acumen indicators the job benchmark identifies as being required for superior performance in the role.  This allows you to compare the candidates to the benchmark and to each other. This report identifies the strengths and weaknesses each brings to the roll.  Remember there is no such thing as the perfect candidate.  You are looking for the best fit!  People can be developed.  Also, you are hiring into a team so if you look at the gaps, any shortfalls may be picked up by another member of the team.  If a candidate lacks strength in a particular area but you have another member of the team who is strong in that area, this might not be such a big deal.  Roles can be massaged if necessary. Later in the development stage we will look at how you use this information in the personal and professional development process.

Interview one.

Now that you have your benchmark, job talent comparison report and interview questions it’s time to interview your candidates. We use three interviews. The first is a simple straightforward one-hour interview. The purpose of this is to establish a ranking, where all candidates are interviewed on the same day, back-to-back so that one can compare. You will have your questions from the benchmark report so you will know exactly what areas to focus on in the interview. This is really helpful and shortens the preparation time considerably. I usually leave 30 minutes between interviews to collect my thoughts on the interview just completed and discuss with the interview panel, who are often the SMEs. Your goal here is to shorten your list down to two people for the second interview. I often keep the third preference in reserve, just in case.

Interview two.

The purpose of this interview is to rank the candidates one or two. Who will you actually offer the job to first? Remember, they may not actually take the job and you might need to offer it to your second preference (or indeed talk to your third!). Interview two is a more comprehensive interview. I usually allow a half day in-house, broken up into four parts of approximately one hour each.

  • Walkabout – Bring the candidate around the building and introduce them to the staff and the team they will be working with, let them understand how everything works, see what questions they have what insights they bring. Have a general conversation about the business.
  • Interview by the team – Share the ideal candidate form and benchmark with the team the candidate will be working with and then allow them to interview the candidate. Allow about 45 minutes for this. Then tell the candidate you will be debriefing the team for 15 minutes and during this time you would like them to plan out their first 90 days and give a 15-minute presentation to the team. While the candidate is doing this you debrief the team. You will be surprised at their insights.
  • Presentation – Bring the candidate back to give their 90-day presentation. After the presentation allow a 30 – 45 minutes dialog between the interview panel and candidate to find out why they would do what they propose to do; discuss the plan; etc. What you are looking for is confirmation of the characteristics you saw in their profile that got them to this stage.
  • The final hour is a more informal dialogue where you are answering questions from the candidate, sharing information, discussing terms and conditions in a general sense (not negotiating, but just for both parties to understand issues if there are any around terms and conditions etc.), providing them with the information they require to make a decision if offered the position.

Interview three.

Interview three is not necessarily an interview any more. You have chosen your preferred candidate at this stage and are prepared to make them an offer. You are now discussing terms, figuring out how it is all going to work, what if any problems need to be sorted, how the candidate wants to work, (maybe they want to work a day a week from home).  Come to an agreement that suits both parties. Make sure you put any questions you have out on the table. This is usually an informal meeting. It should take place in a casual environment – followed by dinner usually works well. Remember, at the end you expect to be shaking hands.  It should be a positive meeting, that’s why dinner is a good idea. The goal is to be celebrating at the end that the deal is made and talking about the future. At this meeting you will also be sharing information on what the next steps are and how the the on-boarding process will work.

100+ Interview Questions

We have compiled a list of over 100 must ask questions you should use during the interview process. These questions will ensure you don’t miss anything when you interview your candidates including Competency, Motivator and Behavioural style questions.

Section 5: Develop and Manage Your Talent

Going DEAP - Develop, Engage, Advance and Perform.


Produce an on-boarding pack.

You have hired the candidate and she is due to start. The first thing is to complete a triad debriefing. We usually do this before the candidate actually starts. In this you debrief both the candidates report (behaviour motivators, competencies and acumen) and their supervisors. The purpose is to make sure that each understands how to communicate and work together. Allow an afternoon to do this properly. It is time well spent.

Development Plan.

Once the person starts you should produce a gap report between the benchmark and the person.  From this you can highlight the areas of development – strengths that can be built on and gaps that need to be bridged.  On our website you can then use this gap analysis to produce a development plan for the individual. 

Succession Planning.

If you are looking at a possible succession planning situation you can also do a gap analysis between the individual and the next role they may progress to and incorporate this into the development plan.  This is a powerful way to build engagement from day one and build bench strength into your team.

Performance Review Process.

You will recall that we said you should develop a metric for each of the key accountabilities with your SMEs.  These should be combined with the development plan to build a performance review process.   In a performance review you are looking at two things:

  1. How has the person developed their skills, behaviours, acumen, etc. so as to improve their performance?
  2. How has the person matched up to delivering on the key accountabilities?

Ideally you develop this performance plan at the same time as the development plan so that the person knows exactly what is expected of them and is able to measure their own performance and development. I suggest that you start strong with the new employee.  Weekly meetings for the first month and monthly reviews thereafter.  The format should be something like this: Both sitting on the same side of the table you have a dialogue as follows:

  • Here is the role as per the key accountabilities and the benchmark.  Here are the metrics.  Here is the job person gap analysis. Here is the resultant development plan.
  • How is the person doing in that role?  Is it working?  If not why not?  If yes what is working best and least?
  • Are they achieving the metrics?  
  • Are they doing the actions in the development plan?  
  • What support will they need in the role – training and development, other?  
  • Who can help? What is involved?  How can it be improved?  
  • How can the gaps be bridged?  Who can help?  What is involved?  How long will it take?  Can you wait?
  • Are the resources available – people, time, money, expertise, etc.?
  • Are there any short-term stop-gap solutions until the competency gap is permanently filled?
  • What obstacles do you both see that could stop them from being successful in the role and how can you overcome them?  
  • Is the reporting and support structure the best structure?  Can it be improved?  How?  What would be involved?  Who would be impacted?  Any other implications, both good and bad? Etc.

This type of process is focused on helping the person and holding them accountable, to do the things that will build superior performance and the results you are looking for.  It is not about finger pointing.  Both parties should be coming to the same conclusions in the process.  

The title of this was HOW TO HIRE THE BEST EMPLOYEES – EVERY TIME!  I claimed that in this guide we would show you how to eliminate bad hires and recruit the best person for the role to achieve our 94% retention rate! I have shared everything I know about hiring great employees for your organisation. If you use the hiring techniques I have shown you, I can promise you that you will reap the reward that all good investments deserve.   I hope that you have enjoyed reading this. We are here to help you implement such a process into your organisation so that you too can rest easy knowing that your organisation is in good hands – the ones you hired based on science, not ‘Guessing’. Good luck!


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