Hiring System Simplified: 5 Ways to Hiring Right Applicants

I’ve read “Built to Last” by Jim Collins more than once.

The book is about what are the secret recipes to creating an enduring company. 

The companies studied have been thriving and around for as long as 170 years (!) in the case of American Express.

But in re-reading the book, the same thing stands out to me…

Companies eventually fail if they’re dependent on one single person (you?) or if you hire the wrong people.

And refining a business that can prosper beyond one bad hire is the secret to success. 

Because the main output of a successful company isn’t only the implementation of a great idea or the charismatic personality of one team member. 

The greatest creation is the company itself and what it stands for (its mission).

That’s why today I’m going to tell you:

  • Why the way in which an employee connects with the company’s mission and values is critical to your business productivity.
  • How bad and good hires can actually bring negative and positive repercussions to your organization’s growth.
  • And how to hire employees effectively in 5 essential steps.

Ready to welcome to your team exclusively business-driven people?

In a rush? Want to download this article as a PDF so you can easily take action on it later? Click here to download this article as a PDF guide.



Why Hiring Business-Driven People & Filtering Out the Ones Who Aren’t a Fit Helps You Scale Your Company (Hint: a Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch) 

Talent shortage is a real problem nowadays. Especially with the economic downturn.

And finding the right candidates with the right aptitudes, well, it isn’t a piece of cake.

According to a survey by ManpowerGroup, 45% of employers are concerned about finding employees with the necessary skills and talents. And 69% of employers are having difficulty filling job positions.


Additionally, 67% of recruiters say their biggest challenge in hiring is the lack of

skilled and high quality candidates according to Jobvite.


And on top of that, 80% of companies fail to recruit top-quality talent according to Hueman.


It’s no wonder why some recruiters have actually outsourced the hiring process entirely.

And that’s exactly why we at AutoGrow take all the headaches out of hiring for you so you can focus on delegating to us your digital marketing tasks.

Because we want to save you time and money.

Employers are spending an average of $4,129 per job on hiring in the U.S. according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Human Capital Benchmarking Report. 


But even if you have the time and money to hire new employees, finding the right one (skilled and business-driven) is another part of the equation.

You see, sometimes the root cause of most hiring is poor retention (your fault). 

Just as a bad apple spoils the bunch, so to speak, a bad hire can potentially have that same effect within your organization.

That’s why we always hire super slow and fire fast.

And despite what research says that companies are more interested in hiring external talent than promoting their own employees to fill vacancies (see the graph below), I’ve always found employee referrals especially valuable.


Because referred candidates are 55% faster to hire according to HR Technologist and they produce 25% more profit than hires from other sources according to a paper by Iza, the Institute of Labor Economics.

For instance, one bad hire can not only create a domino effect of dragging people down. Nearly 3 in 4 employers can be negatively affected by a bad hire according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.

And they can actually cost you at least nearly $15,000 while the average cost of losing a good hire is nearly $30,000. 

Not to mention that high performers deliver 400% more productivity than average performers according to the “The Best And the Rest: Revisiting the Norm of Normality of Individual Performance” by Ernest O’boyle Jr. Herman Aguinis.

Now that you have a pretty good idea why you need top performers on your team, it’s time to lay out the essential steps you must follow in your hiring process.

Hiring Process Step #1: Ask Applicants to Fill Out a Short Application Form to Get to Know Them Better “on Paper”

Your first step here is to ask any applicant interested in working with you to fill out an application form.

This will be your first step to filtering out those who aren’t a good fit.

On the application form, be sure to request a sample of their published work. 

This will let you take a look at the work they’ve done in the past and get a better idea of their skill level.

And although experience matters here, it’s not everything you should be looking for.

In fact, other qualities recruiters look for in potential employees are conversational skills (you’ll find out this in step #3), knowledge of the industry, and cultural fit.


This application form will give you a better sense of their abilities and personality. 

Because even if you ask them hypothetical questions like “Which superpower would you have if you were a superhero?”, it will still give you an idea of their sense of humor and personality.

We always combine personal and casual questions like “What’s a normal Friday night for you?” or professional questions like “How would you solve this specific issue in our company?”

And those questions always help us filter candidates based on their answers and if they match with our cultural work environment.

Because cultural fit is often just as important as their skills. 

That’s why 95% of recruiters consider culture fit to be a critical factor when hiring according to Totaljobs.

And it’s no wonder why 90% of recruiters have rejected candidates due to their lack of cultural fit according to Cubiks.

You can also review the applicants’ profiles on job boards like Upwork, Onlinejobs, Flexjobs, and Indeed to get to know them better on paper.

But don’t make the process too long for them. Don’t ask them 100 questions or add 10 steps before making a hiring decision.

In fact, 57% of applicants lose interest in a job opening if the hiring process takes too long.


And according to Recruiterbox, the best candidates are off the market within 10 days.

So be fast when moving applicants down your hiring funnel.

Hiring Process Step #2: Assign the Applicant a Skill Test or Work Sample to Test their Knowledge, Ability, & Expertise

According to Talent Board’s Candidate Experience Research report, 82% of companies use some form of pre-employment assessment tests.


A work sample evaluation or skill test is the most effective assessment method because it shows 29% of an employee’s performance according to Furst Person.

In our case, we have a very detailed skill test that we assign to the candidates that score well on their application form.

In this step of your hiring process, you’ll be testing the applicants’ abilities and aptitudes through a specific project.

I recommend that you add at least 3 different tasks in the project so you can get a better sense of their abilities.

For example, if you’re evaluating a copywriter’s skills, then it would make sense to ask him/her to write copy for a landing page, an ad, and a lead magnet.

You won’t really see the full picture of what they’re capable of doing by looking only at what they wrote for ad copy.

The work sample or skill test will also give the applicant a better sense and understanding of your company.

They’ll see an example of a task that they’d have to complete in the future if they end up being hired and that really helps set the expectations.

As a matter of fact, 2 in 3 workers say they have accepted a job and later realized it was a bad fit. And half of these workers have quit within 6 months according to Career Builder.

Again, you want to avoid the bad hires no matter what.

The skill test is also a good place though to test applicants’ punctuality and responsibility and to check for typos and grammar. 

Even if you’re not looking to hire a content writer, you want that person to have impeccable writing skills.

And when you receive the submission of their work sample, make sure you inform the candidate what the next step in the process is.

Don’t let them wait for too long because they can end up applying for a different company or say yes to a different job offer.

In fact, 52% of candidates don’t receive any communication in the 2-3 (or more) months after applying to a job. This is according to the Talent Board Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Report.

So if you see potential in a candidate, make sure to follow up.

Hiring Process Step #3: Have Your Hiring Manager Interview the Applicant in a One-On-One Call—Time to Test Their Presentation & Personality

Time to get on camera!

Have your hiring manager hop on a 30-minute video call with the applicant.

Video technology is being used by 60% of hiring managers and recruiters nowadays according to Recruiter. 

Actually, video is the most frequently used method for doing interviews. 

Video interviews are now being used by 74% of HR professionals around the world according to LinkedIn.

And a survey by Workforce showed that 47% of companies use video for interviewing candidates to shorten the hiring timeframe. 

As a matter of fact it takes an average of 23.8 days to acquire a new hire according to Glassdoor.

Yep, hiring a new team member for your business is no joke.

Now, on the interview call, your hiring manager should evaluate the applicant’s professionalism. 

They should take note of their presentation (how they’re dressed up and the background they have for the call). They should also find out if the applicant is open to receiving feedback and/or constructive criticism when hired. And finally, it’ll also let your hiring manager get a better sense of the candidate’s personality.

By the way, being open to receiving feedback can help you grow sales.

That’s partly why sharing or asking for any feedback during the call could be a good indicator of how the person reacts to it and handles the situation.

Because the truth is, for team members to learn and improve, they need to be open to feedback. And for your company to grow, you need feedback that can help it scale.

However, according to CareerArc, only 1 out of 3 job applicants report having been asked by an employer for their feedback as a candidate.

Feedback is always important because you want to work with people who get the work done right but also with someone who’s enjoyable to work with and learn from.

At AutoGrow, we have a set of questions that our hiring manager always asks potential hires during their initial interview.

You can use them or model them for your own interviews…

  1. How would you evaluate how successful you are in this job position?
  2. Do you have questions about the compensation?
  3. We’re looking to work with someone for the long term, is that something you want?
  4. Do you have references you can provide for us if we need them?
  5. Does full-time employment at our company fit with your career goals?
  6. For all our positions, we require you to complete an initial work sample. Is this something you are open to?
  7. Do you have any questions for me about the position or company? 

And while interviewing candidates, we always make sure to communicate:

  • The compensation
  • What the next steps are in our hiring process
  • The on-spec project that will be assigned

And don’t forget to always be nice to the person you’re interviewing. 

83% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked according to LinkedIn.

So always keep in mind that you’re interviewing humans that you’re looking to connect and empathize with.

Hiring Process Step #4: Time to Test Their Diligence, Efficiency, & Skills With an On-Spec Project 

Congrats, you’re very close to hiring an effective candidate for your business.

So don’t forget to keep the candidate informed about where he/she is at in your hiring process.

As a matter of fact, a whopping 81% of candidates say that the one thing that would improve significantly their overall experience as an applicant is employers continuously communicating status updates to them according to CareerBuilder.

Constant and ongoing communication is key on engaging potential hires.

In fact, only 47% of candidates say employers do a good job communicating at the beginning of a potential hire interaction. And 78% of employers feel they do a good job setting expectations upfront and communicating throughout.


And 69% of candidates point out employer response time is what they would like to see improved according to CareerArc.

The bottom line here is, be transparent and don’t do anything to hurt your relationship with the applicants.

Take a look at the stages some applicants and employers say hurt the experience during the whole application process…


Something we at AutoGrow have found is that hiring on a trial basis is a smart move.


Because that way you get someone from your team to train the candidate without much input from you.

Let’s say you’re looking to hire a designer, then have your current designer explain the processes to the candidate. After all, there’s no one better than someone in the same team role to share their knowledge.

But before hiring “the one”, make sure you assign them an on-spec project or task.

Any project related to the job position you’re looking to fill would be a good task for the candidate to complete.

This project is twofold.

  1. You’ll be able to see the person’s promised skills in action.
  2. You’ll be able to see if the person isn’t willing to comply with the deadline you set up for the task and asks to push it back.

It’s happened many times to us that when we’ve assigned an on-spec project to an applicant they go MIA or they’re simply not willing to do it.

They may have a good reason to not do it. But come on: if you really want to be hired by X company, then you really make an effort in completing the on-spec project on time.

We started considering this a red flag because we believe that if someone is really looking forward to being part of our team, they’ll prove it to themselves and to us.

But we’re flexible sometimes too (for the right candidates).

Keep in mind that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to the on-spec project. And they can get better with some training.

But always watch out for red flags.

The other day we assigned an on-spec task to a content writer applicant.

The task was to write an outline for an article and add research and data to it.

When we shared the deadline with her, she agreed to it. Then, 2 days before the deadline she asked us to push it back because she was feeling sick.

Unfortunately, we agreed and didn’t see it as a red flag.

When she submitted the on-spec task, we noticed a lack of effort on having the outline done right. 

And she later admitted she didn’t do a good job.

Of course, she was disqualified.

And in that specific situation, we were glad we didn’t bring her into the team before the on-spec project because it probably wouldn’t have worked out.

Her performance and lack of responsibility were good filters in this step.

As you see, assigning an on-spec project isn’t only about testing a specific skill but also diligence and responsibility too.

Hiring Process Step #5: Have a Few Key Team Members of Your Core Team Interview the Applicant—Find Out If They’re a Cultural Fit!

We always hire slow and fire fast because we truly believe that making it to our team long term isn’t only about having a good set of skills.

There has got to be some engagement and interest in belonging to the team.

For instance, getting a better sense of an applicant’s personality is an important part of the hiring process.


Because would you objectively want to work every day with someone who’s always in a bad mood?

Or what about someone who’s stubborn and doesn’t like being flexible about certain tasks or requests?

Not good.

You must look for candidates who fit in your organization.

And those applicants will look to fit in your organization too. 

As LinkedIn reports, 70% of professionals in the U.S. today won’t work at a company if it means they have to tolerate or deal with a bad workplace culture.


So not only look for applicants who are a good cultural fit but make your company be a great cultural fit for them too.

In fact, 25% of candidates say that a better company culture is among their top reasons for changing jobs.

And how do you look for all those qualities? In a second interview.

The first interview your hiring manager had with the applicant was a bit more formal. 

The potential hire was asked more work-related questions than personal questions.

But here’s a good moment to have a few key team members of your team to get on a more casual call with the applicant. 

It’s important to have key team members of your team lead this call because those are the people who you rely on the most and whose judgment you trust.

For instance, get on a casual call (but without it being unprofessional, of course) and have your team members ask the applicant questions like:

  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Why apply for this job position and not for another job opening?
  • What’s your availability?
  • Are you looking to work long term or short term?
  • Do you have any goals you want to achieve within the organization?

Those questions will give you a good sense of their personality. 

Do they laugh at your jokes?—Not a big deal, most people don’t have a great sense of humor =) 

Did they get dressed up for the interview?—Or were they wearing Mickey Mouse pajama bottoms during the call (yep, I interviewed someone with that outfit once).

Do they know “something” about your company?—Or did they randomly apply for the position without even knowing what the organization’s mission is?

(Almost half of applicants—59% in fact—research the companies that they’re interested in applying to according to Talent Works. So you really don’t want to hire the other half.)

How do they express themselves and/or communicate?—You certainly shouldn’t only be looking for someone with 100% perfect spoken grammar but you need someone with strong communications skills. 

In fact, requirements for strong conversational skills and enthusiasm have declined by more than 20% among recruiters according to Jobvite. 

This second interview will simply let you filter bad candidates.

It’s happened to us. But we’ve also found really cool people that have stayed in the AutoGrow core team since we relaunched our productized service in May 2019.

And before wrapping up, don’t forget to act fast. 

If you find an applicant who would potentially be a great fit for your business, then let him know that you’ll be hiring him/her on a trial basis.

Because according to Jobvite, 75% of recruiters have experienced a candidate change their mind. And in 53% of the cases, it was because, guess what? They received a better job offer.



Download the “Hiring System Simplified: 5 Ways to Hiring Right Applicants” so you won’t forget to take action on it later. Click here to download it now.

There you have it, 5 essential hiring process steps in a nutshell.

Each of them will prevent you from welcoming onto your team a bad apple that spoils the bunch. 

And even better, it will let you attract the right people who’ll help you grow and scale your organization.

Here the 5 essential steps you must follow:

  • Hiring Process Step #1: Ask Applicants to Fill Out a Short Application Form to Get to Know Them Better “on Paper”
  • Hiring Process Step #2: Assign the Applicant a Skill Test or Work Sample to Test their Knowledge, Ability, & Expertise
  • Hiring Process Step #3: Have Your Hiring Manager Interview the Applicant in a One-On-One Call—Time to Test Their Presentation & Personality
  • Hiring Process Step #4: Time to Test Their Diligence, Efficiency, & Skills With an On-Spec Project 
  • Hiring Process Step #5: Have a Few Key Team Members of Your Core Team Interview the Applicant—Find Out If They’re a Cultural Fit!

So no matter if you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or consultant who wants to scale up their people-driven company—by following these steps, you’ll nurture the relationship with job seekers until they become part of your team.

And if you need help hiring the right people to do the job for you, reach out to us. At AutoGrow, we can take care of all your digital marketing tasks without the headaches of hiring.

Or if you want to do it yourself, we also have great resources like training and customized, done-for-you products like lead magnets and Facebook Ads Sets in our brand new Marketplace.

All you have to do is browse through them in the Marketplace, order them, and start getting good use out of them.

Now tell me something, what’s the worst experience you’ve had when hiring someone? After firing a bad hire, did that help your business grow?

Let me know in the comments below.

Keep AutoGrowin’, stay focused.

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