It’s a new year, chock full of new beginnings and hope. If you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner of some sort, that may mean cleaning house or simply finding new talent. And whether you’re new to the hiring game, inexperienced at it or you simply haven’t done it in a while, it’s always good to know some handy tricks and tips so that you can weed out the average applicant to the stand-out stars.

Define the Responsibilities

When you’re searching for a new employee, the last thing you want to do is attract applicants that are totally unqualified or unsure of their potential responsibilities. It ends up wasting your time and making the application process longer than it needs to be. To avoid this, be as clear as possible and upfront in the job description. Whether that description is online, on paper or by word-of-mouth, make sure that it is clear. Include responsibilities, requirements, skills, and most importantly, expectations.

It Doesn’t Hurt to Pre-Screen

The entire interviewing process can be a long and tedious one; in order to save as much time as possible, you should look into pre-screening applicants before they visit the office. Schedule a quick phone call in order to get a sense of how they communicate. Resumes can only tell so much; speaking with the applicant over the phone can reveal so much more and let you know whether or not you want to continue to pursue this person.

Check References

This may seem to be a no-brainer, but always check your applicant’s references. You wouldn’t believe how many employers skip this crucial step in the hopes of expediting the process, only to find out that the employee wasn’t as truthful as he or she seemed. Maybe they have a history of aggressiveness or laziness, or maybe they have shown a pattern of disrespect or a lack of teamwork. Speak with former employers.

Ask the Right Questions

As the employer, you know who you need for the job. You know the job well and you understand the responsibilities. An interview only provides so much time with an applicant and you could potentially be working with this person for years; you want the right person. In order to make the most of your time, you should be asking the important questions that will get quality answers from the applicant. Ask questions that will let you know this person’s skills and background. If all is going well, it doesn’t hurt to ask the occasional personal or “fun” question (Who’s your favorite sports team? What movies have you seen recently?), but just make sure to stay on track with the hard-hitting questions.

Don’t Let Go Of Obvious Talent

Too often, human resources personnel try to find someone who has performed the exact role in the past and seek to offer a parallel shift for the interviewee when some with a similar skillset but perhaps not the exact experience could be transitioned into the role while bringing other experience to the table.  

Hiring can, admittedly, be a chore. But it is necessary, and if done properly, can lead to tremendous results. So if you’re looking to start the hiring process this year, take some of these tips into account.