people-309068__180 pixabay freeby Michael Klazema

Hiring the perfect employee isn’t rocket science, but it can sure seem like it sometimes. Whether you’ve spent hours in the interview room without finding any compelling candidates, or filled the same position three times in the space of a year, you know that the “right employee” can sometimes be a needle in a haystack. For your next hiring process, make sure you implement all eight of the policies listed below. Each will help you center your screening practices and zero in on the perfect hire.

1. Run background checks

When it comes to hiring someone, you need to know who you are dealing with. While your job applications might include questions about criminal history, applicants aren’t always forthright in disclosing past misdeeds. A thorough background check will tell you about your applicant’s criminal history, their driving record, their credit history, and more. If the applicant is a violent criminal or a sex offender, or if they have some other skeleton in their past that might directly inhibit them from performing the job at hand, you can fairly take them off your list.

2. Call previous employers

A person can put on an impressive, friendly façade in a job interview, but if you really want to know how they operate on a day-to-day basis, call their old boss. Many former employers won’t tell you more than salary information and employment dates, but you will sometimes get a boss on the line that will be willing to talk more. Whatever they say—be it high praise or hefty criticism—you can probably take it seriously. After all, if your applicant is the kind of person who constantly misses deadlines, has conflicts with co-workers, or badmouths their boss on social media, then an old employer is the person who will know all about those unflattering characteristics.

3. Really talk to references

The idea that “most hiring managers don’t contact your references” is a myth. If an employer asks an applicant to provide a list of references, they are more often than not doing it for a reason. In other words, don’t get sucked into the idea that calling references is a waste of time or an uncommon practice.In some cases, the references your applicant lists will overlap with the previous employers you would want to call anyway. Even references from professors and other supervisors, though, can tell you a lot.

4. Verify education and work experience

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for applicants to lie on their resumes. The fibs can range from small edits to make previous job titles sound more impressive, to wholly invented college degrees. Either way, though, you need to know whether or not your applicant has the qualifications they say they do. Calls to HR departments, college admissions departments, or state licensing bodies can help you verify whether or not an applicant has the work experience, educational credentials, or professional licenses and certifications they say they do. These checks also let you know if you can trust an applicant. After all, no one wants to deal with a clearly dishonest employee.

5. Ask the right interview questions (and avoid the ones that can get you into trouble)

Undoubtedly, you’ve sat in the hot seat for plenty of interviews over the years. However, if you’ve never been on the other side of the table actually conducting the interview, then you need to hop on Google and find a few lists of the “best questions to ask in interviews.” Chances are, you’ll learn effective ways to ask questions about strengths, weaknesses, overcoming challenges, ambitions, specific work projects, and more. Any good guide will also remind you to steer clear of dangerous questions that can get you and your company in trouble. There are some subjects (religion, age, disabilities, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation) that should be off-limits in any job interview. While the simple act of asking about those subjects isn’t illegal, it is inappropriate and can be used as evidence that you are discriminating in your employment practices.

6. Skip the social media profiles

The idea of a “social media background check” is becoming more and more common in employment circles, but it’s a bad idea for one big reason. A social media profile—particularly if you opt for Facebook—can reveal a lot of the information that employers are not supposed to know. All of the information you aren’t supposed to ask about in an interview (religion, sexual orientation, the rest of the subjects discussed in number 5) is usually displayed unabashedly on social profiles. As a result, checking an applicant’s Facebook during the job screening process and make it more difficult to judge that person’s professional qualifications objectively. Just like asking more personal questions in a job interview, then, doing social media background checks could potentially put your company in a position where it has to defend itself against accusations of discriminatory hiring practices.

7. Put together a detailed job description

Before you even start accepting applications for a job opening, you should try to envision exactly the kind of person you want to have fill that job. What professional qualifications are you looking for? What level of experience and/or education? What skillset? The more detailed you can be with the responsibilities of the job, the better you can tailor the entire job search to suit that model. You can then turn around and transform those details into the perfect job description to post on job boards—making it easier for the exact right person to find you as well.

8. Take your time

Finding the right person to hire can be a long and arduous process, but it’s important to take your time and hold out until you find the right candidate. If your gut is telling you that none of the first 20 or 30 people you interviewed are the right fit, listen. It’s more costly to move quickly through the process and hire the wrong person than it is to move slowly and find the right person. After all, you don’t want to be back to square one in six months. So use all the resources available to you—interviews, resumes, background checks—and find your perfect candidate. In the long run, you’ll be happy you took the time to be thorough.

Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.