Steve owns a successful company. He has been in business for 10 years and has been profitable from the first month. From the recession of 2008 until today, he has been awash in applications, getting between 50 and 60 responses to his newspapers ads. But many of those who do apply have failed with their past company for lack of performance.

If he hires wrong, it will set his profits back months. If he succeeds, he could outpace his competitors. Hiring winners is even more important now. Every new hire has to be Steve’s best estimate of future sales success. The hiring decision can’t be a guess or a gut feeling. But how can Steve pick the right people who are sure to become winners? Here’s the first trap to avoid.

Trap 1: Wasting too much time on the hiring process
There are many techniques you can use to find good people. You can run an ad in the local newspaper and get 100 responses, 98 of which can’t put together two coherent sentences, one doesn’t have the experience and the last didn’t show up for the interview. The trap is that you spend weeks advertising and wasting hours every day without finding a winner.

You also could hire a head hunter at a cost of six months of your new hire’s pay. And after the trial period is up, the new hire quits and you are left with the fee. How about referrals? Most of the great workers already have jobs. You could ask all your friends for names of candidates, but they will only keep their ears open for those unemployed souls.

The answer? Virtual voice mail.
Put an ad in your local paper including a three-sentence description of the job and a voice mail phone number for more information. Call your phone company and ask for a voice mail hooked to a line in your office. Leave an extensive message on the job duties, hours and benefits. Then use these words: “Please leave up to a one-minute message on what you have done that has prepared you to be successful at this position”.

A few will hang up. More will ramble without answering the question, and a precious few will leave a coherent, articulate message with a contact phone number. This method will also allow you to listen (on your cell during commute time) to their voice quality, pace, pitch and articulation. This also allows you also to assess knowledge, personality and likability. The most important benefit: You will find a great person without wasting your time.

Next, we’ll discuss how much of the hiring decision is based on the actual interview.