The Complete Guide to Hiring

This guide offers practical guidance on how to hire effectively and efficiently from start to finish, with tips for sourcing candidates; interviewing; assessing the candidate’s fit in your company culture; post-interview follow up steps (including background checks); and onboarding.

Guide to Hiring

Hiring is a costly and time-consuming process that can seem daunting at times. But, as an employer, you know the importance of hiring great people to ensure your business’s success.

The hiring process is a complicated one. With so many things to consider, it’s easy for even the best HR managers to make mistakes. But with the right information and training, you can avoid these common pitfalls and hire talented employees who are a good fit for your company culture.

Hiring is a huge time suck.

Here are some hiring stats you should know: 

While mileage may vary based on what industry you’re in and the skillset you are looking for, automating certain processes will add consistency to the recruitment process, increase HR’s productivity, streamline data collection, reduce costs, and help your business find the right candidate. 

How can your business prepare? In this article, we tackle 3 major points: 

  • Passing repetitive tasks over to automation 
  • Upskilling your HR team 
  • Shifting to a “people first” mindset 
Almost every part of the hiring and onboarding process can be improved by automation, which eliminates bottlenecks in your process and ensures there isn’t a backlog of paperwork on your employee’s desk.
Section 1


Recruitment is an essential process that your business can’t afford to take lightly. A strong recruitment process lays the foundation for business stability (less employee turnover), growth (fast hiring to onboarding turnaround), and profitability (hiring the right team to make it happen).

Much like how marketers use the Marketing Funnel to track a customer’s journey, recruiters look at the Recruitment Funnel to create a never-ending pipeline of talented candidates. And the good news is that all of the stages are ripe for automation. 

Let’s take a closer look … 

The Recruitment Funnel

The Recruitment Funnel is a 5-stage process that helps narrow down the best candidate from a wide audience. The stages are:

  1. Awareness and attraction: The top of the recruiting funnel is to create awareness of your employer brand. Potential new hires are introduced to your business, mission, and culture. 
  2. Application: In this stage, you want to keep candidates interested and engaged in your business and opportunity. 
  3. Interview: In this stage, the candidate begins a personal relationship with your business. Your goal is to leave them with a positive interview experience so they have a favorable opinion of your company … even if they don’t get the job. 
  4. Hiring: Welcome aboard! The candidate accepts a job offer. 
  5. Advocacy: The recruitment funnel doesn’t end at onboarding. You’ll want to engage your new hire a vocal advocate for your business. 

Each of these stages includes a series of repetitive steps that can be automated, which means once your system is in place, it can be taken care of with the push of a button. 

Recruitment Funnel

Section 2

Stage 1: Awareness and Attraction



The first stage of the recruiting funnel is about creating awareness for your business. In this stage, a potential job candidate is exposed to your employer brand. According to a LinkedIn Employer Branding report, 75% of candidates consider employee brand before applying for a job, and companies with a strong employer brand saw a 43% decrease in the cost per hire on average. 

  • What do employees say about your business online?
  • What differentiates your business from your competitors?
  • What do you have to offer employees?
  • What can employees expect when they come to work for you? 

The answers to all these questions make up your reputation, which impacts what type of candidates apply to work at your business. 

During the “awareness” stage, you have 2 types of job candidates: 

  1. Active job seekers who are ready to apply and jump straight into the job application
  2. Passive-looking job seekers who aren’t ready to apply, but will keep tabs on your company. Passive job seekers can be in this stage for a few months or years before they apply. 

It’s crucial that in this stage you conduct a check-up on your company’s brand and messaging: 

  • Ensure that the content you’re posting on social media and the information on your website is consistent with your company’s core values
  • Know what potential job seekers will encounter if they Google your company’s name, read news articles, or visit job review sites like Glassdoor

Just like in traditional marketing, it may take a number of touchpoints before a passive job seeker starts building trust and taking an interest in your company. This will strengthen your employer brand and signal to other job seekers your company is a great place to work, which will help with recruitment and retention. 


Now, we move on to attraction

There are 500 million — half a billion! — people on LinkedIn. No recruiter has time to search for their next hire by combing through candidate by candidate (even if they are tech savvy enough to write a script to aid the search). 

At the same time, modern job seekers use a number of digital channels to look for their next job. Pew Research found 52% of job seekers said they used 4 or more channels in their most recent job search. 

The solution?

Programmatic advertising.

Blog Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic job advertisements use technology to automatically upload your job description to targeted websites based on your pre-defined job requirements. You have the ability to target candidates who fit the profile you’re looking for and recruiters can cast a wide net to attract top candidates.

Once you have a job posting live, programmatic advertising uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to find the right job candidate based on browsing history and places your ad in front of them.

Programmatic job ads can help with ROI and align optimize your ad dollars so you spend on job ads that generate high-quality applicants.

Many of these platforms have access to hundreds of publishers, so your job listing will show up in search results, job boards, and niche websites you may have never thought to post. This will help you get more of the right candidates in your applicant pool, which means you can hire faster. 

You also have complete control of the budget. You’ll set a budget for the campaign where you can dictate what you want to spend for each click on a job ad or application you receive. When you have enough candidates or exhausted your budget, the platform will stop running the ads so you don’t pay for unnecessary impressions. 

And it works. Programmatic job ads can help with ROI and align optimize your ad dollars so you spend on job ads that generate high-quality applicants. On average, 6% of open job ads generate 50% of the applications you receive.

Section 3

How to get started with programmatic advertising

A job posting without a hiring manager’s input can be doomed from the start. But if you make an effort to understand what they’re looking for in their ideal candidate, and use this information to tailor your recruitment strategies, it’ll increase the odds of finding someone who is perfect for them through programmatic advertising.

If you are able to create a candidate profile, which is a list of qualities and attributes of your ideal candidate based on market research and current employee data, even better. This will help tailor your recruitment and advertising strategies. 

There are a few questions that you need to ask yourself to help you get started. You can reframe these questions to ask a potential vendor so you understand who will deliver the best value and results for your efforts. 

1. What will be your campaign strategy?

Optimization is key when it comes to creating the strongest ad. You want to continuously monitor and adjust postings accordingly. As you begin to use programmatic advertising, you may soon realize that you have a lot of data to wade through.

Don’t get overwhelmed, and choose one data point to adjust to see if it makes a difference. Also, wait until your job has generated a fair amount of clicks (say 75 to 100) before making these decisions. 

2. What is your budget?

Perhaps the biggest factor when deciding if you want to pursue programmatic advertising. How much do you want to spend per click for each campaign, and how many clicks do you think it would take to generate enough qualified applications?

For example, if it costs $1 to have someone click on your ad, and you think it would take 100 people clicking on an ad to generate 10 qualified applications, set your budget at $100. Anything less wouldn’t reach your hiring goal. 

3. Do you have data to help inform the target audience?

What makes programmatic advertising stand out is the ability to have advanced targeting options so you can target the right candidate. If you have additional data — like candidate personas or demographic insights (education level, interests, location, previous job titles) — you can feed that into the system to build results. 

4. What does success look like?

Having a defined set of success metrics will help you evaluate the value of programmatic advertising. Does success look like efficiency, where recruiters are not bogged down by posting jobs on various websites? Is it based on optimized conversions, where you set a key conversion rate for each job posting? Or brand lift, where you measure increased interest on your company’s career page or social media engagement? 

The Benefits of Application Tracking Systems:

  • Saves time by searching for keywords and screening out unqualified candidates
  • Saves money by streamlining hiring process
  • Empowers HR teams with one dashboard
  • Cost per hire is easily calculated, bottlenecks identified
99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS. So why shouldn’t your small business be able to use the same resources? 

Source: Jobscan

Section 4

Blog Applicant Tracking System

Stage 2: Application tracking and candidate pre-screening

Now you’ve gone through the first stage of the recruitment funnel, let’s move on to the application process. 

Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is one of the most popular automated recruiting tools that modern people teams use. It can keep track of applicant information and in turn help you manage your hiring process with ease. 

According to a 2019 study, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS. So why shouldn’t your small business be able to use the same resources? 

These automated systems keep thousands of resumes in one place, which helps recruiters stay organized and compliant. 

ATS sorts all the resumes from candidates applying for a position and then converts them to a standard format. Then, the software takes this format and checks it against the job description, highlighting the top candidates. When a recruiter or hiring manager is deciding who to interview, they already know who is most likely will be a good fit for the position. 

Candidate pre-screening automation helps recruiters rank job candidates based on their resumes, skillset, and other information identified in the application. This helps recruiters identify the candidates who best match the job description. This saves time for recruiters who have to sift through hundreds of resumes to find the top few candidates. 

After identifying top candidates, recruiters can use automation to conduct a pre-hire assessment to rank candidates based on their scores and to remove any unconscious biases from the process. 

Don’t waste time sending emails to multiple candidates

How much time have you wasted sending emails back and forth to schedule a simple interview? Too much. A 2020 survey of recruiters found 35% of respondents identified scheduling interviews as the most time-consuming aspect of recruitment. 67% of those respondents also said it took between 30 minutes and 2 hours to schedule a single interview. For 17%, it takes 2 to 5 hours. 

You can use ATS to automatically send emails or messages to candidates when they apply for a position and advance to the next round of screening or interviews. Automated emails can also let candidates know if they were eliminated from consideration, and thank them for their time.

Automated platforms allow users to pull in information from the applicant’s profile (like their name) and send them from your email address so they look personalized. This helps create a better experience for job candidates and helps your brand. 

You can also use automation software to send reminders to internal team members during the recruitment process. Program the software to remind the hiring manager to review a candidate’s resume, complete a task, or anything else that occurs during the recruitment process in your business. 

Section 5

How to get started with Applicant Tracking Systems

As you start to research what applicant tracking systems are right for your business, we suggest you make a list of what you want to achieve and what problems you hope an ATS system solves. 

Involve key stakeholders as you get started on the evaluation and demo process.

  • What capabilities do your hiring managers want?
  • Does the executive team need to approve the software?
  • Will IT need to conduct a security review? 

As you begin to evaluate software, make sure that it’s easy-to-use and there’s ample time to onboard and ramp up your HR team. There’s no point of purchasing an expensive piece of software if everyone reverts back to the old way. 

Use this list as you start to shop for vendors, and see if they have the right tools and solutions to meet your needs. 

Here are 10 questions to help guide you through the process: 

1. What is the application process like?

Simplicity is key. You’ll turn off potential candidates if they have to spend 30 minutes filling endless data fields about their previous job experience, education, and certifications. An ATS should make it easy.

How easy is it to customize the online application? Can you include your own data fields with simple yes/no answers or text fields? Is the application process mobile friendly? Do they offer a “one-click apply” with LinkedIn? 

2. How do the out-of-box templates look?

Can you customize them to match the branding of your company’s website? Can you personalize them? 

3. How does the ATS system score and filter out candidates?

There’s a variety of approaches your HR team can explore — such as pass/fail questions, finding relevant keywords listed in the resume, and enabling the hiring manager to score candidates.   

4. How does the ATS system replace email communications?

Is there the ability to automate emails to candidates? Is there a way to schedule interviews and sync up team calendars? 

5. Are there automated reminders?

You shouldn’t have to chase down colleagues to get feedback on a candidate’s profile, remind them to complete their task list, or sign an offer letter. 

6. Does the system include any marketing recruitment tools?

We covered programmatic advertising in the last section, but many ATS systems integrate with a programmatic advertising vendor or may include a basic marketing recruitment tool.

7. Is there an option to set up an employee referral program?

Your star employees may know other star workers. Does the ATS system have the ability to create an employee referral program where employees can recommend your company to other people? Is it incentives? 

8. Does the software integrate into your current HRIS, payroll, or other HR systems you have in place?

Are there plans for future integrations with software you already use? You don’t want to have a tech stack with programs that can’t communicate with each other. 

9. How does the ATS ensure compliance?

If you do business in California, ask how do they handle legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act. 

10. How easy is it to pull data and reports?

You want to be able to pull information quickly to make informed decisions. Does the ATS system offer real-time data analytics to measure the ROI from your referral channels, recruiter effectiveness, and time to hire reporting? 

Section 6

The Interview

Stage 3: The Interview

A 2020 survey by Yello found 60% of recruiters say that they regularly lose candidates before they’re able to schedule an interview. Two-thirds of a recruiter’s overall hiring time is spent on the interview process. 

At this stage, HR teams can utilize AI and automation to nurture candidates you want to interview. You can achieve this by sending automated emails about:

  • Your business’ company culture and work environment
  • What they can expect during the interview
  • What specifics they need to know for the role

But when it comes to the actual interview, you don’t want to remove the human element from this process.

Some tout the benefits about pre-recorded interviews (aka 1-way interviews) where candidates answer a series of questions without an interviewer present. Once the video is submitted, someone reviews them and invites the top candidates for a face-to-face interview. While this may seem efficient, proceed with caution. You don’t want to turn off potential hires by having an impersonal interview process. 

Ask the right questions

Asking the right interview questions and listening to what candidates reveal with their answers is a talent developed over time. But you don’t have the time to invest right now – you’ve got a job to fill!

It’s time to flip the script on interview questions. Just like selling to a customer, the interview process is a chance to “sell” to the candidate. You’re assessing them, obviously, but they’re also assessing you.

Yes, you need to know they have the basics to do the job, but your secondary role in the interview process is to assure they want the job if you make an offer. Take time to interject (frequently) all the pluses of working with your organization.

When you ask a candidate what they liked best about their last job, try to make a connection. Did they love working with customers? Mention your customers are loyal and enthusiastic – you’re proud to say they often call to tell you what a great job your staff does on their behalf. These similarities make it easier for a candidate to see themselves as a member of your team. If competing offers come in, they’ll be more attracted to the job where they see a comfortable fit.

Losing candidates at the offer stage is a recruiter’s worst nightmare. Moreover, making mistakes during this process could result in legal ramifications, litigation, lost talent, or bad employees. 
Section 7


Stage 4: Hiring

When it’s time to extend a job offer to a new candidate, the paperwork continues to grow. Use an automated workflow to generate offer letters, contracts, and hiring documents that are delivered to the candidate. 

Background checks 

Do you still pick up a phone and call the referrals you were given by a candidate? Most of the time these referrals will give you a glowing review — and it’s no wonder why. The candidate hand picked and gave you these references.

Instead, get an automated background checking tool that verifies credentials, looks up criminal records, and monitors social media to warn you of any issues before extending a job offer. Many of these tools take just a few minutes to run reports, and you can use them to monitor current employees to bring up any issues before they turn into a potential liability for your business. You will want to look for a platform that integrates into your ATS for ease of use. 

The offer letter 

You’ve found the perfect person for your job opening. It’s an exciting moment that often comes at the tail-end of the recruitment funnel. Losing candidates at the offer stage is a recruiter’s worst nightmare. Moreover, making mistakes during this process could result in legal ramifications, litigation, lost talent, or bad employees. 

Automation technology is a great way to make the offer letter process more streamlined. HR teams can enter information like candidate’s name, salary and bonus structure into pre-filled fields that automatically generate an offer letter. Once approved by stakeholders in your company, it is ready for e-signature from both parties before being sent electronically.

For more information on how to master the art of extending an offer, read this article.

Section 8

Guide to Hiring Advocacy

Stage 5: Advocacy

Congratulations! If you successfully followed the first 4 stages of the recruiting funnel, you have a new employee who understands your company culture, their new role, and is ready for the onboarding process (Spoiler alert: this can also be automated). 

Additionally, you have a new employee who is highly engaged and enthusiastic. At this point in their journey, you should ask your new employee to: 

  • Follow your company’s social media accounts
  • Share their own photos and video of their first day of work. Make this exciting for new hires by sending a care package if they are remote or decorating their workspace for the first day
  • Update your company website with information about your new hire, and any positive testimonials or experiences that they have had with the company 

Pro Tip: Use Zenefits to streamline your hiring and onboarding process.

Now that you’ve created a space at the top of your hiring process, you move on to onboarding your new hires smoothly so there are no surprises when they start working. Zenefits offers employee onboarding without all the paperwork.