How Resourceful Companies are Hiring Smart

Hiring Smart Companies in the U.S. are hiring, creating more than 1.6 million new jobs in the second half of 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor1. And as reported in our June 2014 survey, the American Express® Survey of Mid-Sized Companies, 81 percent of decision makers in U.S. mid-sized companies surveyed said they were planning to hire over the next six months, and 55 percent said they had more employees than they did a year before the survey2. Adding headcount can be a welcome sign of growth, but making the wrong hires can have consequences. So what can decision makers do to help them make smart decisions when hiring?

Communicate Your Company Culture

Before you think about your next hiring push, it's important to consider establishing a clearly defined company culture. While some businesses may rely on vague buzzwords and superficial perks, company culture is about more than just making sure employees are having fun at work or having leisurely activities in the break room. Company culture can be one of the most valuable assets a business can have. Consider how you define your culture, and how you can cultivate an environment that encourages and rewards high-performance employees.

Start by thinking about the components that make up a high-performance workplace. As the consultants at Grey Fox Associates Inc. suggest, "the function of work culture is to create a work environment that enables employees to be fully engaged, energized and highly productive3." And as Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones wrote in Harvard Business Review: "We contend that the employee-employer relationship is shifting in many industries from how much value can be extracted from workers to how much can be instilled in them. At heart, that’s what productivity improvement really means4.”

Consider asking yourself what steps you're taking to foster this kind of environment at your organization. If your company is public, are you offering stock options, which incentivize your employees to help the business succeed? Do your workers have flexible schedules and appropriate dress codes?

Think about eliminating cubicles and switching to an open office layout. The ability for team members to see and interact with each other more easily, may result in faster communication, and nurture a more collaborative work environment.

Check References Thoroughly

When it comes to making smart hires, checking references is a no-brainer. But do you check references yourself, or do you use a third party that specializes in reference checks? There are advantages to both, but the method you choose may impact the quality of your hires.

When checking references yourself, "speaking with [a] broad list of people should provide a rounded view of how a candidate interacts with people at different levels within and outside the organization," advises the Bridgespan Group6. When companies use third parties to check references, these "professional recruiters are able to gather information objectively that allows the organization to benchmark the candidate’s skills and personal qualities against the job description,5" according to Bridgespan Group. Third party recruiters may also possess the expertise and comfort in vetting a candidate.

If a new hire is reporting directly to you, staffing service Robert Half suggests checking their references yourself: "The hiring manager will have corollary questions that may not occur to others." Robert Half adds: "Checking references yourself is a great way to gain insight from a former supervisor on how to best manage the individual6."

Screen your Screening Process

An effective screening process doesn’t just save valuable hours of your day. It can help narrow down the field of candidates to a select few who are worthy of your time, and eliminate applicants who might not be a fit for your company's culture. But what’s a good way to do it?

Telephone screening can filter out some candidates to narrow down the field. According to an article by the Society for Human Resource Management there are four elements of an effective phone screen; that includes an introduction, the interviewer's questions, the candidate's questions, and the closing (which covers the next steps of the hiring process)7. Modern methods, such as camera-assisted interviews, may also help hiring managers visit with applicants without having to physically bring them onsite. Video conferencing tools give both parties the advantages of a virtual face-to-face meeting while maintaining scheduling flexibility.

Explore New Ways to Recruit

If you—or the firm you're working with—have been using the same hiring methods for years, you may be falling behind in the competition for top talent. Many companies are using innovative methods and tools to find the perfect candidate.

New recruitment sites are redefining the recruitment model by focusing on a very specific skill set. These sites can cut down on the number of unqualified applicants by focusing on job seekers with specific skill sets and requiring them to apply in order to be listed online. In addition, these sites also offer an increased level of transparency by revealing salary and benefits information to interested candidates before they interview.

There are creative ways to use social media to identify appropriate candidates by either direct communication or referral. For instance, a search on Twitter can show relevant users who are discussing the desired competencies. And at times, a LinkedIn profile can serve as a comprehensive resume, allowing you to review a candidate's blog articles, professional website, work samples, and even recommendations from clients and former colleagues. Consider exploring how you may be able to leverage social media to discover candidates who otherwise may not be aware of your job openings.

The Takeaway

As reported in the American Express Survey of Mid-Sized Companies, 55 percent of decision makers surveyed say they have more employees than they did one year ago8. Even if you’re not among them, it may still be worth examining your recruiting practices to determine if there’s room for improvement when adding your next employee. Hiring smart means articulating your company's objectives, defining your company's culture, reviewing your screening processes, and examining new avenues for recruitment.


1. Database, Tables, & Calculators by Subject: Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National),, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Total jobs created by month, January 2000-January 2014, December 2014.

2. The American Express® Survey of Mid-sized Companies was completed online among a sample of 339 financial decision makers in U.S. Mid-Size Companies, defined as having revenues of $5 million to $1 billion annually. Interviewing was conducted by Ebiquity Research between June 2 – 19, 2014.

3. Defining and Measuring Work Culture,, Grey Fox Associates Inc., As of January 2015.

4. Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Creating the Best Workplace on Earth, Harvard Business Review, May 2013.

5. The Reference Check: More Than a Formality, The Bridgespan Group, As of January 2015.

6. How to Check References, Robert Half, As of January 2015.

7. Kathryn Tyler, Be Well-Prepared to Pre-Screen Applicants by Telephone, Society for Human Resource Management, April 1, 2014.

8. 2014 American Express® Survey of Mid-sized Companies.