In response to ongoing economic uncertainty, firms across the country have dialed back their hiring even as the economy at large makes a nominal recovery. Meanwhile, unemployed individuals pounding the pavement for work have dramatically reduced their earning expectations to align with new economic realities. With so many qualified candidates willing to accept relatively low starting salaries, you’d think that this would be a perfect time to expand your business with some smart new hires. Unfortunately, the hiring process remains fraught with pitfalls. Avoid them with these simple recruiting tactics. 

Define the Position 

You can’t expect to make a smart hire if you don’t clearly articulate your expectations to potential employees. Before posting an open position, work with your human resources manager and the supervisor to whom your new hire will report to define these parameters. 

The process of defining job duties depends upon the job itself. If you’re creating a new position as your business expands, you’ll need to start from scratch. Determine whether your new hire will be working on a specific project with an existing employee, performing an entirely new function, or taking over certain duties from an overworked colleague. If you’re filling a vacancy, you’ll obviously have a better sense of what the job requires. However, you can still use the pre-hiring period to determine whether it remains relevant as-is or requires some tweaking. 

Target Your Recruiting Efforts 

Your hiring practices must reflect the fact that the workforce is far more segmented today than at any point in history. Post your jobs where you know that qualified candidates will see them. For instance, you shouldn’t waste your time posting a senior-management position on Craigs List. Likewise, you’ll get far more responses for highly-specialized IT jobs from industry-specific career sites like For positions that require professional qualifications or executive experience, you may be better off forgoing the online-classified strategy entirely and hiring a headhunting firm. 

Pre-Screen Your Applicants 

The weak job market virtually guarantees that your new position will attract more applicants than you can handle. As such, you’ll need to conduct a multi-step pre-screening process to weed out unqualified candidates. Work with your human resources manager and the vacant position’s direct superior to evaluate each candidate’s “paper” qualifications and determine which applications warrant a callback. 

Next, direct your human resources manager to conduct a phone interview with each qualified candidate. While nothing can replace an in-person interview, phone screens often reveal weaknesses that may not be apparent on paper. Chances are good that this step will further whittle down your list of qualified candidates. 

Trust But Verify 

The interview itself should be conducted by your hiring manager and resemble a conversation about your company’s culture, function and expectations. It may not be appropriate to put your interviewees on the hot seat. 

However, it is appropriate to ask questions about their qualifications and past experience. After the interview, compare your candidate’s responses to these questions with the results of a thorough background and reference check. 

Whether you need to make quick new hires to keep up with your business’s expansion or must fill an unexpected vacancy in short order, use these tips to ensure that you make the right choices. You may come to regret a hasty hiring decision. 

TJ Saunders writes for several higher ed blogs. Interested in management?  Several universities offer MBA degrees including Ohio U and University of North Carolina.