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How to Hire Great Candidates First Time - Look for These 3 Things.

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

In this article, I’d like to talk about why hiring the right person is more critical than ever and the steps you can take to get it right first time. 

Great hiring managers recognise the consequences of a bad hire and what it will mean for their business.

Consequences of a Bad Hire

In today’s economy, you cannot afford to lose valuable time and money because of a bad hire. Yet, last year, more than 8 in 10 HR decision-makers admitted their organisation had made bad recruitment decisions. 

A new colleague starts, and very soon you see a pattern, they miss sales targets or deadlines, create conflict with colleagues or only do the bare minimum.

In fact, 39% of employers realise they’ve made a bad hire within two weeks of the person starting. Many of us have been there before, you hire what looks like a great candidate either on impulse or based on a great recommendation. 

1. Loss of productivity and low morale

A bad hire sucks energy and it’s infectious. It’s difficult for a team to accommodate a poor performer.

Furthermore, if the new hire cannot keep up, other team members may start to assume the duties. This could negatively impact the team’s performance, productivity and morale.

2. Managing the person out of the business takes time and energy

Restarting the hiring process is time consuming. It takes away valuable energy that you would much rather put into something else.

And even if you don’t fire the individual or manage them out, they will often leave, creating the need to replace them.

3. Replacing a bad hire is expensive

The cost can range from £30,000 to £130,000 depending on the seniority.

Essentially you are back to square one with a position still to fill, CVs to look through, spending time and money on advertising and interviewing and so on.

Assessing Fit

I’ve spent many years developing the best strategies to help clients hire right the first time. Assessing ‘fit’ and suitability for the role happens not only during the interview, but through the entire recruiting process. 

At HVO Search we help with this from start to finish. In essence, you must look beyond the CV and you need to adjust your interview technique.  

In many cases the standard way is to look for experience and skills on a CV that match what you are looking for. But what often gets ignored are the intangibles.

Let's look at the 3 key attributes you need to search for.

1. Experience & Qualifications

These are the easiest one to find, the information is readily available in a CV or a LinkedIn profile (and even a google search). 

The theory is that if a candidate has been successful in a similar role before, they should be able to replicate this success in your business. However, writing people off because they haven’t worked with a similar business or role may mean you dismiss a great candidate too soon.

Likewise having fantastic qualifications (Undergraduate degree, Masters, MBA) is great, but they are only one way to determine a candidate’s ability.

2. Skills & Abilities

These can be assessed during a telephone or face-to-face interview. But a standard interview will only get you so far. 

You will need to adjust your technique by asking behavioural questions. How did they demonstrate that leadership, technical or creative ability in the past? What did they actually do?  


Be prepared to probe deeper and make sure you ask the same questions to each candidate. 

3. Core Values

But focusing on just experience & skills is not enough. Skills can be learnt and experience can be gained.

Employers often dismiss great candidates because they didn’t go to the same university or haven’t worked for a global brand name What they forget to do, is determine the candidates’ mindset, attitude and motivation.

These qualities are much more intangible. And it’s these intangible qualities that ultimately add value.  

So let’s look at what they are - 

Mindset, Attitude & Motivation

A mindset is a way of thinking which includes core values and beliefs. These rarely change over time.

An attitude is the way a person applies their beliefs and values. These are often expressed through words and actions (behaviour) and can be either positive and negative.

Motivation is the ability to channel the positive attitude to sustained action to accomplish a goal.

How this helps employee performance

Having shared values is critical to how a candidate will adjust to your business. When an individual shares your values, their performance improves.

They have a clearer understanding of how they can contribute to what the company is trying to achieve.

How this helps employee engagement

Shared values also improve employee engagement. 

When an employee is engaged in their work they are more motivated and more focused. Their job satisfaction and morale are higher. Disengaged employees are likely to put in less effort and are either unproductive draining your resources or want to leave your organisation (though it’s probably best that they do).

Finding the right fit

To determine attitude pay attention to an individual’s choice of language. 

When talking about how they handled conflict with their team or boss, what words do they use? Are they positive or negative?

When describing how they handled a challenging situation, does their vocabulary highlight their motivation to succeed, did they remain positive and resilient?

I believe that when clients talk about finding the right ‘fit’, it’s not actually about replicating themselves, but about finding people who share their core values and who will be motivated by their work environment.

But it’s not easy to assess this without falling victim to inbuilt biases. 


Finding great candidates with the the right experience, skill-set AND core values first time is backbreaking, but not impossible.

Next time when you are allocating your time and budget on your new hire, think about the cost of not hiring the right person first time. 

And don’t ignore mindset, attitude and motivation when looking for ‘the one'. This way you won’t need to start another expensive and time-consuming hiring campaign.

In order for us to hire effectively at HVO Search, we use our rigorous 5 step process which we've developed over many years and apply Behavioural Science techniques to go even further.

If you need some help with hiring or want to chat about hiring right first time - schedule a call with me

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