What are businesses doing to ensure that they hire the right people — and then keep them?

I think the hiring process is broken.

Over the last few years, we’ve let resume scrapers, personality tests, and other technology take too big a role in processing resumes, interviewing candidates and ultimately hiring new people. Successful candidates today write their resumes and cover letters to keywords and search terms to hopefully help them float to the top of the hundreds of resumes they are up against to fill a single job opening.

I know the technology goal is to help human resources and hiring managers weed out applicants who wouldn’t be good fits in their organizations. But, although it may have streamlined the process of determining who should move forward through the interview process, I think in many instances it’s pushed the wrong people through.

I’ve been at Lendio since this past spring. I’m here because a former colleague knew my capabilities and was in a position to tell me about a possible role for me when I asked about it. He was also in a position to speak for me when it came time to make a decision about whether or not to hire me. Although I had a very successful track record where I was, when I start to think about making this change, I can’t help but wonder if I would have received any serious consideration had I been an unknown commodity.

I have other friends who haven’t been so lucky.

Although this isn’t intended to be an advertisement for my friend Geoff Crane, there will likely be some who think it is. I’m putting his name to the story because it’s real and it’s happening right now.

Geoff is a project management friend I’ve known and worked with virtually over the last several years. Not too long ago, he determined he needed to finish his education to better his career, so he went back to school. Since graduating, however, the pickings have been pretty slim — despite having a long, successful career of 22-plus years and a recent degree. So not long ago he offered a $25,000 finder's fee to anyone who could help him find a job. Again, I’m not interested in writing about the finder’s fee, nor is this an advertisement to get him a job (though I’m sure he’d talk to you if you’re interested). But it’s a great example of how a broken system has forced a highly skilled and talented professional to go to drastic lengths to find a job.

Unfortunately, despite getting some airtime on his local TV station, a couple of articles in the news and some interesting PR, he’s still looking for a job.

I recently read an article written by Evernote CEO Phil Libin on how his company hires and keeps the best talent. Although most of it is real common sense (and doesn’t rely on a resume scraper), I think it bears repeating here. Here’s the list (with my comments after each tip):

Recommendations from close friends (or just hiring close friends) is the best way to start

I currently work with a number of colleagues and friends I’ve worked with before. Many of them where here before I was. They knew what I was capable of, and knew how we would work together. The logic of this is pretty straightforward. Evernote offers what Libin describes as a “generous bonus” if they end up hiring someone referred by an employee.

Hire people smarter than you (or at least smarter about their particular job than you are)

Several years ago, when I was leading the creative team at Response (a local ad agency), we made it a point to seek out the right talent. If we didn’t find a good fit, we wouldn’t hire. We thought it was more important to hire the right people and wouldn’t settle for the best person of those who had applied. It often meant waiting, but as a result, we got to work with some incredibly talented people.

Make them write

Although I had never thought of this, I intend to do this in the future. Libin argues that you can fake it in person, but your real personality is revealed pretty quickly when asked to write a few paragraphs. This is great advice.

Make sure they talk sense

The ability to communicate and collaborate is so important, this should be a no-brainer. Regardless of the technical prowess a potential candidate might have, if they can’t communicate with you or their colleagues, they aren’t going to be the right fit. It reminds me of my high school trigonometry teacher, he was brilliant — he just wasn’t very good at sharing his brilliance with me. I soon abandoned math never to return (thank heavens for calculators).

Be generous with benefits that help the team get stuff done

Assume your people want to do a good job and give them the tools they’ll need to do it. This might sometimes mean buying lunch, being flexible with work schedules or any number of other things. You know your people and what they need to get the job done.

Don’t hire anyone you’re not willing to also fire

This is a tough one. Nobody likes to be the guy to drop the bomb and tell somebody they’re fired — particularly if you’ve hired a close friend as suggested in No. 1. But sometimes one bad player can quickly ruin morale, end collaboration, destroy productivity and even cripple an organization. Most people don’t show up to work with a "Today I wanna suck" attitude, but if they aren’t willing or are unable to learn the skills they need to make a good fit, it’s better to act swiftly. Much like ripping off a Band-Aid, you know it’s gonna hurt for a little while. But it’s much better than suffering through a bad hire that’s going to have long-term negative consequences.

My grandmother used to say, “Well begun is half done.” I think that’s true of hiring people too. Hire the right people and you’re half done. Hire the wrong people and you’re in trouble. What are you doing to ensure that you hire the right people — and then keep them?

As a Main Street business evangelist and marketing veteran with more than 25 years in the trenches, Ty Kiisel writes about leading people and small-business issues for Lendio (