Aug. 31, 2021

The 4-Step Interview Process: How to Hire Right The First Time

The 4-Step Interview Process: How to Hire Right The First Time

This week, I’m giving you the gift of confidence in your next hire (especially if you’ve been burned in the past). This 4-system interview process and the intention behind it are going to set you up for success as you build your rockstar team.

You know it’s time to grow your rockstar team, but you’re just a tad overwhelmed by the whole attracting, interviewing, vetting, and the entire hiring interview process. (Okay, maybe more than a *tad*.)

Honestly, you’re worried you’ll go through all of the time, effort, and resources to bring someone on who seems like the perfect unicorn fit only to find out later that they were just a donkey with a fake, shiny horn.

I get it! I’ve been there, done that, and gotten several t-shirts. Thankfully, you can learn from my company’s valuable experience today on developing an effective interview process! 

So, what do you say? Are you ready to know our team’s secrets behind confidently hiring right the FIRST time? 


  • The one KEY thing that you have to look for in an applicant that will make or break any team member relationship down the road

  • Our tried and tested 4-Step Interview Process 

  • How to finally heal your relationship with hiring if you’ve been burned in the past 

If this episode about streamlining the interview process, or learning how to schedule an interview inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.





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© Copyright 2022 | The EffortLESS Life®


Courtney Elmer  0:11  

What's up, welcome back. This is the Systems Made Simple™ podcast and this is Episode 85 which is all about streamlining your interview process and learning how to schedule interviews. And today, I'm giving you the four-step interview process that we use here at The EffortLESS Life, to help you learn how to attract, and find and vet and hire right the first time, because we've made a lot of hiring mistakes.  Oh my goodness, if I were to sit here and walk you through all of the mistakes and lessons that we have learned from not having an effective interview process over the years, we would be here all day. But it is through those mistakes that we learned the right and the wrong way to hire. And today, I'm going to share our vetting process with you, which has helped us successfully hire many team members. 


Courtney Elmer  1:03  

But before I share our interview process, it's important for you to understand the intention behind it. Because this is not just some magic process that if you follow these four steps, voila, you will find the unicorn person you've been dreaming of and bring them onto your team. Even more than vetting people or scheduling interviews, or getting a feel for their vibe, or evaluating their expertise, the purpose of this interview process is to do one thing, and one thing only, it is to see if their values align with yours. Because if they don't, there's going to be an inevitable clash down the road, and it will not work out. If they do, that person will be a better fit. And the working relationship will be a healthy one in the long run. So there's four pieces to this interview process. There's the job posting application, there's the applicant review. There's a test, project, and review. And then there's the interview. So I'm going to walk you through each of these steps in a little bit more detail. 


Courtney Elmer  2:05  

This episode is part of our summer series of quick tips designed to help you get systems in place on the back end of your business to help you free up some of your time and energy and streamline some of your business processes. So you can spend more time in your zone of genius and make more forward progress. And do that more easily without feeling like you're climbing an uphill battle all the time. So this is one of the areas where a lot of our mastermind students struggle, a lot of people that we work with struggle when it comes to hiring because they don't even know where to begin, number one, number two, they've hired but they have been burned. And they're afraid of hiring again, and going through that time and energy and spending all that energy training someone only to have it not worked out. 


Courtney Elmer  2:52  

So this interview process is designed to help eliminate a lot of that. And to help you hopefully heal your relationship with hiring. So that if you have been burned, if you have gone down that road where you've hired and it hasn't worked out, and you are worried and fearful about spending your time and energy only to have it not work out again. Hopefully, what I'm going to give you here today is going to help you eliminate that. So let's start with step number one in this interview process, which is the actual job post an application itself.


Courtney Elmer  3:22  

This is where you're going to outline the details of the position. And any key metrics that that person is going to be responsible for, as well as your company's values, including all of these elements in the job posts. And the application itself is important because people will self-select, guess what, you don't have to wade through 100 applications of people to see if this person is a fit or not. People are going to weed themselves out because when they read that description, if they feel it's not a fit, if it's not aligned with them, they won't apply. And if they don't, don't worry about it, you're not trying to appeal to everyone here, you don't want to hire everyone. your intention is to find the best person for the job and hire them and no one else. And be clear here. Don't say you'll be responsible for day to day tasks. 


Courtney Elmer  4:14  

Say you will be responsible for managing and maintaining the founder’s schedule and confirming appointments as well as creating a weekly agenda with the founder. Be specific, what is it that you want them to do, don't just say check email, but be responsible for managing the general inbox and responding to incoming inquiries. So as specific as possible, and when you share your values, here's how you're going to do it. This is exactly what we put in our job descriptions. We say outright, that our expectation is that you will take the steps necessary to do what it is you say you are going to do and to be accountable for your actions. We understand that not every person is ready for this level of performance and we appreciate the honesty of those who decide that this is not the right place for them. 

On the other hand, you would make an ideal candidate to join our team if you are willing to commit to the following principles. And we outline those principles, and we clearly state our values. And we say if you can commit and live with these principles, then you are the type of person that will thrive here. And you will have the opportunity to make a great contribution, using your skills and your gifts and your talents. 


Courtney Elmer  5:24  

But if you feel that this level of engagement is not right for you, or if you're not willing to participate with us at this level, then we are not a good fit for you. And we outline that clearly from the onset. Because again, your intention here is to help people self-select, so that the cream rises to the top so to speak, so that you can identify the people who are best cut out for that position. This is also where you're going to want to include details on the position itself. Is it part time? Is it full time stated clearly, do not name a salary or a range here that will come later? How many hours a week? What is it that you're looking for? Then you're going to ask specific questions in the application, not the broad vague stuff like “Tell me your favorite job experience and why. But questions that will draw out their values, be their strengths, and see their weak spots, which are merely strengths waiting to be developed. And we ask questions like, what makes you different from others? Fill in the blank, right? If you're hiring a personal assistant, what makes you different from other personal assistants? What makes you different from other social media managers? What are your top strengths? What areas do you feel you have to improve, and other specific questions that are going to draw out their values, their strengths and their weak spots. This is all part of the interview process before you schedule interviews. 


Courtney Elmer  6:51  

The final piece here is you want to set a deadline and state that on the application. When are the applications going to be closing, set a date and stick to it. We love Google Forms for this because you can stop accepting responses and essentially close the application. And then once that application is closed, we move into the review interview process. So that's step two of this interview process, which is the applicant review. You're going to review the applicants who stand out to you.  Naturally, some of them will rise to the top, they will shine more than others will. 

And so we use a simple three-star rating system here. I want you to put three stars on the apps that really jumped out at you next to the ones that you like, but maybe don't feel as strongly about, and one next to the ones that don't stand out at all. In step three of this process, you're going to create and send what we call a test project to your three-star applicants, you'll save the two stars for now. And then you'll send the one-star an email and thank them for applying, but letting them know that you're moving forward with other candidates at this time. 


Courtney Elmer  7:49  

In our mastermind, we teach you what to say in these emails because we know that telling people no can be a tough thing for some people. But it is required if you want to run your company like a true visionary leader. So then we move into step three, which is the test project, this is the most critical piece of this whole interview process. This is where you're going to send your three-star applicants a test project. And this is a project that you've identified that will help you get to know these applicants better and more importantly, most importantly, to see how they solve problems. Are they an initiative taker? 


Or are they going to be the type who passes that responsibility back to you? When problems arise? Spoiler alert, you want an initiative taker, the test project answers will be very revealing, but you have to know how to craft the test project. Again, we teach you how to do this in the visionary leader incubator, the test project is going to be unique to the position. So for example, the test project we created for Customer Success champion was different from the project that we created for an executive online business assistant.


Courtney Elmer  8:53  

So you will send those three-star applicants to the test project. And then you will wait for their responses. Again, give them a deadline. Of course, if they don't submit within that deadline, roll them out. Because you want to look here to see if someone can manage their time? Can they get something back to you within a deadline that has been specified, and then you're going to review their answers and move on to step four. So based on the test project answers, you're going to choose who you want to set up an interview with at this point, you should have a pretty clear picture of who you want to have a conversation with to get a better sense of who they are and to see if you vibe there's something about talking with someone face to face. That gives you a sense of who that person truly is. 


Courtney Elmer  9:46  

Now, for the ones you want to interview, you're going to email them a time to schedule for the ones who have submitted a test project that don't meet the criteria. You are going to email them to let them know you're moving on with other applicants. Then you'll host the interviews. And during this interview, personally, I keep it really casual. A lot of times, I show up without makeup, there have been times where my son has walked into the room, he climbs up into my lap, he waves at the person that I'm interviewing. I'm not kidding. In the middle of an interview, there are times where he's having a meltdown in the background, because he doesn't want to take a nap or whatever it is. And that's okay. Because part of my values is family first. 


Courtney Elmer  10:29  

So not only is that person on the other end of that interview getting a sense for my family, and for getting a sense for what I value and me, they're also seeing that I'm real, that I'm down to earth. And if they don't like it, guess what they're going to self-select, and they will back out. I've never had that happen. Most people are relieved that they are coming to an interview that is just informal. It's a conversation, it's to get to know you, it's not formal like, okay, now, we're going to ask you this question. Now, I'm gonna ask you this question. You were on the spot, and you were being interrogated. It is not that kind of an interview. Now, if you choose to run your interviews that way, fine. No problem, there is nothing wrong with that. I'm just telling you how I do mine.


Courtney Elmer  11:08  

My only goal in that interview is to elicit their values. During the interview process, you're going to want to ask questions that elicit their values, this is the final check to see how their values align with yours. And the best advice that I could give you here is to go with your gut. Maybe that's not the PC choice, but my gut has never failed me once. In over 33 years, you will get a sense of who someone is when you have a conversation with them. You'll know if you click or not, no matter what you do, do not make an offer on the interview. 

Even if you have only one interview set up there's only one candidate, do not make an offer and do not mention salary. I mean, you do you, but this is me strongly recommended you wait to make the formal offer. There are a lot of reasons for this psychologically and ethically that we don't have time to go into today. But the bottom line is that you are the boss, you are in control of this process. And you have permission to take a night to sleep on it before making a decision. And from there, the decision interview process is simple. 


Courtney Elmer  12:21  

Either you're going to choose to make the right person a formal offer, we do this via email and have them sign either a contractor or an employee agreement based on their tax status. And then start the onboarding process and you will let other applicants know you have moved on at this point in the interview process. If you choose to move forward making an offer, you will email your two-star applicants and let them know at this point that you're moving on as well. Or if in the event that there are no candidates from the interview, who stood out to you, you will go back to your two-star applicants and repeat steps three and four with them the test project and the interview, you will decide if you want to move forward with one of them or not. 


Courtney Elmer  13:01  

If all else fails, and you wind up with no one who seems to be a right fit for the position. That's when you go back to the job post, make some tweaks and put it out there again, and you start the interview process over. Chances are, you're not going to have to do that the way this process is set up. I'm just letting you know that if on an off chance, that's what winds up happening. No big deal. You go back and you start from square one. Slow to hire, make that your mantra, there is no rush. I know you might feel desperate to get some help. I know you might feel a sense of urgency to get someone in the door. This is your company that you were building. 


Courtney Elmer  13:52  

We talked about creating your organizational structure--what is your vision for that? This is a very small process within a much greater scope within a much greater vision. This small process is going to help you plug the right players into the right places. There is no rush, because what's more important, making a quick hire, and then making the same mistakes you've made before by hiring quickly because you're desperate to get someone in the door and you spend your time training them. And you spend your time working with them only to find out that they really weren't a right fit which your gut had already told you from the beginning. But you overrode your gut. You went with it anyway because you were desperate for help. 


Courtney Elmer  14:41  

Don't make that mistake again. Be slow to hire. The right person is out there. There is no mistake about it. They are out there. You owe it to yourself and to them to take the time to find them. Now by the end of this whole interview process, you should have notified all applicants as a courtesy never leave anyone hanging, that's just not cool. We have templates for all of these emails, as well as what questions to ask in the interview and on the application, as well as legal templates for your employment contracts, and what to say and those all inside of our incubator program. 

We make this interview process so easy, not to mention all the other business systems that we teach you in there, this is just one of them. So keep an eye out for when applications open up again for that. Because if this is something you want to learn, or if this is something you need help with, when it comes to hiring, and building your organization, we can absolutely help you with that. And we would love to help you with that. This stuff lights me up helping you spend more time in your zone of genius, is my zone of genius. 


Courtney Elmer  15:43  

So again, I'm doing my best to keep these episodes short. I know this is supposed to be a summer series of quick tips. But I have so much to share with you. And next week, I'm going to give you three of our slack hacks for better team communication. Because whether you have one person on your team right now, whether you have five people or whether you haven't started hiring yet, it's important to know what types of channels of communication to put in place to enhance communication on your team. So you know what is happening when and you always have a finger on the pulse and can trust that things are running like they're supposed to.


Courtney Elmer  16:18  

So I'm going to share all that and more next week right here on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast. Tell your friends and make sure you're following the show. If you have a minute, 60 seconds, scroll down in your app, tap the five stars, leave us a review on how this show has impacted you in your life and in business. And I will see you right back here next week. Until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®.