Your company's growing and you're faced, again, with the prospect of sifting through resumes, interviewing, and hiring. With luck, you find someone. Then he or she has to be trained. And if you have the misfortune of choosing the wrong person, you've got to somehow live through the nightmare of letting that person go. Then you have to start the process over.

But let's look at this in another way. Hiring shouldn't be a chore; it's an opportunity—a time to define the job as well as the attitude and values we want and to find the very best fit. The best fit makes a crucial difference. Every time we hire we have an opportunity to add a new superstar to our team.

Good, Better, Best
The Journal of Applied Psychology once published an analysis of 80 productivity studies by Hunter, Schmidt, and Judasch ( Journal of Applied Psychology, 1990, volume 75, number 1). The study compared productivity gains attained by hiring the top 1% of workers in any category with those in which the bottom 1% were hired. In a low complexity job, such as fast food, the top 1% were three times more productive. In a medium complexity job, say an accountant or factory team leader, the top 1% were 12 times more effective. In a high complexity job, an executive or salesperson, for example, the differential was "infinite," according to the study.

Let's hope you wouldn't hire that bottom 1%. But this study also looked at the productivity of the top 1% vs. the mean average. A top worker in a low complexity job will be 52% more productive than the average worker. In a medium complexity job, the top employee will beat the average by 85%. In a highly complex job, the difference is 127%.

All Systems Go
Does it pay to hold out for the best? Definitely. But to identify them, you need a hiring system:

Have a plan. Develop a recruitment plan that works to bring you enough qualified candidates. Hiring has become a marketing activity for companies. Begin to build a stable of ads, fliers, and referral programs that work for you. To get the best, you need to talk benefits and have a user-friendly system.

Screen the candidates. Put a quick and friendly screening system in place that weeds out the unqualified.

Interview correctly. Decide how you'll interview. One West Coast company, starved for carpenters and helpers, is experimenting by having candidates do an initial 15 minute field interview with their current carpenters. Those who pass are interviewed by the production manager. Good candidates get jobs fast, so be sure your system isn't too cumbersome.

Write it down. Have an up-to-date job description to distribute. Use it to discuss how the position relates to the skills and past experience of the interviewee. Hiring experts emphasize using carefully composed interview questions to explore how the candidate's values and attitude fit the company culture.

Get outside help. Your accountant could interview your bookkeeper candidate, for example.

Use personality profiles. Try to match the final one or two candidates' innate behaviors with those needed for the job. Don't hire if the match isn't there. This step alone will improve your hiring by 30% to 50%.

Check them out. Run a drug test, as well as a driving and criminal record check before hiring. Lots of services do these inexpensively. Be clear that these will be required. Creatively check references. Would the former employer rehire?

If you can build your company as you go and add with each hire, eventually everything will be in place. Soon you'll have a system for hiring those top 10%--or 5%--or 1%--of highly productive folks. A good hiring system is a journey, not a destination.