Jeff Titus, president of Titus Built in Wilton, Conn., had two key positions to fill: office manager and production manager. He knew the importance of hiring right and was determined not to rush the process. But he also knew that if he followed the traditional route, he'd have to invest a lot of time to find the right person.

“Typically, we'd put an ad in the paper and receive tons of résumés. We'd sort through them and phone the top candidates,” Titus says. “That alone could take hours. Then, we'd invite those who did well on the telephone interview into the office for a one-on-one. This would take many more hours!”

ALL TOGETHER NOW A business coach suggested Titus try a process that could cut his time investment in half while still delivering top results. The remodeler tried it first for the office manager. “We placed an ad, sorted through résumés, and rejected all but 10. We didn't make any phone calls. Instead, I e-mailed candidates, inviting them to a group interview at our office. I attached a job description so they would have a clearer picture of what the job entailed.” Eight candidates agreed to come.

The interview was held on a weekday evening. Refreshments were available. Titus Built staff greeted candidates, gave each one a tour, and made them feel welcome. “We knew there would be some tension due to the format,” Titus says, “but it also gave us a chance to see the [candidates] under pressure.”

Titus told the group about the company's history, mission, core values, future goals, and the type of person who would fit the office manager position. Then, the company's finance manager discussed her role in the company and how she interacted with the office manager role. The candidates could ask questions.

After a five-minute break, the group reconvened. Each candidate explained why she was best for the job. “I was particularly careful not to rule out someone because she had been quiet up to that point,” Titus says.

As each person spoke, the Titus Built team could easily identify the top candidates. At the end of the discussion, attendees were thanked and told that they would be contacted within a few days.

“It turned out to be a great meeting where the candidates opened up and all got to hear the same information about the company and job description,” Titus says. “Even better, all of the candidates benefited from the questions that were presented and answered. They got to compare their skills and abilities with the others, and in doing so, received immediate feedback on their chances of getting the job. ”

Titus, his finance manger, and the business coach selected the top three candidates and invited each back for an in-depth interview. Titus offered the job to the person who was the original top choice, and she accepted.

“We are very happy with who we chose,” Titus says. “The added beauty was that it took 3 hours to set up and conduct this meeting. It would have taken 10 to 12 hours to individually interview all the candidates on the phone and then in person.”

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage; 301.490.5620.