As a consumer, we’ve all been the victim of a business’s bad hiring decision. Whether it’s been the surly nurse in a busy emergency room, the uninterested adolescent at the electronics outlet or the hostile customer support technician at the wrong end of a help line, we’ve experienced what can happen when businesses don’t take their hiring practices seriously.

More importantly, we’ve made critical purchasing decisions as a result of our bad experiences. Don’t let your company fall prey to poor or lackadaisical hiring decisions.

Recruiting, hiring and retaining the people who are going to make your business succeed is just as important as producing a great product or service.

Successful hiring processes require just as much thought, strategy and dedication as developing your business plan, mission and vision. You cannot afford to think of employees as mere seat-fillers or just leave your hiring strategy to random classified ads and careless interviews. Consider these topics when formulating your hiring and team development strategies.

Do you really need to hire a full-time employee at the moment?

Is there enough work to warrant a long-term, full-time position or could the job best be done using an independent contractor, part-time person or someone from a temp agency? Also, consider setting up an internship program whereby college students gain valuable business experience and college credit, often instead of any pay.

What exactly is this person going to do?

Clearly communicating your expectations, the duties of the position, and performance expectations will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

While many small businesses accustomed to hiring family members and acquaintances use informal hiring practices, taking a somewhat more formal approach can prevent major legal battles, employee dissatisfaction and overall confusion about who is responsible for what.

Do you know your legal responsibilities, obligations and liabilities?

These can change all the time. Having a two- or three-person team can put you in a different legal category than a company with 20 employees. There are labor and tax laws to consider, as well as disability and discrimination laws. Undocumented hiring policies, procedures and practices can leave you at a real disadvantage in any kind of legal suit.

What’s the best way to attract the right people to your organisation?

It’s not enough to just find a body to fill a position. You need to think about the kinds of characteristics your ideal team member will have (optimism, team-orientation, dedication, etc.). Where are you likely to find people that have those qualities?

Does the position description convey the qualities you’re looking for?

Have you defined the amount and type of experience you expect a candidate to have? Have you adequately conveyed why a person would want to work for your company? Answering these questions will help you find the right candidate.

What information do you want to gather from candidates to best make a decision?

There’s no reason to simply limit yourself to an application or resume. Be imaginative. In your ad you can leave the phone number to a voicemail. When candidates call, the message instructs them to leave a message about why s/he is the right candidate for the job, or what s/he looks for in an employer, or three of their strengths. People who are caught off guard can hang up and call back after they have had time to think of their answer. This can be an initial way of weeding out candidates who are not enthusiastic, energetic or dedicated.

How will you conduct your interview?

Remember candidates who know what they have to offer will be assessing you as much as you’re assessing them. It’s important to come to an interview prepared and knowing what you want to ask them. This is another opportunity to be creative with your hiring strategy. You may ask them to prepare a brief presentation before an interview, run through an exercise or relate a story that reflects their greatest strengths.

What and how will you check on a candidate’s background?

This is as much about finding the right candidate as well as avoiding lawsuits. You may not want to limit yourself to educational credentials and references. If you’re hiring someone to work with children, you’ll want to do a criminal background check. Likewise, if you are hiring someone to operate a vehicle, you’d want to check his/her driving record.