It doesn’t matter if you’re in a major market or based in a rural area: Attracting and retaining talent is likely a challenge in this unprecedented environment. Many agency owners are stressing over hiring new employees, losing key players, and having to do massive layoffs — all while remote.

The coronavirus pandemic forced agencies around the globe to go fully remote whether they were ready to or not. Unfortunately, most fell into the latter category: Only 16% of HR professionals say they were ready to go 100% digital.

In times of uncertainty, it’s imperative to control what you can, and when it comes to hiring, you still hold the cards. By shoring up your hiring process now, you’ll strengthen your talent recruitment and onboarding processes in a way that sets you and future employees up for success.

Don’t Go Too Easy on New Employees

To strengthen your hiring process, make sure you’re hiring for fit. That means assessing your candidates’ compatibility with your company in terms of culture, work ethic, and role. To accurately evaluate a candidate’s qualifications, you have to put them on the spot and see how they react. I recommend putting up a few “hoops” for a candidate to jump through during the interview process:

Hoop #1: Do They Really Want the Job?

Post-pandemic, it’s important to understand whether your candidate just wants a job or this job. Ask the prospect about their agency experience. Why do they want to work on the agency side versus the client side? And why for your agency, specifically? Agency life can be very demanding. Feel out how devoted the candidate is and whether this person has what it takes (in both hard and soft skills) to be successful.

A good way to test a candidate’s commitment to the role is to give them some sort of assessment or test, which we’ll get to in the next section. Their willingness to take the time to do “work” for you for free is a good indication of their level of commitment.

Hoop #2: Do They Have the Right Skill Set?

It’s important that you know how closely aligned a candidate’s résumé skills are to his or her actual abilities. Create some sort of test to ascertain the candidate’s skill level. Perhaps it’s a writing test (e.g., “Develop a press release and pitch for the following …”) or a coding test (e.g., “Point out the five mistakes in the following code …”). Your clients are depending on your agency to provide very specific expertise, so it’s vital that the candidate can deliver.

When you issue the test, be strict on the turnaround time frame and any parameters specified for the submission (length, formatting, specific programs used, etc.). Those nuances will show you how detail-oriented the candidate is and demonstrate how well they manage their time.

Hoop #3: Are They a Good Culture Fit?

You’ll be working with this new hire on the daily. Are they the type of person you want to be around 40+ hours a week? Will they get along with your existing employees and clients?

Use a consistent assessment for new hires, such as StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, or Enneagram. Alternately, you could use a hybrid of your own. Test your current employees and evaluate how everyone’s type works together. For example, perhaps you have a “Woo” person (StrengthsFinder) interviewing for a creative role, but they’d be better suited to your account and new business development team. That’s important information for you to know up front.

Hiring is never an easy process, especially during the post-coronavirus economic disruption. But it is worth taking the time to really push candidates through these hoops. Even if it takes you a few extra months now to find the right fit, it will be more than worth it years down the road to have the right person in the role. Today’s shortcuts will only cost you emotionally, mentally, and financially in the future.

It’s important for your agency to be strategic when hiring employees, but it’s also critical to know how you’re positioning your agency to get hired. Download our report and make sure you’re ready to jump through any client-side hoops: How Clients in the US and Abroad Choose their Agencies.