As summer slowly morphs into fall, 26.9 percent of the population goes from worrying about sunburns to homework. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 79 million children and adults enrolled in school back in 2011 — which means, for a large proportion of the population, back-to-school season is upon us.

Going back to school, whether you’re a student or parent, can be expensive. Statistics pin back-to-school spending at somewhere in the $8.5 billion range. There are books to buy, new notebooks to fill with learning, and a new fall wardrobe to obtain so you don’t attend class in your pajamas. But back-to-school season isn’t only about finding the most fashionable backpack for your textbooks. In fact, recruiters and hiring managers can learn some valuable lessons from the preparation which goes into preparing for the fall school year to begin.

Here are the three lessons you can learn from the back-to-school season and apply to your hiring efforts (pay attention, there will be a test on this information!):

1) Make A List Of Supplies:

Before parents and students go shopping for new notebooks and pens, it’s always a good idea to make a list of the essentials. Going back to school usually involves getting all manner of supplies, from binders to graphing calculators. Students who go shopping without thinking about what they’ll need for their particular classes will probably have to make a return trip to the store.

Hiring is similar, only instead of making a return trip you might end up making the wrong hire. This isn’t really an option, especially with a bad hire potentially setting your company back $50,000 or more.

This is why it’s imperative to know exactly what you need when hiring for any position. Like Santa Claus, you need to make your list and check it twice when it comes to the specific skills and experience candidates need to possess.

Once you’ve made a list of essential skills and approved it with the important people on your team, you have to ensure the job description reflects the specific candidate you’re looking for. An unclear job description is likely to nab you the wrong candidate, but a good job description can help weed through the wrong people and deliver top talent.

2) Get A New Fall Wardrobe:

As summer ends, you need to put away those tank tops and pull out warmer attire. In 2012 alone, the average household spent about $133 on new fall wardrobes. Even though school supplies and electronics top the list of spending, it’s important for students to freshen up their wardrobes.

Similarly, what a candidate wears in the interview, whether it’s in-person or through online video, can tell you a lot about their attention to detail and level of professionalism. Candidates who show up for the interview in a suit or other professional attire are taking the interview seriously and understand the need for professional dress. Candidates who show up looking sloppy or unkempt have failed the bare minimum when it comes to interview presentation.

This is just as true for a video interview as for an in-person meeting. Many candidates mistake a video interview as a more informal occasion, when in fact it should be taken just as seriously as a sit-down interview. A candidate who stands up to grab a work portfolio only to reveal a suit jacket on top and pajama bottoms below is probably a candidate lacking the attention to detail your position requires.

3) Do Your Summer Reading:

Summer reading can help you pass lazy days on the beach or bore you to death on vacation. The reason for those long lists of summer books to read is simple: Students can lose up to three months of education over the summer if they don’t try to keep their learning fresh. This might account for why spending on books around back-to-school season totals approximately $2.4 billion.

You might not be in any danger of forgetting how to recruit and hire great people when the weather is warm, but it’s still important to do your homework. During the interview process, whether in a video interview or in-person sit down, make sure your candidate has all the skills and qualifications to jump right in and hit the ground running. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about their skill set and pose hypothetical questions for them to answer.

If you don’t have all the information about the specific workload of the position, ask someone in the relevant department to give you important questions to ask. Since a live video interview will record a candidate’s answers, you can share the interview with the manager who will deal directly with this future employee.

Doing your homework doesn’t end after the interview. You also need to check a candidate’s references and verify their employment history. References can tell you a good deal about what the candidate was like at a previous employer and how he or she lived up to the promise shown in their qualifications. On the negative side, 46 percent of job candidates will include at least one fib on their resume, so it’s important to make sure your candidate is truthful before they sign on the dotted line.

If you take these valuable lessons from back-to-school season and apply them to finding great candidates, you’ll ace the hiring process every time!

Author: Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, which combines a video job board and online interviewing platform to enrich interaction between job seekers and employers.

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