It takes me longer to hire someone for my staff than it does to design a home. My policy: Make the applicant work to get the job.

Yes, that takes time. But my success rate with this 11-step system is 90 percent, and when I’ve failed to follow it, I’ve regretted it every time.

Here’s my hiring process:
1. Define the job you’re trying to fill, very specifically. Write an eight- to 10-sentence description. Ask your staff for help. I have made the mistake of starting to recruit for a position, only to discover later that staff had other, better ideas for a job description.

2. Ask friends, subcontractors, suppliers and employees to recommend candidates so you get some perspective about the applicant from people you trust. I find 10 percent of my new hires that way.

3. Post help-wanted ads in the newspaper, on and on craigslist. Include as much of your eight- to 10-sentence job description as possible, and reveal your non-negotiables. For example, if the candidate must have three years of experience and his own tools, say so. Don’t give your phone number in the ad.

4. Weed out resumes with spelling errors, long stretches of unemployment, lack of experience or the wrong kind of experience for the job. Look for education and training that could help them succeed.

5. E-mail candidates in your “yes” pile with questions about why they want the job, what their primary skills and strengths are, and what salary range they’re looking for. Only candidates who are truly interested will bother to respond. Follow up with those who reply by asking a few more questions and, if their answers satisfy you, offer a telephone interview.

6. Before that interview, I ask each candidate to complete a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory, which indicates whether his or her personality type will fit the job. For a sales or office manager job, for instance, I’m looking for an extrovert, but introverted architects and bookkeepers do fine working in the office on their own.

7. During the phone interview, pinpoint whether the candidate has the critical skills needed for the specific job. I ask carpenters about their tools and press bookkeepers about how well they know construction accounting.

8. From there, I select candidates for a 15-minute face-to-face interview to determine if whose  personality will fit best with my staff’s. I ask them about their experience and why those chose their career paths, their schools and their prior jobs.

9. If that goes well, I invite a couple of staff members to join us for five minutes. This generates further evidence of a good or poor fit.

10. Next, staff members interview the remaining few candidates while I’m out of the room. Interviewees will reveal things to colleagues that they would never say to a future boss. Once, a candidate answered his phone during a staff interview to talk about his boat. He didn’t get the job.

11. Finally, I talk more specifically about money with the candidate and make an offer, contingent on the results of a drug test and background check. I don’t let the new hire start work until I see those results.

Most builders say they don’t have time for a process like this. But I figure it costs $3,000 to $10,000 to hire the wrong person, once you consider training and having to start the process over if  a quick hire doesn’t work out.

If you would like me to send you an example of my “help wanted” ads, e-mail your request to

Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is a third-generation builder, designer, and remodeler, and the owner of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport, La. A version of this story appeared in our sister brand, Remodeling.