Hiring a qualified, 5-star employee is one of the most important decisions a business owner will ever make. It goes without saying: a mediocre employee will likely produce mediocre results. But a top-notch hire can lift up company morale, productivity and teamwork, as well as company profits.

The key to hiring high-performance employees starts with the methods that you use to locate and interview candidates. Here are 5 all-star steps to help you hire all-star employees:

1. Before posting the job, know the role you are hiring for — inside and out.

Take the time to think about the must-have technical and “soft skills” that the role requires. Poll your management team and employees to get their perspective. From the list of requirements that they generate, identify the overlap. Which qualities do you see repeated across the various lists? Which qualities stand out as important ones that you may have overlooked? This brainstorming exercise will give you a rich list of both obvious and hidden job requirements, from education and experience to industry-specific knowledge and personality type.

2. In your candidate search, rely on the people you trust and respect most.

Now that you have a good idea of what you’re looking for in a candidate, get a wide range of people involved in the search — but not just any random people. Of all the people you know, whose judgment do you value and respect the most? You’ll want to ask that person.

The best candidates are usually not looking for a job. They may be people employed by one of your customers or your competitors. One of your current employees or a business associate may personally know a candidate who has the talents necessary for the job. Ask your entire team and valued friends if they know a candidate personally. A referral from a friend, a business partner or a present employee whose judgment you trust is one of the best ways to find an all-star hire. Other search options include:

  • Hiring a search firm. A search firm or a reputable employment agency will take care of the candidate search and preliminary screening for you.
  • Hiring a temporary employee from an agency. It’s quite common to “try before you buy” — to hire a resource on a temporary basis to determine whether they are the right fit. If the temp is the right person for the job, you have the option to hire them on a permanent basis (which will require paying a fee to the temp agency). At the very least, a temporary employee can help keep your business running smoothly while you continue your search for an all-star candidate.
  • Choose advertising outlets, such as online job boards, well-known trade magazines or national publications, that work best for you.
  • Hiring from within. Have you carefully and thoroughly considered your own employees as a source? Examine the background and work history of existing resources who might qualify. You may realize that one of them has all or the majority of the qualities that you are looking for.

3. In your interviewing process, get a wide range of people involved.

Interview teams should consist of more than just the business owner. Since perspectives differ, it is especially important to incorporate a range of your people in the interviewing process. They may be able to identify an aspect — good or bad — of a candidate that you had overlooked.

Since most employees will have to work with multiple departments, involve some interviewers from outside the team for which the candidate is being interviewed. Again, an “outsider” may be able to detect something that an “insider” did not. Only by having an appropriate number and range of objective interviewers can great hiring decisions be made.

4. Enable the candidate to open up.

Distractions can affect the accuracy of candidate interviews. You want to find a quiet and private location to put the candidate at ease, encouraging them to open up about goals, experiences and any reservations they may have about the position. Evaluating technical skills, previous experience and work history is easy; uncovering the kind of person they are is more difficult. The kind of person they are will help you determine whether they will match your company’s culture, adapt easily to change and get along with others. Making the candidate feel comfortable during the interview is one of the best ways to expose their most authentic personality traits.

5. Reference Checks

A reference check is a must-have before you hire. Ask your candidate to provide three references from current or previous workplaces, preferably in industries relevant to yours. These references should include a manager or supervisor they reported to or one that they worked closely with and who can attest to the candidate’s capabilities.

Knowing the steps to finding and hiring the best talent is as important as knowing how to innovate, market your business and manage cash flow. Whatever you do, don’t sell your company short. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring less than the best just because you need to fill the empty slot. The right candidate will arrive, but until then, leave those unfilled spots open. An employee who doesn’t fit your requirements, company culture and expectations, will only drag your company down.