Hiring can be difficult, but securing top talent is necessary for business growth. Employing an applicant who underperforms can cost a company anywhere from four to 27 times the position’s salary, according to “Topgrading” author Bradford D. Smart.

So, how can your company guarantee it lands an “A player”?

Create a structured hiring process. Begin with a clearly defined job profile that outlines:

• The exact tasks of the role.

• The employee qualities necessary to complete the tasks.

• The experience instrumental to succeed in the role.

If you put together a job profile that is too vague, it’s hard to determine whether a candidate will excel in the role.

Once your opening has applicants coming in, set up multiple screening processes to save time and resources. Ask applicants to complete aptitude tests geared to job tasks, and/or conduct phone interviews to assess applicants’ general qualifications before taking on in-person interviews.

When it does come time for the in-person interview, here are my six most helpful tips:

• Use two interviewers. When two people conduct the interview, you’re more likely to catch an applicant’s inconsistencies. And most importantly, later when you’re deliberating applicants, you’ll have two sets of notes to reference (yes, always take notes during the interview).

• Connect. Applicants will be anxious, so begin with some quick, lower-stakes chitchat. This will ease tension and allow an applicant to open up. Outside of learning the capabilities of my applicant, I want to see how he will fit in at my company. This early conversation usually does that.

• Inform the applicant early and often that you will be checking references. This will ensure an applicant honestly responds to your questions. Most importantly, it will weed out underperformers.

• Ask questions that demand stories. Situational questions reveal context. They allow you to assess the candidate’s abilities and the type of tasks he completed for previous employers. They show how an applicant tackled problems and the processes he used to find the solution.

• Follow up on answers. Top talent will take note of an interviewer’s preparation, especially if you do not follow up on the specifics of the applicant’s work history. Don’t be afraid to scrutinize results.

• Thoroughly answer questions. Interviews are not one-way streets. If an applicant is truly an “A player,” he will use the interview to assess his fit with the company nearly as much as you assess him. Top talent typically inquires about the struggles previously faced by the previous worker, so be prepared to speak about the role in depth.

The interview process can be lengthy, but if you put in the attention it demands, your new hire will take your company to the next level.

This story was originally published in The Tennessean.