Enable Others to Achieve Results with Joy

How to avoid the 10 most common hiring mistakes

Even if you only hire one person every couple of years in your operation, each hiring decision is crucial. If you think about it, the fewer people you have in your operation, the more important each one is.

A bad hiring decision can have terrible effects on your organization’s productivity, its financial success, and even the health of its executives (you!). Let’s take a look at traps to avoid when hiring those vitally important members of your staff.

The 10 Most Common Hiring Mistakes

  1. 1. Not fully understanding the job to be filled. Before you even announce an opening, have several people review the job through two lenses.

    A) Defining the most critical results the job exists to produce.

    B) Identifying the personality characteristics that a successful person doing the job should have (e.g., patience or drive, preference to work constantly with other people or in isolation, etc.)

  2. 2. Seeking “chemistry” with a potential new hire. Getting a good feeling from a job candidate usually means that he or she reminds you of you. Your personal work style may not be the most appropriate for the job. Hire the kind of person best suited to the work, not the one you like best.
  3. 3. Giving too much weight to prior experience. Most people, studies consistently show, are in jobs for which they really aren’t well suited and really don’t like. If you hire someone based on their having done the same or a similar job before, you may just condemn them (and you) to repeat the error. You’ll end up with a less than fully productive (and possibly resentful) employee. Hire people who want to do the job you have open.  You can train specific technical skills to a capable, willing person.
  4. 4. Using psychological tests incorrectly. Some instruments—when used for their intended purposes—may give you helpful insights into a candidate. But many hiring managers use poorly designed assessments that are not validated, or they use valid assessments that are not good indicators of a candidate’s future performance in a specific job. Either way, you’re getting bad or misleading data that can cause you to reject a candidate who very well might be suited to the job, or hire a candidate who is not.
  5. 5. Preparing poorly for interviews. For decades we’ve known that most employment interviews are nearly worthless indicators of an applicant’s future job performance. But virtually everyone still uses them. Used correctly, a structured job interview—where you list questions that target specific job skills or personality characteristics applicable to job performance can be very effective in making a good match. The key is to know what you are looking for, and to ask all interviewees the same core questions that draw out the information you truly need to make a good hiring decision.
  6. 6. Talking too much during the interview. Resist the temptation that most managers fall prey to: trying to sell the applicant on two ideas: working for your business, and taking the job for what you can afford to pay. Instead of trying to persuade, ask questions. Then listen. Later, offer to answer the candidate’s questions and explain more about the opportunity at your organization. But first know whether you are seriously interested in the candidate. Otherwise, don’t waste your time selling somebody on a job you don’t want to offer them.
  7. 7. Taking inadequate notes during interviews. If you interview more than one person for a job, inevitably, those candidates all start to blur. Take detailed notes during your interviews. Try to record a candidate’s exact words as much as possible. This is not as hard as it might seem if you are working with a structured interview as recommended above.
  8. 8. Mistaking candidate claims for reality. Most job seekers are much better at the interview game than the manager interviewing them. They may have been coached, rehearsed, video recorded, and counseled on how to give perfect-sounding answers in an interview. How have you been prepared for your part in this critical task?

    Don’t ask for a candidate’s general opinions or philosophies about a job. Ask specific questions that reveal a person’s exact experience and life patterns. The more specific details you get about actual experiences, the better you can project how a person will act day-to-day in your operation. Remember: hypothetical questions yield hypothetical answers which may have no bearing at all on what a hew hire will actually do on the job.On the other hand, detailed anecdotes about what a candidate did in the past may well foreshadow what they are likely to do in your future.

  9. 9. Making the hiring decision alone. Have several people at various levels and in different areas of your company interview your final candidates—especially the people in the functional area you are hiring for. They may well see things you didn’t. The more perspectives you have for a candidate, the more informed your ultimate hiring decision.
  10. 10. Setting false expectations for the job or your business. The number one reason new hires don’t work out is that they say they were led to believe that either the new job or your organization was something that it was not. Before hiring anyone, invite your finalists to spend at least a day in the space where they’d actually work. Pay them as an independent contractor if you need to.Seeing the job’s real environment removes all mystery about the work; it helps the candidate to have a clear idea of what he or she is about to undertake. With that informed perspective, new hires can start with a full commitment, and vastly increase the likelihood that they’ll make the long-term contribution that you’re hoping they will.

To a great extent, you bet your career on every person you hire. An effective hire lessens your managerial burdens considerably. There likely is no better use of your time, or greater point of leadership leverage, than getting the hiring right for your team.

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