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Top Hiring Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Hiring a candidate who isn’t a good fit can be both demoralizing for the team and can end up costing you upwards of $20,000 per year.  Between time spent recruiting, interviewing, training, and ramping-up for a position, you need to be smart and careful in your hiring decisions.  Hiring mistakes costing you money is one of the biggest reasons why small businesses fail yearly.

Making an incorrect hire happens to almost everyone and occurs at nearly every company.  It can be difficult to screen out prospective employees with only an interview.  That’s why we always recommend going the extra mile and doing your due diligence before extending a job offer.

Not Contacting References

Sometimes, a prospective employee will come in for an interview and will absolutely knock it out of the park.  They have great interviewing skills, great experience in relevant fields and companies, are well-spoken and personable, and feel like they would just be a natural fit. You may even be tempted to offer them the position right there!

But before you make that offer, take a step back and contact their references.  Do their references provide glowing reviews and praise?  Would they hire the candidate again?

Also, when speaking with references, you need to make sure that the reference you are speaking to is in fact whom they say they are.  You can do this by asking a few innocuous questions about the industry you’re both in.  If they stutter or are unsure of what you mean, this could be a red flag.

Do your due diligence and actually confirm that the prospective candidate is as good as they seem

Not Providing Enough Detail On The Job Description

 I’ve consulted with too many companies where they will post a job opening without updating the roles and responsibilities or will simply copy-and-paste a similar job posting. Not only will this get flagged on many career sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, but it won’t fully convey your needs with a new hire.

You’re essentially setting up a prospective candidate to fail, with no-one to blame but yourself. Hiring is one of the most important aspects of any business, you need to take a step back and ensure that the job description is accurate and detailed.

Not Expanding Your Candidate Pool

Qualified candidates are everywhere, you just need to know where to look.  If you’ve posted on a select few job boards previously, you should look to expand that pool and begin posting on additional sites and boards. There are a plethora of free and paid job posting boards, each with their own pros-and-cons.  But casting a wide net should help you to be more visible to potential job seekers and candidates.  This hiring mistakes costs you money because you are only looking through a small subset of the overall pool.  You may end up missing out on a perfect candidate by not expanding your search.

Screening Candidates Individually

 I’ve talked about, and quite often demonized, the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) on here a bit.  But from an employer’s perspective, there are instances where they can be useful towards increasing overall hiring efficiencies. Rather than slog through over 100 individual resumes, a properly implemented and integrated applicant tracking system can reduce and extract the best candidates from that list in mere seconds.

Now, I do not believe the applicant tracking system is the holy grail of recruiting.  It still has ways to go and needs additional refining and fine-tuning.  I would advise any company, large or small, to utilize the applicant tracking system with a bit of caution.  Complete an audit of the system once you get resumes flowing in and confirm if what the system is saying is correct.

You should take a look at resumes that were rejected by the applicant tracking system and see why that decision was made.  Would you make the same decision? You’ll want to run these tests frequently and often if you want to find the best candidate.

Believing That Resumes Are Infallible

Oh boy, this one is going to get me in trouble with some of my readers. But let’s state the obvious, sometime, some people lie on their resumes.  GASP.

We all know it, it doesn’t even need to be a big lie, but many people will have white lies or slight exaggerations in their resumes.  And while that slight exaggeration may not really matter, there are people that lie more egregiously.

Rather than taking resumes at their face value, you should ask more in-depth questions during the interview to really assess a candidate’s knowledge.  Asking pointed, specific questions will help you to determine whether or not a candidate is knowledgeable on a certain topic or not.

Loving The Interviewee and Not Their Knowledge

As resumes aren’t infallible, so too are interviewers.  Many interviewees practice their interviewing skills in order to impress the interviewers, even if their skills aren’t up to par with the job description and needs of the company.

To avoid any biases, any potential candidate should be interviewed by multiple people on the team.  This will allow for multiple opinions on a candidate and ensure that no bias by a single interviewer clouds the decision to extend an offer.

Not Meeting Market Compensation

 A company can and will only attract candidates of a certain caliber dependent on overall compensation.  The best candidates, those who know their worth and what they bring to the team, will be choosier on what they want from a potential employer.

If you are not meeting or exceeding the compensation offered by the competition and the market, then you will have an extremely difficult time attracting the highest caliber candidates.  This hiring mistakes costs you money in the long-term.  By not compensating an employee at market rates, you may get an employee who isn’t as skilled or knowledgeable.

Not Selling Your Full Offerings

While you may not be able to fully meet the market compensation, so long as you are within a certain standard-deviation, you should still be able to attract high caliber clients.

From there, the onus is on you to sell your offerings.  This means offering ‘soft’ benefits. Letting potential candidates know that you’re flexible on working from home, that you provide weekly lunches or breakfast, that they have flexibility with their hours, can provide enough justification to certain candidates.

Sugarcoating The Job and The Challenges Associated With The Job

 A critical error that many employers make is sugarcoating the job and the challenges associated with the job.  By not being more honest and transparent on what the job entails, employers set potential employees up for failure and resentment.

Being honest and letting potential candidates understand what challenges they will face with the job will allow for candidates to prepare themselves for those challenges.

Not Considering Internal Candidates

Perhaps one of the most demoralizing things an employer can do is to hire an external candidate over a qualified internal candidate.

Internal candidates have shown their loyalty, they understand the business, and have built relationships within the company that will prove useful in difficult situations. By not considering internal candidates, employers risk alienating employees and can see an increase in turnover.

Not Holding Phone Screens

Employers whom opt not to hold phone screens or interviews risk bringing in candidates who are not fully qualified or knowledgeable.  By holding a quick phone screen, you can easily narrow the in-person interview pool, saving you time and helping you to choose the correct and best candidate.

Not Considering Employee Referrals

 Employers should be listening to their employees and what better way to show that you’re listening than by taking the time to meet with employee referrals?

Employees want to make a good impression to their managers and will only refer candidates they believe would be perfect for the job.  Give these referrals a chance and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Not Involving Enough People

A crucial mistake that many people make is not including the team in their hiring decision.  You should have any potential candidate meet with multiple people on the team, including both senior and junior members.

Take the feedback from all members of your team and make the best decision from there.

Not Having An Interview Script

 Not having an interview script or set of questions ready to ask can hurt your ability to ask the right questions.  By freestyling the interview, you run into the potential of losing track of the interview and not asking the necessary questions.

Rather, you should have an interview script ready and abide by the format you set.

Talking Too Much

An interview is a chance for a potential candidate to show off their skills and their knowledge.  You want to ask pointed questions, but don’t want to steal the show by speaking over or past the candidate.

Rather, ask a question and allow the interviewee to show their skills and answer.

Looking For Another You

I’ve known employers who look for themselves in all candidates they interview and are then frustrated when they fail to find one.  You have to remember, you are looking for a diverse candidate, who will bring a different perspective to the team.

Don’t focus on someone who is like you, but rather, look for someone who will be able to resolve the challenges presented and push themselves and the team forward.

Not Performing Background Checks

You need to be certain that a potential candidate you’re bringing into the office will not only mesh well with the team, but that they will behave in a professional and respectful manner.

By running a background check, you are ensuring the safety and security of the team in place and setting the company up for success.

Not Checking Social Media

Let’s face it, everyone is on some kind of social media platform.  By doing a quick search of the candidate, you can verify that they are a professional, respectful individual whom you would want to be associated with your team and company.

Rushing To Hire

Sometimes, you may feel like you’re drowning in work and that an additional set of hands would help you.  However, finding and training the correct person takes time.  By rushing into a new hire, you may be placing more work on yourself.

Rather, take the time to prioritize what is already on your to-do list.  Focus on whittling down the list and then ask yourself if you need a new hire.  If so, do so judiciously and make an offer only to the best candidate.

Alienating The Candidate

A crucial mistake in the hiring process can occur from the employer’s end.  By asking sterile questions and not engaging with the potential candidate, you risk alienating some of the best candidates.

Rather than asking a set of repetitive, conforming questions, try to ask more intimate, personal questions which allow the candidate to show off their skills and how they overcame problems at their last employer.

Discussing Compensation From The Get-Go

We get it, at the end of the day, most candidates are looking for a job that compensates them fairly.  However, by focusing on compensation from the get-go, you only reinforce the transactional nature of the job.

Rather, try to save that conversation for later in the hiring process.  Your first few conversations should revolve around capability and what both the employer and employee can provide.

Hiring For The Short-Term

When hiring an employee, you should look for the candidate with a long-term vision who is passionate about what you offer.  Hiring someone who is looking for a quick paycheck or for some additional experience only hurts your team and company.

Ask potential candidate why they really want the position and how they will effect change if hired.  Really look into their intentions and try to hire someone who is willing to be there through the thick and thin.

Not Addressing Complaints and Frustrations

A recent study indicates that over 90% of candidates look at employer profiles on Glassdoor and will opt to not apply to positions with low company ratings.

While you can’t control the ratings or everyone’s experience at a company, you should address those concerns online and be an active member on your Glassdoor profile.

By showing a diplomatic and non-aggressive tone, you allay the fears of future candidates and help to attract additional talent.

Hiring Out of Favor

We get it, your best friends wife’s sister is amazing and would make a great addition to your team. While you know it’s probably not a good idea, you still go along with it.  Maybe it’s guilt, maybe you don’t know how to say no.

Whatever it may be, you cannot let personal favors or family relations cloud your judgement.  You are running a business, and this means you need to learn how to say no, no matter how difficult.

Ignoring Cultural Fit

Many times, you will look to make a hire when it is needed and not allow yourself the time to hire the right candidate.  As-such, you may hire someone who does not fit in culturally with your team.

This can be a deathblow to your team as they will have to adjust their own preferences and comfortability around the new employee.  You must not ignore your own team’s current culture and you must look to hire someone that can fit within that culture.

Hiring to Save Money

You may know that this particular candidate isn’t exactly the best candidate.  But you also know that you can offer nearly a fifth less to this candidate and save some money with this hire.

But you really do get what you pay for.  By going with a less qualified candidate to save money, you may end up costing you and your team countless hours, delays, and errors which all add up.

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