Avoid these Common Hiring Mistakes: 10 Ways to Hire the Wrong Person Every Time--guaranteed!

In my 20-plus years of teaching and consulting with business owners and hiring managers about how to "hire tough so they can manage easy," I've discovered there are 10 commonplace mistakes almost everyone makes that are guaranteed to result in bad hiring decisions and waste untold time, money, and effort. Thank God I've never had a client who's made all these mistakes at once, but it really only takes two or three to sabotage your efforts to hire great people. Are you guilty of any of the following?

  1. Going shopping without a list. When you don't have a list, you buy things you don't need and forget some of the things you do. Then you have to go back to the store. The same is true in hiring. Many employers recruit applicants with no clear picture of the specific mental and physical capacities, attitudes, personality traits, and skills needed to be successful on the job. When they discover the person they hired with all the right skills also has an attitude problem, they have to go "back to the store" again. (This mistake is a major cause of employee turnover.)
  2. Using the "post and pray" technique. You need someone now so you post a job or run an ad or put a "Now Hiring" on the marquee and pray someone who can start tomorrow will respond.
  3. Fishing in the wrong pond. Your recruiting ads attract people who are looking for a job--any job--rather than all the great people who are already employed and looking for a better job. You don't ask your employees, vendors, business networks, family, and friends if they know of anyone who would be a good fit for the job. (Referrals are the number-one best source of new employees.)
  4. Making it difficult to get into your hiring system. Most of the best people have jobs and don't have time to fill out a lengthy application or update their resume on the chance they may be invited to interview. You also exclude many excellent candidates by having unreasonable requirements. Is a high school diploma or a college degree really necessary? If you only want to hire someone with five or more years of experience, will you get that... or will you be getting one year of experience five times over?
  5. Relying on gut instinct. If you "like" an applicant, you look for reasons to hire them; and if you don't like them, you look for reasons not to hire them. This way you get to be right (but you also often don't hire the right person for the job).
  6. Failing to use tools. You don't pre-screen applicants by phone to ensure they meet your minimum hiring requirements (reliable transportation, willing to work the hours needed for what you are willing to pay, etc.). You don't test them for the needed capacities, attitudes, personality traits, and skills. Skipping the use of these is a guaranteed way to spend wasted time in interviews with unsuitable applicants.
  7. Failing to plan for the interview. (1) You haven't reviewed the documents and test results collected to date, or planned what questions to ask. So you just start talking about what you do know, i.e., what the right person for the job will be able to do and how they'll do it. Then the applicant uses this information to answer your questions in just the right way. (2) You interview off the resume or application. Don't you realize that when you do this you're just asking the applicant to confirm the information they've already provided and what they've provided is only what they want you to know?
  8. Not asking the tough questions. Hey, the applicant is clean-cut and pleasant so you assume you don't have to ask about criminal activities, drug use, values, past performance, and dependability.
  9. Not having a unique hiring proposition. Do you know the top 10 reasons your clients do business with you? Well, you need to know at least five compelling reasons someone should want to work for you. Great pay? Flexible schedules? Family friendly? While you're looking for a great person, great people are looking for a great employer, so you need to sell them on the job and your organization.
  10. Not checking references. You just assume that none of these people will tell you anything useful. A failure to check references, no matter what you do or don't learn, leaves you wide open for a negligent hiring lawsuit.

I hope you've been doing a mental self-audit of your own hiring practices as you read through this compendium of common missteps. If you found yourself not guilty on any of these counts, congratulations, you're one of the few. If you found yourself guilty on two or more counts, what you will have to do to remedy the situation will be far less costly and time-consuming than yet another bad hire.

Mel Kleiman is a speaker, consultant, and author on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees and their managers. He is one of only 650 speakers worldwide to have earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation and is president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems and tools for recruiting, selection, and retention. He has written five books, including The 5 Firsts: A Simple System To Onboard and Engage Top Talent, and he publishes a regular blog. Find him at 713-771-4401 or at mkleiman@humetrics.com, www.Humetrics.com, and www.KleimanHR.com.

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