The 4 Big Hiring Mistakes that Business Owners Make

Every business owner has a nightmare story to tell about hiring. Hiring mistakes that end up costing thousands of dollars in lost time and business.

Recruiting staff is difficult. Companies will spend weeks or months prospecting, collecting CVs, weeding out candidates, and finally inviting the best applications for an interview. After multiple interviews, the star candidate is chosen to join the team.

Three months later, and you realize that the right person is not turning out to be so right after all. After so many rounds of selection processes and interviews, the business owner wonders: why did we get it so wrong? Couldn’t the interviewers have seen the obvious red flags before hiring that candidate?

Companies often land with the wrong candidate because they have designed their selection process to look for the wrong things. Recruiters tend to fall for the candidate that is very good at marketing himself for the position. Whether this person is actually suitable for the job is a whole different question.

I want to talk about the big 4 mistakes that recruiters make that lead them to make hiring mistakes.

Mistake #1. They hire for the job description, not the expected outcome

Most job listings focus on the job description and desired traits:

  • We are looking for a motivated, hard-working team player (ugh!)
  • You should have three years of experience doing X
  • You should have a Computer Science degree

The problem with these listings is that they filter for specific traits and experience but not on the candidate’s ability to get the job done.

If you are hiring a new regional sales manager, don’t ask for 5 years of sales experience. Many people have decades of selling experience, but they are no more effective in selling than 10 years ago.

Instead, set specific goals. Write in the job listing the exact numerical targets this person will be expected to meet. Make it clear that this person should be able to answer how she plans to achieve these goals during the interview process.

By making it very clear from the outset that you are looking for results, the wafflers and the slick marketers will stay away. Instead, you might attract people that have an idea of how to reach those goals.

Mistake #2. They fall for the charmers

I have served on a few committees recruiting and interviewing people. Let me tell you when you invite people to come in for an interview; you will get all types coming through the door.

Some people know how to present themselves. They’ve read the books on body language. They know how to look you in the eye and shake your hand with just the right amount of tension. They know how to dress appropriately for the occasion.

Some years ago, this young lady walked in for an interview. She looked like the real deal. She was very well presented, knew how to speak confidently, and had this aura about her. At the end of the interview, we were 90% sure that she would be the candidate hired.

But then we invited her back for a 2nd interview.

She was given to complete a short assignment that was directly relevant to the job description. She bombed. Not only did she bomb, but at the end of the interview, she showed her resentment with the selection process.

She complained she had not expected this task. Her perfect composure fell apart. We realized that not only was she unfit for the job, but she was the type who would shift the blame on others when things went awry.

We ended up hiring a shy, soft-spoken guy who seemed socially awkward. But he aced the assignment, and we realized that he was the person we were looking for.

If they are unfit for the job, they will leave a trail of destruction behind.

Mistake #3. They select someone too similar to themselves

I am an introvert. I don’t like staying up late. I like hanging around people like myself, having deeper conversations, reading books, and asking many questions. (Maybe that why my blog is called the Entrepreneurial Thinker)

The problem with business owners is that they tend to be biased towards candidates with similar character traits to themselves. On one level, it makes sense:

You want to build a particular type of company culture, and you want similar people in that culture. However, you also need to hire for different types of skills and traits.

If everyone on your team is creative, maybe you need that down-to-earth numbers person to keep the company running smoothly.

If you suffer from shiny object syndrome, perhaps you need someone on your team who does not get excited with every new opportunity. A person that reminds you where you need to focus.

A sports team that wins championships needs good players in all positions. The same applies to your business. Nobody ever won the Superbowl with just a bunch of quarterbacks.

Mistake #4. They make the application procedure too easy

One of the biggest problems recruiters face is sifting through dozens (if not hundreds) of CVs just to pick a handful of the best candidates for an interview. In the end, they choose the people with the most presentable CVs or the people who can tailor their application to the job description

A mistake by many companies is that they make the application process far too easy. Applying for a job should never be as easy as send us an email with your CV to this email addressWhat if, instead, the application procedure was a bit tougher?

For example, a great way is to ask all applicants to submit their applications by clicking on a link and filling out an online form. The form should be short (don’t ask candidates to fill out every job they’ve held!), but you should include at least one open-ended question.

Get the candidate to answer in 500 words or less how they plan to meet their targets (see point 1 above of the importance of hiring for outcomes rather than experience)

If you are looking to hire an administrator that will be expected to repeat specific procedures in her job, give her a 5 step procedure for submitting her application. The people who are too lazy to follow instructions will not apply. And many of the other candidates will look for shortcuts and email their CVs instead.

The charmers mentioned above have zero patience in filling out a form or answering detailed questions.

As a final thought, I want to emphasize one of the key points of this article: the importance of filtering out the wrong candidates early in the process.

Setting up a complex application process might get fewer candidates to choose from, but they will be of much higher quality.

By recruiting for specific outcomes, you invite candidates that have achieved certain results in the past, rather than the candidates that jump from job to job always looking for better pay.

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