The Four Biggest Blunders In Hiring: Are You In Line?

By Kevin G. Armstrong

We have all heard the cost of a bad hire. Many of us have experienced it.

Depending on what you read, it’s anywhere from one to three years of that person’s salary, not to mention how it hurts your team.

No one is 100% successful in hiring. Why? Because hiring is not an art or a science. At the end of the day, humans are unpredictable. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lessen the chances of making a costly hiring mistake.

For starters, before extending your next job offer, test yourself against these four hiring blunders that business owners and management teams make over and over.

  1. Hiring the person you like.

This is by far the number one reason you have likely made a hiring mistake in the past.

I’m an extroverted, people-oriented person. Call me a “sales guy,” the type of person who is loud, disorganized, and loves hanging out with people. I’m hiring a senior accountant. Someone who is attentive to detail, organized, loves the magic of spreadsheets, and is “quiet.”

Picture me sitting beside another “sales” person on a five-hour flight. We hit it off and five hours go by like a snap of the fingers. Now picture me on the same flight next to an accountant who is trying to balance a statement on his laptop. I don’t even know how to start the conversation. If these same two people walk in to interview for my accounting position, who will I most likely choose?

I have just hired an eagle for a job where he is required to swim like a duck.

  1. Winging the interview.

Being the “sales guy,” I bring people in for interviews and have a “get to know you session.” I pose different questions to each candidate. This is a recipe for disaster.

Hiring is a process. There is a system, a procedure. To be fair to each applicant, I must put them all through the same process, a checklist that is designed for that particular position. I should ask the same questions, which are formulated based on the characteristics the company needs in line with its core values (soft skills), and the skills that are required to do the job (hard skills).

I should have someone else in the room asking the questions so that I can sit back, observe, and take notes.

  1. Not checking references.

In some states today, you aren’t allowed to!

Personally, I won’t hire a person unless I can talk to at least three past references. And there is only one question I need to ask: “If this person wanted to work for you again, would you hire him or her back?” All I am listening for is the length of the pause, a direct answer, or lack thereof.

If the reference responds without hesitation, “Absolutely. In fact, if you don’t hire her, tell her to call me,” I’m happy. But if the reference hesitates and says things like, “Well, we don’t have a position open right now,” or, “That’s a good question,” or, “We might, but the company has changed a lot since she worked here,” they have answered my question. The answer is no.

  1. Guessing if behavior traits fit the position based on “gut feel.”

I’ve been certified in doing behavior assessments for over two decades and I still make mistakes in my observations of people. For a sales person, you want an extroverted, people-oriented person. For a software developer, usually an introverted, process-oriented person. How do you determine if the behavior style fits the position?

There are great tools out there to help you to eliminate the guessing. They include Myers-Briggs, Kolbe, Colors, and Target Training Institute. People can mislead you in a short interview, but they can’t cheat the assessments.

 

The perceived urgency of filling a position should never be a reason to hire the “almost right” person—don’t ever fall into that trap. Hiring decisions based on fear never pay off in the long run.

As a manacoach—a person whose talent lies in getting things done efficiently and effectively through others—one of your key roles is to make sure that you are putting the right person in the right position. If you are coaching a hockey team, it doesn’t matter how good your forward line is if you hire a goalie who can’t successfully protect the net.

Every role in every organization is interdependent.

For more, watch our short video whiteboard on Hiring.


Kevin G. Armstrong is a speaker, business advisor, disruptor, and author of The Miracle Manager: Why True Leaders Rarely Make Great Managers with ForbesBooks. Learn more at kevingarmstrong.com.

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