Whether hiring at an executive level or for staff on the frontlines, there are a few simple guidelines that can help you avoid common interviewing and hiring mistakes. Here are some common blunders to avoid:
1. “Hey Marty – Come Meet This Guy in Room 3!”
Randomly asking a colleague down the hall to spend some time with a potential candidate is largely pointless if that colleague doesn’t fully understand the critical decision criteria agreed upon by the core hiring group.
Before launching a search, decide upfront which stakeholders are critical to the hiring decision, then meet as a group to get crystal clear on which factors will define the ideal candidate. That way everyone can take results from their respective candidate interviews and benchmark the candidate using a common scorecard. Consistency is key here.
Also, determine how much each stakeholder’s vote will weigh come time for the final hiring decision. If you plan to utilize a large hiring committee, but you also value consensus, don’t be surprised when 12 committee members can’t agree and you find yourself staring at an empty office nine months down the road.
2. “Yeah, But Can You Play the Tuba?”
I once worked with a technology organization that hired large volumes of sales representatives on an ongoing basis. This company had agreed on the basic definition of an ideal candidate, but still individual hiring managers often inserted personal biases that were largely unimportant. Things like…
- “Not enough energy!”
- “Too much energy!”
- “She didn’t play sports in school and I only like people who played sports because it means they are determined and know how to win!”
Don’t get me wrong, gregariousness and extra-curricular activities can factor into the assessment of an ideal fit, especially culturally, but in this example what should have mattered in greater measure were…
- A candidate’s track record in sales.
- Her growth potential.
- Her ability to contribute in a positive way to the organization.
If reference checking, customer testimonials and income verification can substantiate that a job candidate has a stellar record of surpassing sales quotas, it matters very little whether they played soccer in high school.
3. “Great Handshake – You’re Hired!”
Much has been made of studies suggesting that employers form fixed opinions of candidates within a few minutes of meeting in the lobby… but it’s important for hiring managers to be aware of this bias and change their behaviour accordingly.
Hiring guru and “Hire With Your Head” author Lou Adler wisely recommends waiting at least 30 minutes before allowing yourself to be swayed either way. It’s tougher than it sounds, but this is sage advice. Similarly, Adler recommends that if you find yourself swooning over a candidate early on, step up the pressure and be a little bit harder on that candidate. Meanwhile, ease up on those who don’t necessarily rub you the right way out of the gate.
4. “He Looks Like a ‘Job Jumper’!”
It’s 2015. Time to quit reading dates on a resume and immediately writing someone off as “jumpy” without some further investigation. This is especially true if you have any interest in hiring millennials or if you looking for an “entrepreneurial spirit”. Millennials value stability but they will change jobs in a heartbeat if they no longer feel that their work is meaningful or challenging, or if their current organization can’t offer growth potential. And not unlike Gen-Xers and Boomers before them, money and the ability to innovate count for a lot.
Many truly entrepreneurial-minded candidates simply like to build something and then move on. So if a little bit of transience scares you, either question whether an entrepreneur is really what you want, or make sure what you are offering will be enough to allow someone to continue to innovate, learn, and earn.
A couple of short-term stays on the resume matter a lot less than a candidate’s record of growth and accomplishment and that the story from one move to the next represents good career decision making, increased responsibility, and strong trajectory.
As a headhunter I deal with hiring every day, and I’ve found these 4 hiring mistakes to be among the most common (and costly). So next time you’re ready to hire, remember to have a hiring plan (and stick to it), focus on the candidate traits that really matter, and do your best to counteract your own biases.
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