10 common hiring mistakes

One of the most important decisions any manager will make is whom you hire. I liken it to deciding whom you will marry; it’s a decision that ultimately can determine your future workplace success, satisfaction — or misery.

Many green managers simply don’t prepare or spend enough time on the hiring process.

They often succumb to the short-term pressures of “needing to get someone in the chair” right away versus taking the time to determine what skills, talents and abilities they need and then finding the “right fit.”

Seasoned managers, on the other hand, know the pain and cost firsthand of a bad hire (experts estimate that it can cost two to three times an employee’s salary to rehire someone).

10 common hiring mistakes

1. Not creating (and then prioritizing) a list of key requirements for the position. Consider what special experience, talents, strengths and abilities you need in a candidate and then identify what skills are important. Although you can teach skills to a new hire (like how to use a software program), core talents are natural gifts that a candidate either has or doesn’t. What characteristics are a good fit with your team and company culture? Likewise, identify what you don’t want. I recommend starting with the core qualities required for success, such as integrity, IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence), judgment, problem solving, passion, communication and people skills.

2. Not prescreening. Initial phone interviews can save managers time and headaches. It typically only takes a 30-minute phone interview to discover if the candidate has the knowledge and experience you need. If you delegate the prescreening task to HR (or someone else), determine your minimum criteria for passing the candidate on to your face-to-face interview.

3. Not considering a wide enough potential hiring pool. Best hiring practice means making a choice from several qualified candidates. If you didn’t find enough qualified candidates via your first cast, cast a wider net. Try recruiters, networking Web sites such as LinkedIn, Career Builder, Monster, Craigslist, etc., and industry/association and collegiate sites.

4. Not having others on your team interview the candidate. Have at least three people interview at least three qualified candidates.

5. Not checking references. Although certainly not foolproof (many companies will only offer dates of employment and job title), references offer you an opportunity to ask questions about the candidate related to these areas:

  • Key responsibilities in previous position
  • Reason for leaving (be sure to ask any candidate why he or she left the previous two jobs)
  • Important contributions to the position or company
  • Relationships with staff, attitude and outlook at work
  • Strengths and weaknesses — and most importantly, whether they would rehire the candidate

Coach’s tip: Ask candidates if you can talk to their last or current employer. If you can’t, this is a potential red flag.

6. Not challenging candidates to prove to you how they can think on their feet during the interview. Offer a potential difficult job scenario you anticipate and test them by asking them how they would respond. Consider giving them an on-the-spot writing assignment that can help you glean their creativity, judgment, communication and writing style.

7. Not asking “behavioral” questions during the interview. Here are some to ask:

  • Give me an example of when you … .
  • Describe how you managed or resolved a difficult situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you … (took initiative, went beyond what was expected of you, broke the rules, etc.).
  • Tell me about the largest project you worked on.

8. Not paying enough attention to their appearance or nonverbal cues. Dress, hygiene, tone/pace of voice, handshake and odd nervous habits can tell you a lot. (For example, slouched body posture or lack of eye contact can indicate a lack of confidence.)

9. Not giving the candidate opportunity to ask questions. Ideally, an interview should be split between you and the candidate talking. You can learn a lot by the questions they ask. (Do they ask basic questions they should know if they looked at the company’s Web site?) Take note if their questions demonstrate true interest in the nature of the work/team or are limited to benefits and vacations or their first promotional opportunity.

10. Settling when you can’t find the “right fit.” You are far better off to re-advertise and get the right person on board.

Lastly, factor in “chemistry” and your intuition. My experience (and that of my clients) tells me you can save yourself a lot of grief down the road by paying attention if your gut is screaming at you, “Something’s not right.”

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and coaching abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Managing New Hires

IT’S IMPORTANT FOR bosses to get off on the right foot with any new hire. When an employee’s orientation and training for a new job are done well, it can lead to improved employee job satisfaction, morale, performance and retention.

Hiring someone is the first step, but it’s what a boss does from that point forward that matters.

I cringe when I hear stories of new hires who arrive on their first day only to find their new boss and workplaces totally unprepared for them. For example, a receptionist looking perplexed at the new arrival, saying, “No one told me you were coming.” As a result, the new person’s first impression can range from, “I’m not important,” to, “Uh oh, this company doesn’t have its act together.” These initial judgments can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, which most companies can’t afford with new talent.

Here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot with a new hire.

Communicate. Send out an advance e-mail notice informing staff of the new hire’s arrival date and the requested “to do” actions. These include typical detail items such as setting up the new hire’s workplace station (computers, phones, etc.) and laying out expectations for communication. Offer some background information about the new hire so staff will be better prepared to offer a sincere, “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here.” The hiring manager should personally escort and enthusiastically introduce the new person to staff.

Coach’s tip: An intranet photo board listing names and positions can help new employees understand how the organization is structured and learn all those new faces.

Provide all new employees with a company orientation covering your unique workplace HR policies and procedures. Consider creating an FAQ, or “frequently asked questions,” intranet Web page as a resource. Include details such as casual Fridays. (You don’t want the new person embarrassed having shown up in a suit on a casual Friday.) Orientation should address employee basics, such as insurance and holidays. There are Web-based options available to provide a “hub” for accessing, navigating and completing required paperwork. Standardizing this can facilitate a smoother entry process.

Plan. Bosses and key staff should set aside designated time to sit with the new hire during the first week to answer questions and explain processes. Bosses particularly need to be available to support the new hire — avoid scheduling vacations or outside office commitments.

Train. New employee training should be provided by someone with the necessary people, training and specific job knowledge/experience to train effectively. I hear too many tales from frustrated employees who never received adequate training (and who inevitably don’t meet their employer’s expectations). The best trainers adapt to people’s preferred learning styles. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Some people learn best by doing (driving rather than hearing someone describe the process or reading it in a manual). Simply throwing a new hire a thick employee handbook rarely works.

Coach’s tip: Don’t let your naysayers or company downers conduct new employee training. The last thing you want is your new employee getting brainwashed by a disgruntled or unhappy staff member.

Keep it simple in the beginning. Flooding new employees with minute details or noncritical paperwork is a common mistake. Focus and explain the “big picture.” Remember, for a new hire, everything is new and overwhelming. Try to keep the first day more personal than paperwork or process driven. You want it to be a positive experience. Like the first day at school, it leaves a lasting impression.

Keep checking in often. Take him or her out to lunch the first day. Use this time to get to know the new employee better and ask how things are going. Encourage the employee to bounce questions, concerns and observations off you, and listen carefully. A simple, “How are you feeling?” can shed light on how you should proceed.

Don’t kid yourself thinking the “sink or swim” approach for a new hire will work. Be realistic with your expectations around how quickly he or she should be assimilating information, processes and procedures. Learning takes time and repetition. One standard rule of thumb — don’t expect a new hire to be fully functioning in a new role until at least three to six months.

Be specific describing responsibilities. Communicating clear expectations around behavior and tasks is important for any successful boss/employee relationship.

Have a discussion about preferred communication styles; yours as the boss and theirs. For example, are you OK with yelling over the cubicle wall or do you want them to schedule an appointment? Should they address issues as they come up or in regular one-on-one meetings? Do you prefer text, e-mail or IM-ing, and what level of detail do you desire? How will you work out differences?

Bosses should do everything in their power to set an expectation for open communication. The wisest bosses assure new people that their mistakes will be viewed as “learning opportunities.”

Retention Challenges

HALF OR MORE of new employees quit a new position within the first seven months. While there can be many reasons people quit, one reason often given is, “The job wasn’t what I expected.” Anyone who has experienced the time and expense required to hire someone, only to have them quit a short time later, knows the frustration and costs involved. If this is a recurring theme, it may be time to re-examine your hiring process.

Unnecessary turnover can be avoided by setting realistic expectations — think full disclosure — from the beginning to the end of the hiring process. Establishing clear, realistic expectations is critical to a successful boss-employee relationship — and retaining talent. In contrast, disgruntled employees and turnover are highly disruptive to workplace performance.

Research shows many applicants know little about the jobs they are applying for or have inaccurate perceptions of the job. In an effort to reduce turnover, some companies are developing “Realistic Job Previews,” or RJPs, in the form of videos such as, “A day in the life of a … caseworker.” Home Depot, for example, has made it easy for potential applicants to preview the realities of sales associate positions via an online video on its Web site. The video features sales associates describing their jobs, including pluses such as career advancement and in-depth knowledge of products to challenges such as heavy lifting and working in a hectic, fast-paced environment on your feet all day. Likewise, PetSmart shows potential job applicants a 10-minute video that it believes screens out about 15 percent of applicants.

Frankly, examples like these are rare. Most managers simply do not invest enough time clarifying expectations upfront.

Here are a few things those hiring can do:

  • Most employees dislike job surprises. During the hiring process, paint a realistic picture of what the person’s average workday would entail. This includes attention to details, including where the workspace is located (having a window or office versus a cubicle can matter a great deal to some), physical demands such as heavy lifting, required travel time and schedule flexibility. It’s also a good idea to discuss weekend/holiday requirements and the amount of autonomy and responsibility people will be given. Identify any pending changes, such as work space or office relocations. Your objective in hiring should be more about finding the right fit for the open position versus trying to sell the job.
  • Address and describe your company culture in the interview process. Cover areas including expected hours of work (including crunch times), policies regarding Internet computer use, expected attendance at after-hour events, schedule flexibility and whether the culture is conservative, laid back or high pressure.
  • Write accurate and complete job descriptions and update them regularly. Ask the person leaving what they would add or delete given their experience in the position.
  • During the interview process specifically explore with the candidate why and how he or she sees the position as a fit. Explore any areas of concern. As the hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to assess if this is the right person for the job.
  • Cover the pros and cons of the job. All jobs have challenges. You won’t be doing the candidate, yourself or your team any favors by sugarcoating reality, particularly around known challenges and unaddressed issues for the person who last held the position. If long hours, tedious, mundane computer work or limited supervision/support is a job reality, inform the candidate upfront (including how he or she will be rewarded). In the end, you want to weed out those who won’t last vs. those who will flourish.
  • Lastly, consider this happiness equation: Happiness = Expectations — Delivery, and yes in the employer/employee relationship this applies both ways! Employees are more likely to respect, trust and be loyal to those bosses who were upfront with them from the get-go.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com