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.”
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