17 Hiring Mistakes That Are All Too Common

Hiring is something that every company out there needs to do. There’s no single method that works for everybody, but there are some things can be done very wrong. Here are a bunch of those mistakes.
17 Hiring Mistakes
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1. Using Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a great organizational tool. They’re pretty easy to use, and everybody is familiar with them. However, they’re awful when it comes to keeping track of people. 

Spreadsheets are two dimensional, but people are not. For example, spreadsheets would be fine if all you needed to keep track of was your job candidate’s name and birthday. But you need to keep track of names, contact info, notes on resumes, how interviews went, desired salary, personality, work experience, culture fit, where they’re at in the hiring process, and who knows what else!

If all of your candidate and employee information is in spreadsheets, you’ll spend more time trying to navigate your pages rather than actually using the information.

An X/Y axis is not the best way to keep track of this stuff. You want to be able to see your candidates in a snapshot, not on a line. Find some HR software that can help you with this. It’ll help you make better hiring decisions and get you out of the headache of too many spreadsheets.

Not only are spreadsheets cumbersome, but they’re not secure. Companies hold sensitive and valuable employee information like social security numbers, banking info, and salaries. Keep this information safe by getting it out of spreadsheets and into a secure HR system.

2. Hiring Just Because You Can

Your company is growing and you want it to keep growing. You have some extra cash. What do you do? 

Assess your needs. Do you really need to hire?

Can your current employees take on a bit more responsibility to fill the gaps? If so, you probably don’t need to hire. Assuming that hiring more people will make your life easier is often false. Big teams often come with big problems. So take a second to think through your decision to create a job opening.

"Assuming that hiring more people will make your life easier is often false."

3. Writing Vague Job Descriptions

Simply put, if you write a vague or boring job description, you’ll get vague and boring applicants. Spruce up and narrow your description and you’ll get applicants closer to what you want. 

One way to avoid falling into the trap of being vague is to describe exactly who it is that you want to hire. Describe responsibilities, what they’ll produce, hard skills, soft skills, career path, experience, attitudes, and role on the team. Once you’ve done this, put it into your job description. You’ll get fewer candidates, but they’ll be better ones.

4. Forgetting to Talk Up the Job

Don’t forget to make the job sound awesome. If you’re proud of your company culture, let it show. If benefits are top of the line, say so. If there are great growth opportunities, let candidates know. There’s no point in being shy to potential applicants about how cool your company is. 

The candidate you hire will be glad you bragged a bit if you live up to expectations. That said, don’t go overboard. If your new hire’s expectations are not met, you’ll run into employee dissatisfaction issues that will lead to lower productivity.

5. Forgetting About Passive Job Seekers

In the recruiting scene, there are two kinds of candidates: active candidates and passive candidates. 

Active candidates are those out there looking to find a new job. These are the low-hanging fruit, but are not always the best. Some active job seekers are active because they can’t hold a job or they quickly become dissatisfied with their job. This is definitely not always the case, but keep it in mind anyway.

Passive job candidates are not necessarily looking for a job, but they are open to new opportunities. These candidates are much harder to reach en masse, but are worth looking for. Often, these people have to be found through networking. 

"Passive job candidates are often better for a few reasons."

Passive job candidates are often better for a few reasons. First, because they are in no hurry to find a new job, you can take your time to get to know them. Also, the threat of competition is not as big of a deal.

6. Letting a Non-Specialist Do the Screening

Human resource departments are extremely valuable in business, but there are some places in hiring they should stay out of. HR professionals are specialists in their own industry. They are not typically experts in marketing, finance, accounting, and programming. 

Find somebody that is an expert in the subject matter to be involved in the pre-hire screening. They will know what skills and experience are actually important for the candidate to have in order to be a great employee.

Applying this tip will keep you from discarding a lot of qualified candidates, and it will save the time you would have spent interviewing unqualified ones.

7. Having a Weak Hiring Process

Hiring is complicated and there is a lot to keep track of. If you don’t have a set hiring process, you’re going to drop the ball at some point. Make sure that your hiring process is structured and consistent. Strong processes will make organization much easier, and you’re much less likely to muff it up.

Nadia McCrimmon, an HR professional of over 16 years, adds to this by saying:

“Being consistent is key. Make sure you ask the same questions of all applicants.”

The process isn’t the only thing that should be consistent. Conduct consistent interviews to compare candidates more objectively.

If you hire more than a few people per year, get an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is hiring software that helps you make your hiring process more structured. It keeps track of all of the candidates, forms, interviews, and emails that you need to juggle.

8. Forgetting Culture Fit

It’s easy to get excited about an incredible resume, lots of the right experience, and an impressive work history. But slow down and keep in mind that what’s on paper isn’t everything. 

Brent Gleeson wrote a great article for Inc. about the importance of culture fit. He says: 

“Hiring employees that don’t mesh well with the existing or desired company culture leads to poor work quality, decreased job satisfaction and a potentially toxic environment.”

You don’t need that, so don’t just let your culture become what it will. Build it by hiring employees that will contribute to it.

9. Communication Breakdown

There are few things in the hiring process more frustrating than a communication breakdown. Simply giving enough of the right information to your candidates will go a long way. Not only will it save frustration, but it will save your reputation as an employer. 

According to a Robert Half study, 32 percent of respondents formed negative opinions of the potential employer’s decision-making ability based on a slow hiring process. Misinformation or lack of communication would only make this worse.

10. Not Listening Enough

Don’t let your candidates just rattle off their resume, give generic answers to your questions, and walk out the door. You can read their resume on your own, so have them elaborate. Stories and experiences give more insight than a list of skills ever could, so get your candidates to open their mouths.

11. Not Defining "Must-Haves"

Categorize the qualities you’re looking for into “must-haves,” “really handy,” and “would be nice.” This will save you a lot of headache and give you a quantifiable way to pick a candidate when it comes down to the final few.

"Categorize the qualities you’re looking for into “must-haves,” “really handy,” and “would be nice."

On top of that, defining a few necessary qualities will help you avoid candidates that seem awesome “except for that one thing.” Choose a few things you refuse to compromise on and stick to them.

12. Allowing an Interview Facade

We all know that job candidates come to interviews disguised as your knight in shining armor. They may truly be an excellent candidate, but the quality of their armor is no indication of the quality of the knight that wears it. (That last sentence sounds really good out loud. Go ahead, give it a try.) 

Ask questions that force the candidate to lose the shield and let you see what they’re made of. They may walk in looking like an amazing software engineer. Maybe so, but take a look at what they’ve actually built and ask questions that force candidates to problem solve. That’s how you’ll see who your candidate is.  

13. Hiring Based on GPA

The GPA of a new graduate or intern can tell you a bit about the kind of person they are, but it’s one number and certainly can’t tell you everything. Before you put too much weight on how high a college graduate’s GPA is, do some research.

How hard was their major? What was their class’s average GPA? Did they go to an elite school? Is GPA a good indicator of how good they are at the subject matter? Basically, just keep in mind that there’s no way a single number can properly sum up four years of education.

14. Hiring Based on First Impressions

First impressions are unavoidable and often very helpful, but they can’t tell the whole story and are sometimes misleading. 

Psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman said:

“If your first impression is a mistake, it can take a while to realize this, as your expectations tend to be self-fulfilling. When you expect a certain reaction you are likely to perceive it even if it isn’t there.”

Realize that your first impressions of a candidate can be very informative, but do what you can to inform them further. If you don’t, you could make a bad hire or lose a good one.

15. Hiring Clones

Look at the C-suite of your business or someone else’s. You probably have a business strategist, an HR pro, a marketer, a finance person, and a product developer. Now imagine your business isn’t making enough money to grow. Each of these people will approach the problem in a different way.

The strategist might look for different markets to enter, the HR pro might want to increase the workforce, the marketer might suggest rebranding, and so on. This same way of problem-solving is also what you want on a smaller scale. 

Good creativity and problem-solving comes by looking at issues in a different light, so hire people with various backgrounds, experiences, and methods. As long as they share your values and fit the culture, their differences won’t negatively affect your company.

16. Hiring Someone Too Big

This mistake is a bit less self-explanatory, but a simile should clear it up. Don’t use an excavator to plant flowers. Use a shovel. Employees that have experience working with huge budgets, big teams, and the support of a 500-employee company may not know how to build a startup from 10 to 50 employees. 

You might be a multi-billion dollar company in 20 years, but now is not the time to hire the chief marketing officer for that day. Hire for the job opening there now, not the one that will be there in 5 or 10 years.

17. Forcing a Hire

"Take the time and effort necessary to make a good hire that will actually solve your problems."

While hiring too slowly is certainly a mistake that a lot of companies make, hiring too quickly is also pretty common. Having an open spot is like having an itch that you just want to scratch. But forcing a hire that isn’t a good fit is not the way to fix it. Take the time and effort necessary to make a good hire that will actually solve your problems.

Conclusion

Hiring is an extremely important part of business, so it should be done right. At best, these hiring mistakes can lead to a confused job candidate. At worst, you could make a bad hire that wrecks your business and gives you a bad reputation for future business and hiring. Don’t make these mistakes. They’re easy to avoid, so be proactive in applying these hiring tips to protect your company from common hiring mistakes.