The Worst Hiring Mistakes We’ve Seen

Lately, it feels like the only thing more difficult than hiring quality applicants is keeping quality employees. Brenda seemed promising during her 30-minute interview but turned out to be a flake. Michael checked all the required skill boxes but couldn’t meet performance standards. And everybody loved Chloe, but six months later, she decided to try her hand as a travel blog writer.

worst hiring mistakes we've seen

If you’re starting to notice a pattern of mis-hires, it’s time to revamp your interviewing practices to bring on more successful candidates. To help, we’re recounting the five worst hiring mistakes we’ve seen and ways to learn from them.

Overvaluing Fit

You want to like your coworkers, and you want them to feel comfortable in the company culture. During interviews, you take note of pleasant quirks and personality traits that mesh well with the existing team. That’s completely natural, but problems arise when we value fit over potential performance. Work still needs to get done, and whomever you hire will be the one who needs to do it.

The key is to strike a balance, and this can be tricky as we’re subconsciously drawn to people who seem like us. Don’t let your subconscious drive the decision to hire—consciously compare fit and work qualifications together.

Hiring Based on First Impressions

Speaking of the subconscious, you must be wary of first-impression bias. Our first impressions color how we view people and our future expectations of them, and we come to these characterizations within a tenth of a second. That would be fine if our first impressions were always accurate, but that’s seldom the case.

To short-circuit your biases, schedule panel interviews that are longer than 30 minutes. Combining the insights of colleagues with longer interviews will ensure a more accurate exploration into the recruit’s personality, skills, and past performance.

Also, don’t forget to follow up on references. Resumes are designed to make people sound good, but references will help you determine a person’s long-term aptitude.

Rushing to Hire

Having an open position can put a strain on your team. This motivates you to find a candidate as quickly as possible, which prompts feelings of anxiety and stress. To ease these feelings, you may push through a candidate you’re not 100 percent sure on.

It’s a costly, but familiar, mistake. Take the time to properly vet the candidate, follow up on references, and make sure you are confident in your decision. To help ease the sense of urgency, be up front with your team: tell them how long it will take, why it will take that long, and the long-term benefits of your decision.

Not Defining the Role Clearly Beforehand

You want to hire a coder. Great, but what roles will she fill? What will her responsibilities be? What are her monthly and yearly milestones? Without clear answers to these questions, you’ll leave your new coder without a proper path, one where success remains continuously out of sight.

Before it comes to this, sit down with your team and define the role, its mission, and its milestones. To help, we recommend creating a performance-based job posting rather than a skills-based one. Don’t focus on the skills you want the coder to have; instead, write the job description with specific performance objectives in mind.

Not Firing When Necessary

You made a bad hire. It can be difficult to admit, but more problems will follow if you continue to sink time and resources into an employee that won’t pan out. Instead, let him go as soon as your mistake is apparent. If you keep him on, you’ll be doing a disservice to your team, and wasting time and resources that could be invested in a better candidate.

By learning from these and other hiring mistakes, you can break through a hiring slump and make your practices more efficient. The result will be hires that bring valuable knowledge and resources to the company and help create a positive work environment.

Everyone makes hiring mistakes; it’s part of the job. But these mistakes can be invaluable tools if you take the time to learn from them.

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