My Worst Mistakes: How to Hire Better People

If there’s one move that’s going to make or break your business, it’s hiring. Fill your office with bad hires and it’ll cast a shadow over the customer experience and eventually your brand. But if you hire wisely, the business will thrive – and everyone’s going to enjoy working together more, too.

In fact, hiring great people is kind of like funnel management. No, really. You hope to get lot of candidates at the top of funnel; then you “score” them with the right questions, eventually closing on the most qualified.

Ideally you close the deal with the best possible candidate. But that doesn’t always happen, and it’s often because of the below hiring mistakes.

Hiring too quickly just to fill an opening.

Look, I get it. There’s a hole in the company ship, water is gushing in, and you desperately want to plug that hole before the whole ship sinks.

Here’s the thing, though. Hiring the wrong person is going to sink your ship much faster than waiting for the right person. If you don’t love a candidate, don’t move forward. Keep looking till you find someone you can’t live without. It’s just like finding the love of your life – settling is never a good idea. You want to feel 100% positive and enthusiastic about this hire.

Not hiring for cultural fit.

You need someone who fits into your culture, which means you’ll need to be honest with them about the environment. Ask behavioral-based questions – are they looking for a noisy bullpen environment? A quiet environment where they work independently? Be direct and allow them to self-select out if they don’t feel energized by your workplace.

Of course, hiring for skillset is important, too. Entrepreneurs in particular often hire people they like instinctively, deciding they can train the person on the right skill later. But not everyone can be trained to be a great multimedia designer or a keen strategist. Also look for specific traits beyond skills; you want someone with the intellectual curiosity to go out and find answers on their own, for instance, rather than someone who expects information to be spoonfed to them.

Not talking about money upfront.

There’s no point in falling in love with a candidate only to find out you can’t afford them. Determine in the initial phone call if the candidate is in the right salary ballpark before advancing in the interview process. The discussion might feel uncomfortable but it will save you time and disappointment in the end. And if you work with recruiters, communicate clearly so they don’t bring you the wrong candidates.

Not having a good onboarding process.

Starting a new job is always a little nerve-wracking. Help your new hires assimilate and make sure they have the right tools and equipment. You don’t want anyone to flounder silently. Offer an onboarding experience that answers questions and helps them feel supported and set up for success.

Relying on any single hiring tool.

Skill and personality assessments have their place in the world, but you can’t rely only on those results. Conversations and in-person dialogues are just as valuable. To really assess a candidate’s skill and drive, consider giving them a project with a realistic turnaround time and see what they deliver. The results will provide invaluable insight.

Advertising a boring job title.

You have to tailor the position title so it will attract the best candidates. “Marketing Services Manager II” might be what HR calls the position but most candidates will respond to “Senior Marketing Consultant” with a little more enthusiasm.

Ignoring red flags.

Ask about any gaps in the resume and address any flags. Maybe they’ve changed fields multiple times, or took an unexplained step downward. Also pay attention to personality issues. Are you enjoying the conversation? Many candidates are a little nervous during an interview, but if someone seems very stiff or has trouble expressing themselves, that might just be who they are all the time.

I have to share an example here. I knew a company that ignored signs a candidate was very high-maintenance and litigious; she scanned every document with a lawyer’s eye and asked pointed questions that provided clues to her intentions. Once hired, she turned out to be a serial litigator. Which brings us to our final mistake…

Delaying the inevitable goodbye.

Too many businesses try to suffer through a bad hire. But it’s better to get the person out as soon as possible. Even if they’re just a round peg in a square hole, it’s not going to work – and if you feel it, they probably feel it too.

I’ll close with a final tip. If you’re wondering where to get great hires, we’ve always found the best candidates are referrals from someone we know and trust. So turn to your network when it’s time to grow your team. You just might find the superstar you’ve been looking for.

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