and what can be done to avoid them

Hiring the right people is critical to your success as a manager as well as the growth of your company.  If you or your staff has worked the extra hours required to cover a vacant position, the pain often adversely affects your personal life and your family.  Hiring the right person is of critical importance.


Mistake 1:  Not probing enough into why a candidate genuinely wants the position.

Managers hire for aptitude and fire for attitude.  What is it that causes the chemistry friction to build between two individuals that eventually results in termination or resignation?  The root of this problem is often that the candidate did not really want the job in the first place.  Many strong candidates want stable, steady hours, short commutes, flexibility, work/life balance as well as meaningful job content and increasing pay.  During the hiring process are the real expectations of the position shared with the candidate?  Did the candidate clearly and openly communicate their short and long-term occupational and personal priorities and goals?


Mistake 2:  Not learning from history – prior reasons for leaving.

Why did a candidate leave a certain job or stay in a job too long?  Ideally, there should be a track record of accomplishment, logic and consistency to a person’s career path and growth. Also, from an internal company perspective managers should identify why people previously left the position.  Meaningful exit interviews can reveal important information.  Building that knowledge into the next selection process can significantly reduce hiring mistakes.


Mistake 3:  Maintaining the status quo

When you are ready to hire a person it is often a stressful time.  If you are replacing someone, the first reaction is often self-justification that the job content was correct but the departed employee was either incompetent or a bad “personality” fit.  The quick fix, status quo approach can be to “let’s leave things the same, let’s just get a better match in there.”  However this is an opportunity to build the organization by addressing some questions:  Can some of the work be redistributed to meet career goals of the remaining staff?  Have you previously thought through potential internal promotion candidates?  What should your organization look like and what skills will be needed in three to five years?  With this in mind you can craft a prioritized skills and aptitude list to use in identifying relevant, qualified talent.


Mistake 4:  Hiring in your own image.

Many managers hire people like themselves – backgrounds, work experiences, values, type of schooling etc.  While there is a certain comfort, assumed loyalty and risk minimization in this approach it does not stretch or build the organization.  If a candidate is qualified and challenges your thinking during an interview but there is something that bothers you about them, don’t rule that candidate out prematurely.  Ask yourself why you are uncomfortable. If you can determine that you might be pushed out of your comfort zone – explore references, get other’s feedback and keep an open mind about that candidate.  He or she could be the one to help you build your organization to the next level and add to your depth and versatility as a Manager.  Additionally, if you hire externally that can be an added benefit if your company is struggling, needs to do things differently and/or values bringing fresh ideas and approaches into the organization.


Mistake 5:  Not Doing Careful Background and Reference Checks

There is a fairly high percentage of false information presented in resumes and job applications.   While it takes extra effort, not doing a careful background and reference checks almost always results in problems later.  Proper reference checks should include at least two recent, past managers.  Most prior mangers will communicate about prior employees, unless there were problems, whereby company policy is then often cited to not give references.  It has been my experience that references typically fall into three categories:  Some are glowing; “everyone thought the world of her or him”.  Others are ok.  “Candidate met job requirements”.  The last group are literally criticized by their past employer.  References always tell a story.  At a minimum, the hiring manager can understand a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and use that information to best on-board and develop the new hire.