12 Most Debilitating Hiring Mistakes Small Businesses Make

12 Most Debilitating Hiring Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Hiring is hard. When you are a business owner and you don’t have an HR department to help you or a boss to train you, you can make a lot of terrible hiring mistakes.

Here are 12 that we’ve seen over and over…

1. Hiring friends

This is actually two mistakes rolled into one. Usually when you hire a friend you don’t really consider whether the friend is the best person for the job. You typically don’t advertise and generate a rich field of candidates and from that pick your buddy from Junior High. So the first mistake is to hire without getting as many candidates to apply as possible — more candidates means a higher chance that at least one of them is a great candidate. The second mistake is that since you’re friend may not be the most qualified, you may have to fire them someday… and not only lose an employee but also a friend. It’s risky.

2. Reviewing every resume

If you’ve done the first thing right and advertised thoroughly to attract a rich pool of candidates, then you should have about 100 — 200 submissions. You can’t screen all 200 of them; it’s overwhelming and it takes too long. Use a candidate management tool to do the screening (or if you don’t have one of those, use an administrative assistant).

3. Skipping the phone screen

Once you’ve screened the pile, you will likely still have 10 – 20 good candidates; too many to efficiently meet face-to-face. Your next step should be a phone screen. A 30 – 40 minute phone conversation will help you see if this is a person you’d like to meet. What have they really done? Do they care about the things you care about? Are they on time? The phone screen is a great way to eliminate some folks that you don’t want to even spend 5 minutes with face-to-face.

4. No written interview guide

If you go into the face-to-face interview without questions that you plan in advance and write down for yourself, the interview has as much predictive value as a coin flip. Instead, write some questions down. Ask about the candidate’s actual experience (what did you do in that role?) and some behavioral interview questions. Ask each candidate those same questions to get an apples-to-apples comparison.

5. No tests

There are some things that are easy to assess in an interview, and others that are hard. If you are hiring programmers, you should ask them to program something. Ask writers to proof some bad copy. Ask painters to cut a line around some window trim. You want to see someone demonstrate their skills. Good candidates will leap at the chance to show their stuff!

6. No second interview

The second interview is somewhat awkward, what should I ask in that second interview? You’ve asked all your good questions in the first interview, so now what? You get to know them better. Take them out for a meal, get the candidate in another context, out of the office. How would they fit with your team?

7. Going solo

You need some other eyes and ears on the candidate too. Some folks do tandem interviews, where you have one person asking questions and another listening. Others let the candidates’ peers have a crack at them.

8. Too quick to pull the trigger

When you have an open seat on your team it can be debilitating. You can’t keep doing your job, their job and the job of hiring. I can almost see the business owners thinking, “I hope this is THE ONE.” When you go into an interview with that thought process you can easily overlook warning signs. You may not probe in areas where you see potential weakness because you don’t want to find weakness. You want this person to be THE ONE. But that thought process leads you to hire someone you hope can do the job instead of someone you know can do the job.

9. Not knowing what to pay

It can be tough to figure out what the market rate for a job is; but you have to know that going into a hiring process. Do some research — here’s a good place to start. Look at other job postings or at salary guides so you know what to expect. A lot of business owners trust what the candidates tell them and end up overpaying.

10. No selling

It’s easy to be critical of the candidates and that’s right, you should! But if you’ve got a good candidate you need to also sell them — they need to know that you want them and that this position has exciting possibilities for them.

11. Taking too long

Just as you are trying to fill your job, candidates are trying to find a job. If you take a week or more between interview rounds, or take too long to get back to folks you are going to lose your best candidates. If this is an important job you are filling take it seriously, make it a high priority and land the best candidate in the market.

12. Not closing the deal

When you’ve found the right candidate, it’s time to make a solid offer. Don’t try to low-ball them; make an offer that they will feel good about accepting. Be prepared with all the information they will need to make a decision, including the benefit and vacation information. Show enthusiasm that you really want them on the team and you can see them making a big difference in your company’s performance.

Hiring is hard, but if you avoid these mistakes you have a better chance of success. What best practice policies do you follow when hiring?

Featured image courtesy of Lew57 via Creative Commons.

Brad Farris


Brad Farris is the founder of EnMast, an online small business owner community. He’s small business advisor and author of several small business ebooks, including his latest on improving your sales and marketing teams. Find him on Google+ and Twitter.

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