Common Hiring Mistakes

There are a slew of consultants who are ready to tell you how to find the perfect candidate. Given the fact that 40% of all hiring transactions end in disappointment, it’s no wonder. The solutions range from deep and expensive culture-based assessment testing to Google‘s arcane (and self-defeating) ego challenges.

Hiring managers are almost always supervisors of standard-sized (10 to 20 people) work groups. For most hiring managers, a new hire represents a significant addition to the crew and represents a bet of 5% to 10% of the department’s culture. It’s important to get the fit right but it’s important to realize it only happens some of the time.

There are two different kinds of recruiting problems:

  1. Hiring a replacement
  2. Hiring someone for a job that’s never been filled before

Replacement workers are brought in because the incumbent is moving for a promotion, retirement, disability or choice. A replacement worker always faces the ghost of the predecessor. Performance and effectiveness are measured against the standards set by the last person in the job. However sometimes that makes fit easier (the former employee was not good and not well liked). When the last person was a Rock Star, it may take several failures to get the right fit for the job. Fit and success in the replacement scenario depend on the expectations set by the person who left.

A worker in a new job is coming onboard because the organization is growing. When the opportunity comes from growth (there are somewhat fewer of these positions right now), expectations for the new worker are about getting a ton of new work done. Fit, at least in the early days of the job, has to do with helping the load get smaller. When there’s a ton of work, it’s easy to make the organization gel.

Fit means different things in each case. But mistakes often get made in either case when the hunt is on for the right fit. Here are some of the most common hiring mistakes:

  • Impatience: If you are hiring on a schedule, hurrying is likely to lower the quality of a new worker’s fit. Hurrying is always expensive in this way. Never hire out of desperation or to solve a crisis.
  • Inattention: Filling a job opening requires a level of commitment equivalent to 5% to 10% of your department’s culture. If the job is not well defined, a bad fit is inevitable. Ask yourself, what problem or issue is the employee supposed to remedy. Get clear about that.
  • Inability to adjust to change: Fit changes as the team matures. A job is not a marriage – don’t expect a good fit to last forever. They take lots of work.
  • Over-prioritizing cultural fit: No matter how much you’d like it, how well an employee functions in the culture is only a part of the story. While cultural effectiveness is desirable, some skills may be a higher priority.
  • Thinking one employee is same as another. Expecting a new worker to fit in and automatically replace a long term player is an unrealistic burden on manager and employee alike. Expect that the most noticeable thing about a new employee is that they do the old job differently.
  • Believing the same job is the same job. Except in the most gruesome types of factory, the job is not a fixed thing. Sometimes, the perception that a new team member doesn’t fit really means that the job has changed. They do that for a variety of reasons including changing market conditions, recent layoffs, and changes to compensation policy.
  • Unrealistic job expectations. If you are having a problem getting the right person to fit in a specific job, maybe it’s the job’s fault. Some jobs fit into an organizations workflow in a way that makes them impossible. Job design is half of fit.