Hiring Mistakes and How to Recover


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As a small business or startup, you need the right people to join your team. There are a few mistakes to avoid when you are looking to grow your team. Some may seem like clichés, but are very important to remember during the hiring process.

Here are a few examples of hiring mistakes, and how you can recover from them.

Mistake: Overlooking culture fit.

Recovery: An ideal candidate for a job has the skills and qualifications, as well as the cultural values that are important to the company. When interviewing them, ask questions about their activities outside work. One technique that was shared at the Small Talks event series in Seattle was from Phil Gordon of Jawfish Games. He says once someone has been vetted as technically qualified, then they are invited to Friday night happy hours. Basically, if you can’t see yourself liking the person out of the office, then they probably wouldn’t be a good fit. Culture should be part of the interview process.

Steve Jobs said "you need to have a collaborative hiring process", which is a smart way to fully see if someone is going to work well with other teams. 

Mistake: Hurrying through the interview because you are pressed for time.

Recovery: Take the time to get to know each candidate, and be efficient with your time. Ask the right questions or make your candidates complete tests. Give each person a rating based on qualifications, likeability/culture fit, and long term potential.

As a hiring manager, you need to get the right people quickly for the company to keep up momentum. Rushing through questions and not getting to know each candidate is a recipe for a potential disaster. You may end up doing interviews all over again because you made a rash decision.

Mistake: Hiring family and friends

Recovery: You may think you are doing someone a favor, but if the job doesn’t work out, you might lose more than an employee. Brian Lemond from Brooklyn United said it was a “terrible cliché” but hiring family and friends was a mistake they made against better judgment. “It’s difficult to see past the combination of people you know so well needing employment at the same time you need support staff. There is no knock on the great things many of them did for us, but in the end, there are too many internal politics and pressures for it to be a workable scenario in the long run”.

If you decide to hire family and friends, make it clear in the beginning that personal life stays outside of the office. It would make other employees uncomfortable if someone was getting preferential treatment just because of the personal relationship. Tread lightly.

Mistake: Not enough clarity on a job description.

Recovery: Going through job applications from interested candidates is hard enough without confusion about job duties and expectations. Be clear about what you are looking for. Be specific enough so the perfect candidate will reveal themselves in a cover letter or an interview.

Mistake: Onboarding process is limited or nonexistent.

Recovery: Inadequate training for new employees makes the job harder for both of you. The new employee process doesn’t stop after hire. Proper onboarding includes a transitional period. There is always a learning curve for the new hire, such as learning new names and faces, internal processes like file handling, and introduction to day to day operations (to name a few).

Mistakes will happen, and firing someone because of a mistake may not be the best idea. First CEO at IBM Thomas John Watson Sr, said ”Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”.

What does your hiring process look like? Do you do anything out of the ordinary that has been successful? 


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