On average, hiring a new employee requires four hours of face-to-face meetings and, at best, an hour or two of testing, paperwork, contacting references and running background checks. Bringing on new employees costs time and money, and can be a huge setback if they turn out to be a problem for the company.
Given that interviewing and hiring is one of the biggest risks a company faces, it’s a good idea to get it right the first time. Toward that end, learn from experienced hiring authorities about how to design an effective hiring process, understand that luck plays a role – no matter how well crafted the plan – and recognize these most common pitfalls.
1. Vague idea about the position to be filled
Having a clear idea of the specific duties, skills and competencies the job requires is critical. When reviewing resumes, you must be careful to discern the difference between years of experience and actual competency. Ten years of experience does not mean the candidate is right for the job if, for example, they’ve done the same job at several different companies.
So rather than looking at years, focus on actual job functions and find a candidate with solid experience, or someone who has the potential to do the job well.
2. Unrealistic expectations
Of course, everyone wants to hire a super-star for the lowest possible salary. Obviously, that’s not realistic. As a matter of fact, there is never one ideal candidate, so going into a long interviewing loop, trying to find that special person, is a huge mistake.
You need to be realistic about what the market will bear. This usually means interviewing just enough candidates to get a feel for what is available and at what salary. Currently, the number of quality candidates is drastically lower than it was even two years ago, which probably indicates an improving economy. With the good candidates, keep in mind that other companies are looking at them, as well.
3. Weak interviewing techniques
It’s important to not simply go with your gut. While instinct plays a role, it’s more important to be consistent. Write out your list of questions and ask every candidate the same questions. Record the answers and compare each candidate’s responses.
Avoid random questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” Instead, get down to specifics that generate information that is easy to weigh from one candidate to the next.
4. Waiting too long to make a decision
When the hiring process takes too long, good candidates slip away, and you look inept at filling the position. For example, one hiring authority spent a significant amount of time and energy interviewing candidates for one position. By the time she made a choice from a list of 10 candidates six months later, all of her top choices had been snapped up by other companies.
The shelf life of quality candidates is getting shorter every day. Once you get the process started, keep the ball moving as quickly as possible.
5. Firing a “bad fit” hire later rather than sooner
Don’t give the new hire too much slack. When it becomes obvious that they are not right for the job, let them go. Many times, it’s obvious in the first week that the candidate will not work out, and yet companies wait several months to do the firing, which is disruptive to business and undermines confidence in your ability to do your job. Your approach should be to hire carefully but fire quickly.