4 Pieces of Conventional Hiring Wisdom You Should Ignore

4 min read · 6 years ago


My business partner Jeff and I recently hired our first full-time employee, and we were nervous. We knew that choosing the wrong employee could be a devastating hit to our business. Before extending an offer, we read a lot of research and talked to consultants about how to make a good hire. And ultimately, we went the other way on a lot of decisions.

Here are some of the hiring myths we didn’t listen to and are all the better for:

Keep the Job Listing Vague

That’s the advice we got from an HR consultant. She thought that we’d included too much detail about the job responsibilities, and told us it was a bad idea to include a salary range in the listing itself. She thought we’d get far more applications by being less detailed about specifically what we wanted.

Chances are, she was right. But why would we want to waste applicants’ time, and ours, by encouraging them to apply for a job that wasn’t the right fit?

We wanted to be as clear, precise and transparent as we possibly could to make sure anyone applying for the job had a solid understanding of what the role would entail and how much it would pay. We weren’t interested in playing the negotiation game. We told applicants from the get-go that we were a small business, so the salary was based on what we knew we could afford, instead of using an inflated number that would mean we’d have to lay someone off after a single bad month. If applicants weren’t willing to work for that amount or to do the (sometimes unglamorous) work that needed to be done, we didn’t want to waste their time.

Don’t Include Anything in Your Listing That Might Turn People Off

Our HR consultant also flagged our use of the work “kick-ass” in the job description, suggesting that “energetic” might be a better synonym because she worried that the phase might offend some applicants.

We left it in. While we’re a very small team, Jeff and I still want to build a company culture. A culture where people are offended by the term “kick-ass” is not the one we’re looking for. Better to alienate someone in the initial job listing than have to walk on eggshells after we hire them.

Pay for Premium and Targeted Job Sites

If the role we’d been looking to fill were a highly specialized technical role, we probably would have considered investing in targeted job site listings. But for our content marketing manager role, we knew there was a good chance we could find just the person we needed through free channels before spending any money to promote the ad. After all, being social media-savvy was one of the requirements, so we figured she/he could probably find us through the social media promotion that we’d done.

We listed it on our website and shared it on our social networks (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), Indeed and (horror of horrors) Craigslist. We knew that most job-seekers were going to be on top of identifying every possible source of local job leads, so there was no reason for us to go overboard in paying to spread the word. As it is, we received more than 40 applications during a month-long listing period. And to our hire Jesse’s surprise (and ours), she actually did find us through Craigslist. Sometimes, it pays to be cheap.

Don’t Focus Too Heavily on the Interview

While a lot of recent research has found that how an employee performs in a job bears little resemblance to how well he or she did in an interview, we considered the interview stage one of the most important when hiring a candidate. Why? It helped us see how they would relate to both us and to our clients, and enabled us to see how well they could think on their feet.

While we could see past some interview-related nervousness, we could tell from the interview what each candidate’s overall attitude was like. We ruled out some candidates here because, even if they’d looked good on paper, they seemed too brash and arrogant, or too submissive and deferential in person. We needed someone who could come in as a peer and level up quickly to a high-level role within our company. We didn’t just want an admin assistant. We wanted someone who could step in on any task and be proactive in getting things done. Jesse had the kind of down-to-earth confidence that we were looking for. We knew she’d easily be able to step in and work directly with our clients and our freelance team, and she’s done an amazing job at it so far.

Obviously, there are a lot of rules we followed because they just make good sense: check references, verify work history, make a written offer, etc. But by trusting our gut where it counted, we were able to find a great employee who could help take our business to the next level.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog, here. 

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at Eucalypt Media, a content marketing agency that works with national B2B, B2C, nonprofit, and education clients, including Fortune 500 companies. She specializes in spearheading comprehensive content marketing and PR strategies to spotlight her agency clients’ thought leadership, and developing custom content on their behalf with their internal team and pool of freelance journalists. She’s also publisher of Gimundo, a website and daily newsletter focused on positive content and inspiring videos.

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