Hiring new employees can be a stressful and time-consuming process. Nobody wants to spend their days sorting through hundreds of CVs, only to end up with a new employee who is ’just okay’. You want to find the very best person for the job. So, I’ve identified six of the biggest hiring mistakes and a few tips on how you can avoid making them.
1. Not identifying the skills you want
Before you even think about looking for a new employee or advertising a job, you need to be clear about the skills the job actually needs. Start off with a list of around 5-6 specific skills or experiences that are crucial to the job. When you are looking through applications, single out the people who match those specifications and immediately eliminate anyone who doesn’t. This will trim your list of applicants and help you find someone who can actually do the job.
2. Not reading every CV
It can be intimidating trying to comb through dozens or even hundreds of job applications. You might be tempted just to read the first ten or so, but the best application might be at the bottom of the pile. Sometimes applications received early on are from people who just fire off the same standard CV for everything. They can be more generic or possibly not even relevant to the job. Applications received closer to the deadline often have more thought put into them, demonstrating their genuine interest in the role.
3. Not setting a deadline
Always have a cut-off date and time for your job advert, be it radio, print or online. This will make sure you get applications in a timely manner and can fill your job as soon as possible. I recommend you allow about 10 days to lodge applications, as this allows enough time for people who are genuinely interested to prepare a thorough submission.
4. Unstructured interviews
You should have specific, structured core questions to ask each person that will help you identify whether they have the specific skills and expertise the job requires. When you don’t have an interview outline, the conversation has a tendency to meander, and you can come away without knowing whether their skills really match what you need. You can ask other questions and discuss other things, as long as you make sure all your core questions are addressed at some point.
Try having your core questions written down so you don’t forget any. Additionally, you can take notes on their answers under each question and to help when you’re evaluating the merits of each person later on.
5. Hiring only for skill and not for attitude
Once you’ve interviewed your shortlisted applicants, it’s quite common to come across a few who are difficult to separate. If they’re all on a level playing field in terms of skills, qualifications and experience, sometimes attitude can be the deciding factor. Sometimes it’s about gut-feel, about whether you think you can work with this person. That doesn’t mean you should hire someone just because you like their personality, but it’s important not to disregard the value of a good attitude. You should also be considering organisational fit to find people who will work well in your team.
6. Not doing reference checks (properly)
Getting an accurate account of someone from a reference check can be tricky. There are ways to make it a lot easier though. Firstly, you want to make sure that you always do a reference check over the phone, not by email. Email might be quicker in the short-term, but it also gives referees the chance to edit themselves. When you talk to the referee, you’ll be able to hear their tone of voice and any pauses. Those signs can tell you a lot about how they really feel about the candidate. It will also give you the opportunity to ask follow up questions and dig a little deeper.
Secondly, make sure you ask open-ended questions. If you only ask closed questions and the referee can answer “Yes” or “No”, you will miss out on a lot of context and information that could inform you about how suitable they are. Better to find out all you can before you hire them – the wrong employee can cause a lot of pain in the long run if they aren’t right for the job or the right fit for the team.
In the next few weeks we’ll be going into more depth about how to perfect your hiring process – so stay tuned.
Let us know in the comments which of these hiring issues you’ve struggled with most in the past, or any other hiring issues you’ve overcome!
Director, Your HR on Tap
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