26 Common hiring mistakes and how to avoid them successfully

September 25, 2020

Mistakes to avoid when hiring staff

Whether you’re preparing for your business’ first hire, or look to grow your team further, it’s quite handy to know the most common hiring mistakes and how to avoid them. Of course, no one is immune to being charmed by the wrong candidate, but this article will prep you for all the pitfalls you can fall into.

Employees hold the power to launch a business into the universe of success or bury it deep under. Thus it’s very important to be aware of the most common hiring mistakes and prepare adequately.

Jump Directly To:

 1. Conversational interviews

 2. Never skip a phone interview

 3. Chemistry is important

 4. Do some digging

 5. Finish interviewing everyone 

 6. Don’t seek perfection

 7. OK candidates are rarely the right pick

 8. People can outgrow their role

 9. Look outside your community

 10. You can’t trick Indeed

 11. Understand their expertise 

 12. Doing favours can do harm  

 13. Ask candidates the same questions

 14. Pay attention to body language

 15. Patience bears the juiciest fruits

 16. Avoid broad job descriptions

 17. Be careful with the inexperienced

 18. Put them on trial before fulltime

 19. Beware of big company name bias

 20. Hiring your love can be tricky

 21. Don’t fall for fancy degrees

 22. Stick to your criteria

 23. Getting along or getting things done

 24. Asking for references is far from trivial

 25. Look out for the hidden gems

 26. Test them before you hire them

Common hiring mistakes employers do

The most memorable lessons in life as well in business are learned from our own mistakes. However, this often proves to be a costly way of learning, so you should avoid it and instead learn from other employers’ hiring mistakes.

Conversational interviews are a trap

Small organizations will often adopt an informal conversational interview, making hiring decisions based on a ‘gut’ reaction – they seem the right fit for our company.

Research has proven how a structured interview is more likely to predict job performance and therefore a more suitable hiring decision.

The informal interview has its place too but as part of a more structured interview process.

Chris Delaney, Interview Coach at Employment King

Never skip a phone interview

A hiring mistake I have made is skipping the phone interview. A quick 10-minute phone call can really make a difference in the candidates that are then invited to a face to face interview. You think that by incorporating this, it will take longer, but it, in fact, saves you so much time. When we invited people to interview we found that one of the essential requirements were not strong enough in some of the candidates. This could have been discovered at the phone interview. This meant extra time to recruit and interview again. Delaying the starting date of an applicant and a further strain on the business.

Michael Lowe, CEO at Car Passionate

We wanted to hire people quickly, so we sent out a job advert, set up face-to-face interviews, and hired the best interviewee. Had we spent a bit of time filtering candidates through a phone interview, we would have been able to get to know the candidates better before hiring. We hired someone who turned out to be really rude to other employees. His strong demeanour in the interview turned into bullying and rudeness. Granted, he didn’t last long, and we contacted another interviewee to give them another chance. 

Avoid this problem by spending 10 minutes filtering candidates, asking them situational questions and trying to understand how they would act under pressure and stress. These extra 10 minutes are a lifesaver.

Rhiannon Moore, Hiring Manager at Evopure

There has to be some chemistry

I’ve learned the hard way that hiring the person who I think I “should” hire based on resume or experience never works as well as hiring the person I have the most chemistry with. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, work is nonstop. You have to work with people you like and look forward to rubbing elbows with. My advice is to hire for character and temperament and train for skill.

Claire Pearson, Co-owner of Bennett’s Market & Deli

Do some digging

One of the worst hiring mistakes I have ever done in the past was to focus on the applicant’s capabilities, working attitude, strengths and weaknesses. I totally forgot digging deeper about his personal information including culture and beliefs which may affect his performance. I was starting to improve my company back then and it didn’t occur to me how crucial it is to take those matters into account before hiring.

Because of that, even though he really was a great employee, I encountered inevitable adversities like when he can’t celebrate this event or wear that because it’s against their culture. Workplace barriers happened and a lesson was learned.

It’s really important to consider personal matters and know more about a candidate rather than just asking what he can serve for your company. Business owners must read fully their basic details and have an in-depth interview with how things can work out between them in certain circumstances.

Peter Mann, Founder of SC Vehicle Hire

Finish interviewing everyone then make a decision

I had a couple of situations in which I was amazed by certain candidates and decided to offer them the job instantly, without waiting for the end of interviews. In my case, these workers never fully committed and quickly started looking for new work opportunities. Also, it turned out that I

didn’t estimate their abilities well simply because I was amazed by one of their qualities. 

I would suggest all hiring managers to give themselves time to complete all interviews and make calls based on extensive information instead of jumping ahead and hiring a person straight away.

Daniel Juhl Mogensen, Founder of Kodyl 

Don’t seek perfection

A mistake that I have made is waiting for the “perfect” candidate while overlooking some great potential employees. As a small business, sometimes you have your mindset on who your ideal candidate will be and end up missing out on candidates that would have been near perfect fits for your company. 

As a small business, you want to make sure that the candidate is qualified because there isn’t a lot of bandwidth in a smaller company, and that candidate will have to take on a lot of responsibilities fairly quickly. Because of this, I have tried waiting out for someone who has all

the qualifications, a cultural fit, and someone who I personally enjoyed. It is really hard to find someone that checks off all of those boxes to a T just from the application and interview. There have been plenty that have been 90% or more of what I was looking for that I have let slip away. 

If you are a smaller business looking to hire a new employee, have your set qualifications but also listen to your other employees about who they like. Look at their application and interview as a whole, and don’t wait out for the “perfect” candidate because odds are one of those applicants that were really close to hitting the mark, could have been the perfect candidate that you let slip away.

Jenny Massey, Co-Owner of Snowy Pines White Labs 

OK candidates are rarely the right pick

Early on as a manager, I made the mistake of hiring someone that was OK. My group was under-resourced and the open position was very specialized. After 4 months of recruiting, I hadn’t spoken to a single candidate that was qualified enough to even bring in for an in-person interview.

When I met this candidate, I was excited because she was qualified on paper and interviewed OK. I was desperate, so I hired her.

She ended up needing a lot of guidance and hand-holding. Although a hard worker, she was indecisive and very passive. She wasn’t right for the position.Learn from my mistake and take your time to find a rockstar candidate. You may be desperate for a candidate at the moment but hiring someone is a long-term commitment.

Marie Buharin, Founder of Modernesse

Don’t expect them to be in the role forever

Experience, good recommendations and professed loyalty are not always positives. In our hire, stable and consistent proved to be competent but lazy.

Rather than focusing on what we wanted for the long-term, we needed to focus on more immediate, short term goals. The company resources spent on coaching this person should have been spent on lesser experienced, but driven staff members.

We now focus on candidates that have goals outside of the company, those that want to grow and improve and create/do something of their own someday.

The reality is, no one stays in one job for their entire career. Companies that focus on creating a culture that builds future leaders will have constant access to focused, pro-active talent.

Dawn Hatch, Founding Partner at MATAX

Look outside your community

The worst hiring mistake is to cast too narrow a net when searching for a candidate. While it is true that some jobs do require local candidates, many jobs really do not. When a business casts a wider net it provides a broader applicant pool. The more choices there are, the more it will lead to a larger variety of candidates that will help diversify the organization with a wider range of skills, experience, and points of view. It is always best to conduct a proper job search and not hire a person based on nepotism and vague familiarity.

The consequences of hiring an applicant for my business was all too real when I hired somebody from the local community. In hindsight, it was a terrible mistake to merely conduct our job search locally. The person that was hired was from the local community and because she was likeable and personable enough, the fit seemed like a good match. 

This turned out to be a terrible mistake as the person had a really bad work ethic and when it came time to fire the person it was awkward because there were a lot of relationships in the local community that learned of the ensuing drama surrounding the termination of her employment. Many gossipers and chatterboxes are quick to spread rumours without necessarily knowing all the facts.

David Reischer, Esq., Attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com

You can’t trick Indeed

Don’t try to “trick” Indeed by posting from multiple sources, reposting constantly, or using “clickbait” headlines. While you may think this will help you stay at the top of Indeed and get more applicants, you’ll actually be hurting your business. 

Indeed has a Search Quality Team who ensures jobs adhere to their guidelines. Trying to cheat the system will get your job posts ranked lower, and multiple violations could get you permanently banned from the world’s #1 job board. To get the most out of posting on Indeed, post from a single source, repost only every 60 days or so, and keep your job title and description clean and concise.

Derek Williamson, CEO of HigherMe

Understand the context around their skills and experience

You need to look at the skills and experiences you’ll need to achieve future goals, not just meet current needs. Hence you should dig a little deeper into your talent. Have they worked at companies that have already achieved those goals? Have they worked at companies that are going through similar changes or are of a certain size? 

People don’t realize that the context around a person’s skills and experiences are so much more important than their title or where they went to school. When you fail to do this you get the best talent for someone else’s company, and you end up with lost productivity and a low recruitment ROI.

Joanna Riley, CEO of Censia

Doing favours can do more harm than good

It is still a risk to recruit friends and the family. It functions sometimes; much of the time it doesn’t. Although everybody gets a fair chance, it’s crucial to note that favours can not be granted at the company’s expense.

Be responsive to transfers but still adhere to the same level of recruiting. Offer any applicant an equal opportunity to make you proud. Do note that when you are thinking about helping others out your company is the highest priority.

Eliza Nimmich, Co-Founder of Tutor the People

Ask candidates the same questions to avoid confusion

One hiring mistake I have made in the past is not intentionally structuring interviews to ask all candidates the same questions. Since I did not ask all candidates the same questions, it was very difficult to compare candidates and form a confident point of view on which candidates were best for the job. 

To avoid this mistake, it’s best to spend time defining the exact questions you plan to ask ahead of the interviews with your prospective employees. During each interview, you should walk each interviewee through the same set of questions in the same order. This will help you develop an understanding of what a good answer looks like, and determine how each candidate stacks up.

Bruce Hogan, Co-Founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit

Body language sometimes speaks louder than words

One of the biggest hiring mistakes you can do is not hiring a person that fits your company culture. When you are hiring people you get so involved in their skills and the experience that you forget if they will be a good fit for your company. Always try and read their body language and how they express themselves, it will give you clarity if they are a good fit or not.

Derin Oyekan, Co-Founder of Reel Paper

Patience bears the juiciest fruits

The biggest mistake that I see companies making when hiring is not being patient. Finding the right person can take time and you are better waiting for the right person than hiring the wrong person. I have seen way too many companies that are rushing to fill a role and overlook little things that a candidate does during the hiring process because they just want to get the role filled. Slow down and pay attention to what a candidate, does and says, make sure they are going to be a fit with your organization. They have to have more than just the right experience.

Dave Morley, General Manager at Rockstar Recruiting

Broad job descriptions are time-consuming and impractical

When we first started expanding our marketing team, we didn’t anticipate the sheer volume of submissions we would receive for one open position. We posted an entry-level role that highlighted soft skills more than technical experience. The problem with this approach was that the requirements and job description were too broad to weed out candidates that were clearly a poor fit.

We wasted valuable time screening and interviewing prospects that probably shouldn’t have been considered in the first place. To avoid this in the future, we now highlight very specific qualifiers about what we want to see from candidates and what we expect hires to do on a day-to-day basis. The result is fewer submissions and a talent pool better suited for the job.

Nishank Khanna, CMO at Clarify Capital 

In my experience, the number one failure in the hiring process is not defining employee roles. Either this step has not been performed, performed improperly, or the person hired did not match the criteria developed in the process. Here are nine keys for small businesses to avoid this mistake:

Ensure that each position in your organization has a position description that includes:

  1. Position Mission.
  2. Job Description.
  3. Key Accountabilities.
  4. Responsibilities.
  5. Competencies.
  6. Critical success factors
  7. Key Process Ownership.
  8. Key Performance Indicators.
  9. Career History.

Howard M. Shore,  Founder/CEO of Activate Group Inc.

Be careful with the inexperienced

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is trying to hire an inexperienced team member too early. 

Like most small business owners, I want things done in a very specific way, and hiring someone that doesn’t have much experience not only saves you money but it also means you can mould that person’s skill set to match what you’re looking for.

At least that’s the idea.

In reality, you have to actually have the time to train them and as is often the case in a small business, time was in short supply. I became a bottleneck for them doing their job and sadly we had to part ways.

I ended up hiring someone with more experience soon after and that finally allowed me to breathe!

Logan Mastrianna, Owner/Founder of Sixty-Four Leads 

Put them on trial before giving the fulltime

One hiring mistake to avoid is not having a probationary period or trial run with new hires. Often employees can have amazing resumes and experience but don’t mesh with your team, expectations, and workflow. I’ve hired ghostwriters that unfortunately would often miss deadlines, required endless revisions, and had poor communication. This then delays finding other employees that are better candidates. These situations can be avoided by simply working on a smaller project before working fulltime together.

Carmine Mastropierro, Founder of Mastro Commerce 

One hiring mistake as a start-up early on was not having a structured trial week before bringing someone onto the team. The biggest consequence was a constant flow of people through the company only staying up to a week at a time. With feedback, it was mostly due to not knowing what to expect or not being a good fit for remote style work for a fast-paced startup. Having this happen made it much more difficult to create an established team and make good progress. 

The best way to avoid this is to offer a trial to be sure that the person is a good fit for the company and wants to work as the role needs. This will help weed people out early on so you can have an established, skilled team.

Deepak Shukla, Founder and CEO of Pearl Lemon

Don’t fall for the candidates with big company names on their resumes

You become enamoured by seeing someone with a big company name on their resume and automatically think that this person will bring great ideas and positive change but don’t discard other great candidates that may have better qualifications and fit your company better.

Daniel Snow, CEO of The Snow Agency

Marrying your love is one thing, hiring them is another 

Never, ever hire a significant other. You may think it’s a good idea, but it’s a terrible one. This decision creates total chaos at work and in the relationship. You bring unmet expectations from work in non-work situations, and vice versa. Looking for trouble and drama? Then hire your significant other. Otherwise, steer as far away as possible. Plus, you’ll quickly run into office politics when people think you’re giving favours based on the relationship, no matter if it’s not true.

Brian Robben, CEO of Robben Media

A fancy degree is just a piece of paper after all

One of the hiring mistakes one should avoid is hiring an applicant simply by looking at their degree and where they graduated from. Although it is true that the quality of education is better in Ivy League schools, those who came from state universities should not be overlooked. Most of the time, they are the ones who have experienced hardships early on in life which means that they will do their best at everything they do to make sure that they will have a chance and an opportunity to grow in the jobs they have been offered with.

Lewis Keegan, Owner of SkillScouter

Stick to your criteria

My biggest single hiring mistake occurred when I didn’t follow the ‘Hiring Profile’ I’d developed!

Mostly as a favour to one of my best in-store trainers (whose name was Betty), I hired her brother Richard, who’d mustered out of the Navy a few years after Vietnam ended – when vets had difficulty finding jobs (as had my older brother who’d seen combat in Vietnam). Betty was honest about her brother being a recovering alcoholic who regularly attended AA meetings, and against my better judgment (primarily because he’d had no customer service experience whatsoever), 

I gave Richard a chance. While he got off to a very good start, I ended up firing him for drinking multiple beers during his lunch break. I always stuck to my hiring profile from then on!

Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR Emeritus, Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired) at Doane University

Getting along is not the same as getting things done

I was once recruiting for a software developer and had my shortlist down to two candidates. Although Candidate 1 had more relevant experience, I felt that I immediately ‘clicked’ with Candidate 2 who I subsequently hired. Unfortunately, as much as I got on with him, he wasn’t the right fit and I had to let him go. The lesson? Always hire on qualifications and experience rather than personality.

Milosz Krasinski, MD at Chillifruit

Asking for references is far from trivial

Because I was a hip young dude, when I first started my business, my recruitment was a pretty informal affair. Because of this, when I was hiring a Social Media Manager, I didn’t bother with trivial things like asking for references. My new Social Media Manager, it turned out, liked to party and seemed to feel that showing up for work was optional. After we parted company, I discovered that she had been sacked from two previous jobs for the same kind of behavior.

Hiring staff is very much a leap of faith, however, if you do your homework, ask for references and hire on professional merit, you’re off to a pretty good start.

Milosz Krasinski, MD at Chillifruit

Candidates with wide-ranging skills are hidden gems

Inexperienced interviewers often make the mistake of overlooking so-called generalist candidates. I too made this mistake in my early days as a recruiter. Some candidates have one or two main skills and then a dozen other broader transferable skills that they can still apply to get the work done. These candidates might not be an exact fit for the job profile but this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t make for a good hire. 

I learned that some of the best candidates are not necessarily specialists but rather individuals with wide-ranging skills, which is a demonstration of their ability for critical thinking, curiosity, and innovation. Additionally, a candidate with a broad set of skills is better placed to provide solutions to numerous industry-wide problems thanks to their experience and diverse thinking.

Paul French, Managing Director at Intrinsic Search

Test them before you hire them

Not testing candidates adequately is a big faux-pas especially in the tech industry where it is important to hire based on a candidate’s ability to work with specific programs. In the past, I based my hiring decision solely on the candidate’s resume and personality and ignored the importance of take-home exercises that are similar to the work they would be doing once hired. I quickly learned that a candidate’s past performance is not indicative of future performance.

I recommend giving tests that mirror the kind of work the candidate will be doing. This helps to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses before making a hiring decision. Just be sure that you are administering the most relevant assessments and that you are testing crucial skills and competencies to make a truly good hiring decision.

Darrell Rosenstein, Founder of The Rosenstein Group

Conclusion

Hiring staff is one of the hardest parts about running your own business. But regardless if you want to hire Millennials or Xers, you should be careful and sharpen all your senses. Sometimes a bad hire is not a bad worker per se, but they simply don’t fit your culture. Therefore you should think about employing new team members as a multi-dimensional task.

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