Here's How To Avoid The 7 Worst Hiring Mistakes

Jacquelyn Smith

We all make mistakes from time to time — and some missteps have bigger consequences than others.

Hiring mistakes, for instance, can be extremely costly.

"Hiring managers make fatal errors all the time, usually when they feel pressure to hire quickly — and, as we know, rushed decisions lead to bad hires," says Mike Del Ponte, cofounder and "chief hydration officer" of Soma, an eco-friendly water filtration system.

Luckily, though, there are easy ways to avoid the seven most common hiring mistakes, Del Ponte says. Here's his advice:

Mistake 1: Over-valuing cultural fit.

"Remember that the goal is to hire the most competent employee, not the most likeable," he says. "Cultural fit is important, but it can blind hiring managers from objectively assessing candidates." Create a scorecard to rate candidates, so you focus on what needs to be accomplished, not just personality.

Mistake 2: Rushing the hiring process.

"There is always urgency in filling an open position, but most hiring mistakes come from not thoroughly vetting enough candidates," he says. Avoid this by being realistic about hiring timelines. "Typically, you need at least six weeks to attract and vet enough high-quality candidates."

Mistake 3: Not asking for enough references.

Most people ask for supervisor references, but it's helpful to get references for peers and people who worked for the candidate, Del Ponte says. "For our most recent hire, we overcame this common mistake by calling seven references to confirm the candidate was a perfect fit for the role and to understand how to support him once he was on the team."

Mistake 4: Not having a formal process.

Lack of process can allow the hunt for candidates to go far too long or let bad candidates slip through the cracks. "Create a committee, map out your process, and give ample time for recruiting, interviewing, diligence, and negotiating," Del Ponte says.

Mistake 5: Hiring generalists.

Very few roles require a Jack of all trades, he explains. "Look for experts who have a track record of doing exactly what you want them to accomplish." Sometimes you need to hire generalists — especially if your company is young — "but you should quickly grow out of this phase and focus on only hiring specialists," Del Ponte says. 

Mistake 6: Not having clarity on the role that is being filled.

If you do not have the fine details of the role, responsibilities, and milestones you desire, you're not ready to start recruiting. "Get clear first," he says. "We made the mistake of hiring someone who was incredibly talented and accomplished, but not a good fit because we didn't know specifically what we needed for the role. The mistake cost us time and money. The next time around we found the perfect candidate because we knew exactly what we needed." 

Mistake 7: Relying on job posts.

The best candidates are rarely looking for a job. "You need to work your network to get introductions to people who can accomplish your goals, even if they don't yet know they want to work for you," says Del Ponte. "Make a list of advocates who can help you grow your candidate pool."

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