Three Common Bonehead Hiring Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

Before becoming an assessment, organizational development and hiring professional, I owned and managed a few companies.  I hired a lot of people.  I hired some really good people who succeeded beyond my highest expectations.  But I made a few bonehead mistakes along the way.

Here, for your benefit, are three bonehead mistakes I’ve made (at great personal expense and discomfort), and suggestions for how  to avoid making them yourself.

BONEHEAD MISTAKE #1 : “This person is really smart and nice, so they’ll be able to do most any job in this organization.”

SUGGESTION:  NEVER assume that just because a person is smart and nice they can do a particular job.  That leaves you in the unfortunate position of having to find a job that fits a person, rather than having people in your organization who love their jobs and perform them well.  Think for a moment.  YOU are probably both smart and nice.  But have you ever been in a job that you hated, or for which you were unqualified or weren’t very good at performing?  Do you now have some smart, nice people at your company who are under-performing in their positions?

Instead, try looking at 1) a person’s ability to do the job; 2) a person’s track record of successfully doing jobs similar to the job; and 3) the person’s match with a specific job description.  Assessments are used to determine a candidate’s ‘job-fit’ to a particular position.   Hiring right every time is possible, and it is the solution to many problems in your company.

BONEHEAD MISTAKE #2:  “This person was a good salesperson, so I’ll promote them to MANAGE other salespeople.  They could sell so they’ll be a great sales manager, too!”

SUGGESTION:  Assuming that a competent person can move to another position that requires fundamentally different skills, disciplines, personality traits and abilities is a recipe for disaster.  For instance, being able to sell things to people is not the same as being able to perform the disciplines of management like information and communication management; financial analysis; and managing, coaching and disciplining people.  In simple terms, a ‘Golden Retriever’ who loves to make phone calls, be around people and sell things may have a hard time being a ‘German Shepherd’ who sits at a desk, analyzes sales reports, coaches salespeople and regularly creates reports for company management on department results.  And when your previously successful salesperson fails as a sales manager, wrecks the sales department and leaves your company – you’ve lost not one – but several people.  You, your company and your former customers have lost.  And the competitor who hires your salesperson has won – at your expense.

Instead, consider every job distinctly separate.  Hire the right person based upon what’s required for success in that job.  Rather than promoting people ‘up the ladder’ as a reward for succeeding in a position, why not try  offering your stars more compensation, challenge  or other creative rewards and opportunities that are appropriate for their talents, abilities and what they really love to do?

BONEHEAD MISTAKE #3:   “We hire lots of people, because  good people are hard to find.  The good ones rise to the top and succeed, and the bad ones fail and leave.  A little turnover keeps people on their toes and is good for a company.”

SUGGESTION:  As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”  Turnover has both hard and soft costs.  Have you ever calculated your turnover costs?  The hard costs are: recruiting, hiring, salary and benefits, training,lost productivity and lost opportunity costs.  After making these hard dollar investments in a new employee, you should expect a healthy return in the form of a very productive employee.  But you’ll never recover those costs when a new employee ‘doesn’t work out.’  The soft costs are: low employee engagement levels, lost customer opportunities and a poor reputation in the community.   And don’t discount the fact that a company’s reputation spreads, whether good – or bad.  Social media can work both for and against an employer, especially among the young, high achiever crowd.

Here’s a better way.  If your company is THE place where great people work, where they’re in jobs that are right for them based on their talents and skills; where excellence is the standard; where they have a chance to develop both professionally and personally; where they feel engaged and appreciated; where people are recognized, compensated and rewarded for ‘above and beyond’ performance; and where the best people stay and contribute their best for a long time because they really want to, and believe in what the company stands for – then you’ll attract and keep the best and brightest.  If it’s not, well, you’re familiar with your current results.

You may be skeptical.  This may sound too difficult or expensive.  Or you still don’t believe that these three things are ‘bonehead mistakes.’  That’s OK.   A wise person once told me that there’s no experience quite like making your own mistakes, but learning from other people’s mistakes is far less expensive and painful.

Let’s end on a positive note.  If you’ve made one of these bonehead mistakes like I have, you’re not alone.  So, if you’re ready to try something different, please give us a call.  We understand, and we can help.

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Brand Development by Garrison Everest