Four Things Companies Do To Shoot Themselves In The Foot When Hiring – Part 1

I recently asked over one hundred CEOs and their key executives, “Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?” Not surprising everyone replied “Yes.” Not simply important, but critical. So then I asked,”If it is critical, then how many of you spend time each month focusing on hiring, excluding when you are actively looking to fill a position?” Not surprising, only three people raised their hand.

WOW, something that is critical to the success of the organization, gets virtually zero time unless there is a current need. Is that the way most critical issues are handled in your company? No strategic planning. No thought or action discussed or taken until the problem arises? Only once the problem arises is it dealt with it. Until then it is that famous management strategy, “Out of sight, out of mind?” or “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

I believe this management style only happens with hiring. Most other critical issues are regularly discussed, on-going programs such as, cost reductions, product development, increasing sales or market share, customer service, improving operational efficiencies are all constantly discussed and often major components of the company's strategic plan. In fact, I have seen many strategic plans that all have great plans for growth. Yet few ever include a strategy for hiring the people needed to execute the plan as the company grows. Strategic hiring is rarely part of a strategic plan.

I believe companies that truly want to hire top talent and do it on a consistent basis must avoid these four major land mines when hiring:

1) Untrained Managers – Hands down the number one reason hiring fails. This is the biggest problem with hiring in most companies. Few managers are actually properly trained on how to hire. Most managers have never even attended one course or read a book on hiring. For the few that have had training, it is usually limited to interviewing training. Granted this is better than nothing, but interviewing is only one step in an effective hiring process. If you aren't finding qualified candidates, all interviewing training will do is validate they aren't qualified. If the job isn't properly defined then where you look for candidates may not be the right place, resulting in unqualified candidates.

The fact is the vast majority of managers use the “Tribal Hiring Training” program. Too often a person learns to hire from the person that hired them. And the person that hired them learned from the person that hired then, and so it goes all the way back to Moses. All this really does is perpetuate hiring mistakes from one generation to another. It doesn't resolve the problem.

If companies are serious about improving hiring, step one is to develop an effective hiring process and then training their managers in all aspects of the process.

2) Poorly Defined Job – This mistake results in the search going sideways before it even starts. Traditional job descriptions for the most part aren't job descriptions at all. Most describe a person. Does this read like your job descriptions; Minimum 5 years experience, minimum BA degree, then a list of minimum skills/knowledge and certifications, and let's not forget the endless list of behaviors the candidate must have, team player, high energy, self-starter, strategic thinker, good communicator, BLAH BLAH BLAH. Of course there is also the list of the basic duties, tasks and responsibilities. These are really important, but as a person with 5 years of experience, who doesn't know these already? This traditional job description defines a minimally qualified person, not the job. So before the search starts it is all about finding the least qualified person. Any wonder why the least qualified person shows up at your door?

Instead of defining the least qualified person, start by defining superior performance in the role or the results expected to be achieved once the person is on board. For example, Improve customer service feedback scores from X to Y. Reduce turnover from X% to Y% within the next twelve months. Implement a sales forecasting process that includes a rolling six month forecast that is accurate within X% of actual sales. Now this is the real job. It defines expectations, not some vague terms or minimum requirements. For every job there are usually at least four of these results required. The job is being defined by performance. In order for the person to be able to achieve these results they must have the right experience. Maybe it is five years, maybe three or maybe ten, it doesn't matter. If they can do these it is enough. Now go find a person that can explain how they will deliver these once on board and you have the right person.

3) Finding candidates – See part 2

4) Disrespecting the Candidates – See part 2

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I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad