Archive for December, 2009

Top Ten Hiring Mistakes Made by Executives

December 23, 2009

As a hiring manager, you’re in good company.  Nearly all hiring executives believe they are fully proficient in recruiting and hiring top talent.  Yet, nearly all hiring executives slip up in the same fashion over and over.  I suppose it’s much like sales – you close a number of deals, no matter how poorly executed, and suddenly you think you’ve attained expert level status.

To be sure, all hiring managers have made some good hires.  My assertion, however, is that many of these good hires occurred largely in spite of the hiring competency level, not because of it.  Having been a hiring executive for over a decade, I know I’ve made my share of interviewing, hiring, and onboarding mistakes.  After all, most managers have not been suitably trained on hiring best practices.  And while we may find some improvement via repetition, we’re also likely to repeat numerous missteps.

On the recruitment side of the fence, I have worked with many hiring executives, all with varying degrees of hiring proficiency.  After conducting hundreds upon hundreds of searches, I’ve either witnessed or prevented mistakes made by hiring managers.  Try as I might to provide counsel and direction through the hiring process, some executives are more open to advice than others.  After all, why take advice if you’re under the impression that your command over the hiring process is top grade?

The answer, of course, is to continually seek to build a stronger hiring competency, resulting in a repeatable process, more fitting hires for your organization, and less wasted time.  A good starting point is to review the most prevalent hiring mistakes.  There are many to discuss, but let’s limit it to the common ones that carry the most deleterious impact.

Top Ten Hiring Mistakes Made by Executives:

10.  Passing up a top tier candidate that has 9 of the 10 requirements – The more constraints you put on your search, the smaller your prospective candidate pool becomes.  As a result, you are focusing on fulfilling a checklist that may not be reflective of the strongest candidates.  Open-mindedness is key here.  Try prioritizing the attributes that you cannot teach.

9. Unwillingness to interview candidates opportunistically for positions needed shortly down the road – Everyone should look to build a “bench.”  And beyond the bench, don’t let a rigid hiring timeline prevent you from meeting with an absolute ideal candidate that reaches your doorstep a few months before it’s time.  Your hiring plan should be dynamic and malleable, freeing you up to attract and bring on the top talent.

8.  Not planning out onboarding process and early performance measurement – You’ve hired a strong candidate.  Now what?  To ensure stickiness, plan out the ramp-up phase for your new employee, along with short term measurable objectives.

7.  Hire based solely on immediate needs – Huge mistake, but certainly understandable.  Your organization has holes that need to be filled and fires to put out.  Then again, to some degree, that’s always going to be the case.  Yet, you need to bring on people who can grow with the company and have the capacity and aptitude to take on additional responsibilities down the road.  What could this role look like 18 months from now?  Make sure to hire for that version of the role as well.

6.  Unwilling to heed advice from external resources – Your expertise is running your business.  You may be multi-talented, but you’re not an expert in every facet.  Your vendors are business partners, there to provide counsel and thought leadership in their areas of specialization.  As for effectively executing a search, defer to your search professional.  They have a vested interest in your success and have their fingers on the pulse of the talent market.  They conduct searches day in and day out.  And the best ones have walked a mile in your shoes before.  They understand the direct correlation between meeting your hiring needs and attaining your business objectives.

5.  Prioritize meeting a budgeted line item for compensation vs. getting the right person on the bus – This happens way too often and transcends “penny wise, pound foolish.”  If you had an opportunity to spend $25K more than planned to bring on a stronger talent, whose heightened contribution could likely equate to an incremental $250K in revenue, profitability, savings, or client retention, why would you decline to explore that possibility?  Ultimately, it is imperative to let the market dictate what it takes to attract and bring on board the right individual.

4.  Delaying the interview and hiring process – As stated in a prior blog article, momentum is key, no matter what facet of your business operations.  Recruiting top talent is no exception.  Granted, hiring executives have many other things on their plate and sometimes, hiring can feel like an interruption – a necessary evil.  Yet, in most all cases, human capital is a company’s greatest asset.  Thus, unnecessary delays in the interview and hiring process is deleterious to the cause.  When a strong candidate surfaces, it is critical to strike while the iron’s hot.  Whether it’s delays or utter lack of responsiveness, both send the wrong message.  And if delays are unavoidable, communication is essential.

3.  Resorting to ineffective and limiting recruitment methods – Many people’s inclination is to try known recruitment methods – email blasts to their network, an online job posting, or a recruiter that either puts up their own online posting or simply recycles candidates from their database.  None of these reactive recruiting activities amount to an effective means of sourcing top talent.  After weeks of getting inundated with lower quality or outright inappropriate resumes, and thus falling behind the hiring timeline curve, hiring managers ultimately reach sleep depriving levels of frustration and urgency.  The solution is to bring a search professional who knows how to execute a highly effective proactive recruitment process.

2.  Using multiple search firms at once for the same position – Here’s another myth.  The more recruiters I bring into the fold, the more they will canvass the talent base.  Actually, the more recruiters you bring into the fold, the less control you have over the messaging and positioning of your company’s image.  In addition, the recruitment process can easily become unwieldy.  Furthermore, although many recruiters won’t say this, with multiple recruiters hammering on the same search, you as the hiring client will have less loyalty and committed resources working for your behalf.  Skin in the game works both ways.

And the number-one hiring mistake made by executives is:

1.  Hire solely based on tangibles – Yes, this is all too prevalent.  By tangibles, I’m referring to educational and company pedigree, specific domain experience, skilled in particular tools or methods, and number of years in a role.  Often times, a hiring executive brings on a new employee who meets all of these tangible elements, only to find to his/her bewilderment that this new hire didn’t fit in and was a dismal failure.  How could that be?  Unfortunately, many hiring managers neglect to scrutinize candidates on their intangible attributes – most of the qualities that cannot be taught.  These include passion, enthusiasm, risk tolerance, drive, natural inquisitiveness, and self-awareness.

Honorable mentions include being ill-prepared for interviews, engaging in conversational interviewing vs. behavioral interviewing, not taking reference checks seriously, and taking candidates’ negotiations at offer time personally.

Granted, we all make mistakes in our roles.  Yet, the greatest mistake of all is not relying on your trusted advisors to seek improvement in your organization’s ability to attract, hire, and retain top talent.

Action Items

1.  The moment you believe you have reached the pinnacle of hiring proficiency, you have lost the battle.  Every hiring executive needs to further develop their hiring competency.  Remain vigilant on staying open-minded and seek out expert advice along the way.

2.  It’s all too easy to hire people who can get the job.  Instead, hire people who can do the job, bring fresh perspective into the organization, and grow as the company grows.

3.  Dedicate the time and focus needed for a successful hiring cycle.  There is no room for delays, poor response, and being ill-prepared for interviews.  Human capital is your company’s greatest asset.  It needs to be treated as such at all times.