Avoid Hiring Mistakes

A booming economy and a greying workforce are creating a labour crunch in British Columbia. And that’s causing challenges for companies anxious to fill their ranks as fast as possible.

Yet while the temptation to hire quickly is present, it’s important in this climate to make sound, thoughtful hiring decisions. That way, companies are more likely to attract talented candidates who will stick around for the long term.

If managers hire with care, their staffing choices will set off a chain reaction: people like to work with talented, pleasant colleagues, so companies that hire these types of people are more likely to retain staff and attract other employees.

Larry Stefan, a registered psychologist based in Vancouver, said, “If you hire a good first-line supervisor, you’re more likely to keep talent.” And when it comes to attracting employees, Jim Wuest, a Vancouver management consultant, said, “Newly hired people who see the firm as a quality place to work will talk to other strong potential candidates”.

What should managers watch out for when they hire?

There are five hiring traps Stefan advises managers to avoid:

1. Ignoring Inconsistencies

According to Stefan, managers can be so keen to hire a new recruit who seems “perfect” for the role (except for a “small flaw”) that they will dismiss, discount and downplay any clues to the contrary. These managers may dismiss information about poor “people skills” in favour of superior technical skills, arguing, the soft skills will come later. To prevent hiring arrogant, bullying or lone-wolf employees, Wuest reminds managers that, “it’s much easier to help individuals gain technical skills than it is to train for people skills”.

To avoid this, managers must consider things that are inconsistent with the information about a candidate. Managers should be specific about they want, avoiding general statements in their job specifications. For example, a job requirement such as “being good with customers” may mean the candidate establishes rapport with retail customers quickly by being friendly and warm.

2. Don’t Hand It All Over To Professionals

Managers must stay involved in the hiring process. Some believe that they can leave the hiring to industrial psychologists, consultants and recruiters. This is not the case. While these professionals provide a valuable service, managers must also do their homework by checking the references of all candidates and examining the selection-systems and interviewing techniques used by professionals.

3. Don’t Rush To Hire The Best Mediocre Candidate

Managers feeling pressured to hire someone for the job quickly may fall into the trap of pouncing on the least capable. This is ill-advised. They should start another search if they fail to find the right person. Refrain from looking for differences between mediocre candidates, hoping to find a diamond in the rough.

However, in industries where labour shortages are really acute, there are ways to hire staff quickly.

Wuest recommends that managers buy time to make a good hiring decision by asking staff to add temporarily to their work load while the company looks for suitable new hires. He suggests peers, subordinates and superiors help do a job analysis. Identify the key responsibilities, the kinds of results a new employee would have to produce and articulate what kind of person would be a good fit with the company culture.

Ask other employees and suppliers if they know anyone who might fit the job requirements. When taking applications, include space for stories about past performance and request a phone number of a person who could discuss this aspect of the candidate’s performance. To speed things up, Stefan suggests looking for a history of changing jobs frequently and avoiding those candidates. He advocates a thorough reference check.

Interview time can be reduced by giving candidates the questions in advance, such as, “Tell us about a time when your ability to set priorities helped you succeed”.

While these suggestions may work in the short term, the best solution is to remember that recruitment is ongoing. “Be proactive and look for and screen people on a regular basis. If you’ve pre-qualified candidates, you can get ahead of the curve”, says Stefan.

4. Gather All The Evidence

Relying on one or two sources of evidence upon which to make a selection is another pitfall. Some managers rely mainly on interview information and resumes. Others neglect to check all the references provided and rely solely on matching candidates to the skills required by the company. Still other managers may put the onus on personality testing and fail to account for interpersonal behaviour. Choosing the methods for selection are important. Obtain at least three sources of data. This can include an interview and reference check, cognitive and personality testing and watching the candidate perform work tasks in a group or team setting.

5. Work On Your Interview Skills

Managers can recognize that interviews are only one source of evidence, but they are important. They should conduct behavioural interviews that target questions about the individual’s past performance in specific situations. The theory is past behaviour will predict future performance. Nevertheless, it is best if managers have more than one source of evidence for their decision. For example, while past behaviour can predict future behaviour, this may not be true in the case of “superstar” candidates. The superstar may have been supported by a particular company culture that relied heavily on team work. Without the team support the superstar may not perform as well.

Managers should be willing to learn more about interviewing, take the time to train and ensure they have allotted enough time for a thorough interview. They should be willing to ask a candidate to return for subsequent interviews. Structured interviews are best, as the same set of questions can be asked of every candidate and answers can be compared easily.

When hiring, be sure to look at as many candidates as possible, consider people from outside your industry, don’t overemphasize the need for directly related experience and try not to rush the decision. Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. They can be contacted at: sunmail@newmangrigg.com

Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. They can be contacted at sunmail@newmangrigg.com

Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.

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