||Ten Stupid Hiring Mistakes
By Nick Corcodilos
Part 1 of 2
Employers make lots of mistakes in the
process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring new employees. I've seen some of the worst.
I hope this article helps your company ratchet its own hiring practices up a notch or so.
If you've got cautionary examples of such problematic practices, I invite you to submit them. I also urge you to share hiring
practices that reveal your company to be a cut above the rest. I'd like nothing more than
to publish a column of the ten smartest hiring practices.
So without further ado, here are ten culprits that make
hiring a problematic experience for lots of companies.
1. Overly-narrow job
Every manager is in a rush because his project is behind schedule and unanticipated
problems have cropped up. When a manager needs to add staff, it's usually because he needs
the right help and he doesn't have time to baby-sit whoever he hires. The manager
needs specific skills now.
This attitude is at the root of overly-narrow job
specifications, and it can spell doom for the manager, for the new hire, and for the work.
People are thinking and problem-solving machines. They
see, they analyze, they learn and they marshal their skills, abilities and knowledge to
tackle and do a job. This is what you're paying for when you hire a good worker: his
abilities, not his specific knowledge of a technique or a tool. Almost by definition, a
good worker can learn to use any tool you hand him, and he might even introduce a few
tools you were unaware existed. When a person lacks some specific skills, a little
guidance and a stack of manuals go a long way.
You need specific expertise now? The odds that
you'll find it are small, especially in a tight market. The cost of leaving the work
undone until you find exactly what you want grows by the minute. The value of
hiring a talented worker and giving him the space to learn while he works increases with
time, from the first minute he is on your staff.
There's nothing wrong with clearly defining the work you
need to have done. Just don't make the mistake of overly-narrowing your definition of who
can do it, and don't make the mistake of turning a project management problem into a
hiring blunder. A manager who hires narrowly may be viewed as one who doesn't understand
the broader requirements of the technology and products he's working with -- and enough
hiring blunders can cost him his own job.
2. Human Resources does the
Consider that the person who first talks to a prospective hire is your company's front
line of communication with your professional community. What does an HR representative --
even the best one in your company -- really know about the work your department does?
As an example, if your company is in the electronics
industry, an engineer needs to see your company's technical and management credibility
immediately. The closer to the recruiting process the engineering manager is, the more
powerful is the attraction for the engineer. Don't make the prospective technical
candidate step through bureaucracy before you have a chance to make your pitch. In today's
market, you could lose him to an employer who makes a full-court press from the onset of
the recruiting effort.
What does this mean to your recruiting process? Turn your
managers and team members into recruiters. Let them be the people who make the first
contact with the candidate. Let your team create the candidate's first impression of your
company. Show the candidate that hiring the best people is as important a function to your
team as designing the best products (or having the highest sales, or applying the smartest
budget management practices).
3. Hiring "what comes
The traditional recruiting and hiring process is based on a faulty selection model. When
you run ads and hold job fairs, you create what's referred to in the research world as
"selection bias". That is, the process you use biases the outcome of your search
for new employees. You get to hire only the people who come along, not those you would
like to hire.
Since when is your company's motto, Hire What Comes
When you retain a headhunter, you change the nature of
your hiring strategy. You pursue the best workers who are most suited to your needs;
you're not restricted to "what comes along". Of course, regular readers of this
column know that there's no mystery to "being your own
headhunter" -- so this is not an advertisement for headhunting services. The
message here is that you should be keenly aware of the consequences of the process you use
to recruit and hire. You're probably limiting yourself more severely than you suspect.
A special caution: today we're told the best job
candidates are part of a "hidden candidate pool". That is, they're not looking,
but they're available. (It kind of sounds like the flipside of that other employment
industry phantom, the "hidden job market," doesn't it?) The popular oxymoron
applied to these rare folks is "passive job hunter". In trying to describe that
group of talented workers who are not actively looking for new jobs, the media (and their
associated recruitment advertising services) imply that these people really are available
through conventional means, and that they're the right people for you. All you need is
access to their vitals, which just happen to be in a data base which you can use for a
fee. The problem is, these data bases -- no matter how specialized -- introduce the same
selection bias into your hiring efforts.
Bottom line: either you are identifying and pursuing
those individuals you would like to hire, or you're shooting at the fish that are
conveniently -- and rather naively -- swimming in a little barrel. So, run ads if you
will. But, be aware that employers who identify, hunt down and entice the workers they
really want have a jump on you.
4. Failure to prep the
The typical job candidate arrives at the job interview knowing only what's printed in the
want ad, and what your HR representative told her. What a great way to evaluate a
prospective employee -- make it as much a "blind date" as possible! If she asks
to speak with the hiring manager in advance of the interview, tell her "that's not
done" and that "the manager is very busy -- you'll learn all you need in the
interview". In fact, when she asks the name of the manager she'll be meeting next
week, you might as well do what a lot of companies do: decline to give it to her.
What nonsense. It's in a hiring manager's best interest
to help the candidate prepare for the interview -- at least to the extent the candidate is
interested in doing so. In fact, a candidate's lack of interest in the prep material or
information you offer should signal that this is probably the wrong candidate to devote
interview time to.
What kind of preparation should you offer and encourage?
That's up to you. But consider this: a candidate who makes good use of whatever resources
you bestow prior to the interview will likely make as good use of the tools your
department provides once she's on the job. It's a very telling test.
Here are some suggestions for prep materials. Prior to
bringing the candidate in for an interview, offer her non-confidential information about:
- your products and technologies
- relevant but not-so-obvious web pages that might be useful
- the problems and challenges your team is facing
- industry issues that impact your business
- the tools your team uses
- methods you employ in project management
- competitors and vendors you deal with
- articles about your company that illuminate how you run
- historical information about your products and your
- organizational information about how various departments
- financial and profitability data, if your company is
public (or maybe even if it's not)
- the names and telephone numbers of members of your staff
Treat the job interview as an open-book test, and give
the candidate the book before the interview. Let her talk with you on the phone; let her
talk to some of your team members; let her ask questions in advance. If you offer and she
doesn't bother, you've learned something important. If she takes advantage of the
information, imagine how fruitful the interview could be. You could talk about things that really matter -- like how the
candidate can use what she has learned to make your business more profitable.
5. Failure to leverage the
interview into other useful contacts
Human resources reps sometimes ask job candidates to recommend or refer their professional
associates for other possible jobs; but it's different coming from the hiring manager.
Hiring managers should learn to do this all the time.
Here you are, meeting with a member of your professional
community "from out there" in the industry. This is a person who knows lots of
other sales reps, programmers, technicians, accountants, engineers, productions workers --
lots of the kinds of people your company is seeking to hire. If you're not discreetly
mining this information, you're wasting a valuable opportunity in the interview.
Suggestion: don't just gather these names. Invite the
candidate and his buddies to your next company event. Don't have an event coming up? Start
having them. Lots of them. Whether it's a barbecue, a picnic, a bag lunch featuring a
presentation by a company expert, a hospitality suite at the next product fair, or beers
at the local watering hole after work on Friday -- this is how you enlarge your circle of
professional contacts. And it's how you identify more of the kinds of people you want to
hire before you need to hire them.
2: More Stupid Hiring Mistakes
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