Mistakes in the Hiring Process

by Krishna on September 7, 2007

This is a follow-up to my previous post on hiring in which I discussed how hiring people is handicapped by the fact that very few of the eligible prospective employees actually respond to job postings. Let us discuss the actual hiring process itself and see what the pitfalls are.

First of all, a key thing is to understand is that you will make mistakes in the hiring process. You will, sooner or later, hire a wrong employee. But why do I state the obvious? Because many people assume that the end result of hiring will be the ideal candidate and that leads to several problems, such as

  1. If you assume that you hired the ideal candidate, you will not spend time, effort and money on training that person and helping them succeed. You will expect them to hit the ground running. And when they fail, you will be disappointed.
  2. When an organization places all its bets on the hiring process, people involved in the hiring process will not admit any mistakes even after the person is later proven to be not suitable. Thus incompetent employees are tolerated for much longer.
  3. The hiring process can take much longer as candidate after candidate is rejected for some relatively minor deficiency that has little to do with their job function. Just so that the hiring can be “perfect”, which it never will be.

Ego can also play a significant role here. Suppose you are hiring a Java developer. If you hire somebody who later turns out to be incapable, you may feel that it reflects badly on you, because you don’t know enough about Java to ask good questions of an interviewee. Hence there is an incentive for you to remain silent and allow the problem to fester.

Back to the mistakes in hiring, here are a few of them:

  1. Hiring based on capability, not on the fit: When you interview a person, typically you want to know what the person has done and what he or she is capable of. However, that is less important than how well the person will fit into your environment and blend into your team. I know many recruiters do ask about teamwork, but the point is not whether the person fit well into the previous environment, but whether they will into yours.
  2. Hiring in a hurry: When you desperately need a resource, you will take more shortcuts and make more mistakes in your hiring process. The fact is that it is already too late if you need a resource and you don’t have anyone available. Typically, it could take anywhere between 2 weeks to 2 months to get a qualified employee on board, and even more depending on the seniority and experience.
  3. Hiring over-qualified employees: Hiring under-qualified employees is too obvious a problem to mention, but hiring very senior resources for non-complex work is just as bad. These employees will not feel challenged by the opportunities you provide them and they will be quickly disillusioned. Secondly, this also means that your costs are too high and someone (investors, owners, etc.) is paying too much.
  4. Not having the concerned manager do interviews: It may seem like a good idea to have a recruiting panel and then assign hired resources to different projects. However, if the concerned project manager does not have a say in interviewing the person, it can create many conflicts. Whenever possible, allow the project manager to pick the people he or she feels can do the project. A corollary is that if a person will not be working with a new hire, it is best to avoid them interviewing as they have no stake in a successful hire.
  5. Ending the hiring process after the offer letter: You can only spend so much time and effort on hiring for a position. And for most ordinary positions, the typical candidate does not spend more than a few hours in total before given the offer letter. So neither the employer nor the new employee know much about each other. The next few months should be about learning about each other and see if it will work out. One difference when compared to the hiring process is that this step is not about filtering, but about helping the relationship succeed through training and opportunities.

The more experience you gain in hiring, the more you can avoid very obvious mistakes. However, even though the wrong people can get through because, in the end, you can truly know a person only once they have worked with you for a reasonable period of time. So don’t rely on your knowledge of hiring to save you from mistakes.

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