How to prevent a hiring disaster

Although this article from the Harvard Business Review on preventing bad hires is pretty old, it’s nevertheless still highly relevant in today’s world. The piece makes some timeless, but simple points that are too often overlooked in a hiring process, resulting in a hiring disaster.

Know what you’re looking for

Quite often the source of a poor hiring decision, or even a requirement to go back to square one after failing to appoint, is the result of not doing your diligence at the start to properly understand what kind of profile you’re looking for. Too often companies will simply recruit what they recruited before without sense checking if this is in fact still up to date. In other cases it may be the enthusiastic manager has gathered all their wish-list items, but hasn’t properly scrutinised if the profile they think they want is either what they actually need, let alone will be able to find (leading down the unicorn path).

So point one, make sure you’ve taken the time to truly know what kind of person you’re looking for before you go to market.

Assess the right things

As with the point above, employers can also be guilty of focusing their attention in assessments on the wrong things. If you’ve properly scoped what you need, they make sure you’re measuring against those criteria. Re-hashing the same interview questions, asking candidates to do tests that don’t relate to the skills required for the role, placing too much focus on whether the person will ‘fit’ as opposed to whether they’ll be mot successful in the job, can all cloud forming a good judgement about a candidates suitability for the job. So making an assessment process fit for purpose will help prevent bad hires.

The value of good on-boarding

Fortunately, this has become recognised as a critical component to successful hiring, but it’s still worth emphasising. If you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into getting the right person in, then it pays to invest more time to set them up for success. Not everyone settles instantly, so understanding what you can do to help them reach that point as quickly as possible is really important. Moreover, with an increase in home working, building out those points of engagement will be critical to make your new employee connect with their own and the company’s mission.

Take time to reflect

It is very tempting to rush in and make an offer to the preferred candidate. Whether it be fear of losing the candidate to a competitor or just that you got on famously with them during the interview, make sure you’ve taken the necessary time to rationally work through all the points and sense check that this is definitely the right choice.

Where possible it pays to have more than a single-stage interview process. I’ve worked in recruitment for 25 years, and have countless examples where someone has aced their first interview, but really underwhelmed at the next meeting. So even if a more informal follow-up, try to meet them more than once, and ensure you’ve got all your questions answered.

It’s also advisable to have a diverse panel of interviewers where possible, so different perspectives will help form a more objective and robust judgement.

Taking a little extra time and effort to validate your decision can ensure you avoid spending much more time rectifying a hiring blunder.

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