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Apr 10, 2015

Hiring right is one of the most important decisions a company can make.

Hire the right person and you increase productivity and retention. Hire the wrong person and you increase turnover, decrease productivity and waste a lot of time and money.

Here are some common hiring mistakes most companies make — and how you can avoid them:

1. Generic job descriptions

The use of traditional qualifications-based job descriptions are one of the primary reasons companies don’t find enough top people.

These generic job descriptions don’t describe the actual work that needs to get done; they rely on generalizations and past positions descriptions. By not describing and thinking through what the person will actually do, a lot of time is spent looking for the wrong person.

Unfortunately, bad hires and passing up potentially good hires is a common result of these approaches.


  • Collaborate with HR and any other people that understand the position (including the incumbent or peers if available).
  • Determine key responsibilities of the position and write them out clearly.
  • Elaborate the specific results you want the new employee to achieve.
  • Write out past experience, skills and qualifications that are absolute “must haves” and why.
  • Challenge each one of these beliefs with the question, “How could the right person succeed without this?”
  • Specify which personality/behavioral characteristics would be truly critical and why.
  • Determine which mental/cognitive characteristics would be critical, and why.

2. Attitude is everything

How many times have you heard, “Attitude is everything” or “Where there is a will, there is a way”?

This belief can cause us to overlook the importance of natural ability (also referred to as aptitude, innate characteristics, or wiring). Research and experience have shown that if ability is too low, attitude will not be enough to compensate.


  • Incorporate objective, accurate measures of abilities in the areas that are important for the job.
  • Consider personality assessments or collaborate with executives to come up with a list of abilities.

 3. It’s all about chemistry

A great deal of research has shown that we tend to like people who are similar to us and dislike those who are most different. In addition, most of us have heard of the “halo effect” — if we identify a characteristic we find positive, we tend to overrate other characteristics the same way.

The fact is that in job interviews, we often learn more about a candidate’s interview style and interview skills than we do about the candidate’s true fit for the job.


  • Have well-prepared, open-ended interview questions designed to learn about how the person actually thinks and behaves.
  • Ask these questions without giving feedback (verbal or non-verbal) on your approval or disapproval of the answers. Because your feedback can sway the candidate’s answers toward gaining your approval rather than helping you understand the person’s true way of thinking and behaving.

4. Experience equals ability

Have you ever said, “I just have a good feeling about this person” and been wrong?

These past hiring mistakes typically lead to reduced confidence to assess true ability and fit for a job. As a result, many employers have put an overreliance on experience as a safeguard against bad hires and high turnover.

But believing that the more experience a person has, the safer the hire, is often wrong. The actual job and environment in your company may be quite different from the candidate’s related job experience at a different company.

In addition, just because someone has done something for years doesn’t mean that person has ability in that area.


  • Acknowledge that a person with natural ability and passion will surpass a person with more experience/qualifications almost every time.
  • Use an objective evaluation to measure a candidate’s innate ability to do your specific job.
  • Develop well-prepared questions to gauge each candidate’s attitude/passion to do the actual job duties in your specific culture.


Traditional hiring doesn’t work. It can lead to bad hiring decisions and have dire consequences for your company.

Hiring right can lead to more productive employees, a happier workplace, and a more efficient use of your company’s time and money.