How to Avoid the Top 10 Hiring Mistakes

If you ask most recruiters what their company’s most valuable asset is, they will likely say their employees. Most managers, specifically executives, understand the importance of great talent. However, many executives treat hiring A-players as a secondary responsibility, rather than a top priority. Time and time again, this proves to be a critical mistake. For some executives, playing the role of a hiring manager is an uncommon one, so when they take on this responsibility, it’s more likely mistakes in the hiring process will be made. A poorly executed hiring process can lead to a significant loss of time, human capital and potentially even customers.

So, how do you avoid critical mistakes during the hiring process? When your organization has an organized process, it ensures you and your fellow executives find the right candidates for your organization. In this blog post, we are going to cover how to avoid the top 10 hiring mistakes so you can consistently attract and hire top tier talent.


1. View Hiring Strategically

One of the biggest mistakes any executive or hiring manager can make is to view hiring as simply a way to fill an open position. This reactive way of planning an organization leaves no room for strategy when it comes to hiring. Finding A-players should be the top priority for any executive, and it shouldn’t be done in reaction to an open role. By being proactive and strategic about planning organizational needs and expecting roles to be open, you can avoid several hiring mistakes along the way. Not to mention, being strategic about who your company hires can make you an employer of choice, as you anticipate attrition and take a proactive approach.

To hire top talent strategically, you must proactively look for ways to meet organizational needs. What are the areas you are struggling to excel in today and where do you expect to struggle in the coming months, quarters and years? And, how can this employee resolve these current and future issues? New obstacles arise often, even for the most well-prepared organizations. For this reason, it’s a great idea to always be accepting applicants. You don’t want the ideal employee to not apply for a role because they don’t realize you are searching for new talent.

Another method of hiring strategically is to promote and market your corporate values and culture. All too often, candidates apply for roles where they don’t fit in with an organization’s culture or disagree with their values. This is another way to waste a significant amount of time, along with human resources. Give applicants an idea of what working at your company is like. What do meetings entail? What is expected of all employees when they step foot in the office?

2. Have updated and adequate position descriptions

It is nearly impossible to target A-players with inadequate position descriptions. If there is any confusing or vague information, it may steer candidates away from your organization. To avoid this from happening, be sure you include the following in your position descriptions:

  • Hard skills (Necessary experience, skills and talent)
  • Soft skills (Interpersonal skills)
  • Key selling points of the position
  • Measurable objectives and performance expectations

In addition to these points, you should make sure the positions are not dry or dull. They should portray your organization’s values and engage the potential hire. Also, try to involve the candidate in the job description. For example, rather than using the phrase “the ideal candidate,” instead use “you.” When you make your descriptions candidate-friendly and adequately describe the position, you are much more likely to attract top talent.

3. Don’t rely strictly on traditional recruiting methods

Even as an employer of choice, it can be difficult to find excellent contenders for a role. What was once an easy, low-maintenance task, attracting candidates now takes some creativity and effort. Simply posting a role online and hoping people apply is no longer an option for organizations that wish to hire A-players. This is why many organizations now offer in-house referral bonus programs, develop external recruitment networks and even hire professional search consultants. All of these methods help get your open role in front of ideal candidates.

Before you post an open position on your careers page or on a third-party hiring website, consider turning to your pipeline of candidate referrals. This can quickly speed up the process of finding excellent candidates to fill your open role seamlessly. Don’t forget to look inside your organization to see if anyone would fill the role well with their current skills and abilities. It is always easier to train a current employee to fill the high-level role than welcoming a new employee and getting them accustomed to your organization.

Also, reach out to the search firm you have used in the past if applicable. Or, if you have not used a search firm in the past, consider building a relationship with one. A search firm that specializes in your industry likely has a pipeline of qualified professionals who can fill your role and have knowledge of current recruitment trends. Both of these qualities can make all the difference with your hiring process.

4. Prep your candidates

For most companies, it is often an informal policy not to give candidates any information prior to interviews. They hope the candidate will self-educate themselves on the company, their role and corporate culture. It has been long theorized this is the best way to see who is the best candidate. However, the truth is, educating promising candidates is in your best interest.

When you provide the candidate with information about their potential job role, you enable them to come up with ways they can benefit the organization. You also give them an idea if they can fulfill the expectations you have for their job performance. As an additional benefit, if you give the contender tools to do well during the interview, and they use the tools, it is highly likely they will be successful in the role. On the other hand, if the candidate does not use the tools you provide, you still learn something equally important in a short amount of time.

5. Don’t place excessive value on credentials

Having a strong resume should never be the reason someone is welcomed into an organization. Rather, their skills, personality traits and work ethic should be the reasons a candidate makes the cut. According to statistics, around 30% of people admit to exaggerating their accomplishments on their resume, while 10% of people “seriously misrepresent” their backgrounds. Conversely, many candidates struggle to list all of their major accomplishments and market experience. Not to mention, there are several indicators, such as the traits listed previously, that cannot be portrayed through a resume. Many excellent candidates and A-players don’t make it to the interview stage for this reason.

Rather than relying on a resume for the hiring decision, recruiters and hiring managers should look at the resume as the source of questions. You can use the candidate’s resume to ask them questions about their past experience and performance, which are strong indicators of future performance. Work to uncover the traits of the individual behind the resume to see if they would make a good fit for your open role.

6. Have structured interviews

Unstructured interviews can be tricky for a hiring manager who has not had the appropriate training. It can quickly turn into a conversation rather than a method of evaluating a candidate’s future in the organization. Having a good interview is critical to ensuring you hire the right candidate for your company. According to, structured interviews have the second highest validity out of all interview techniques, following assessment centers. So, it is important to have structured, thought-out interviews so you can feel confident in your hiring decision.

Structured interviews help ensure you ask the questions that you need to know if someone is the right fit for the role and organization. With that being said, the interviewer must know which questions to ask. The questions should be focused on performance, skills, traits and experience. Open-ended questions are also a great option, as they give the candidate to provide examples of past and future behaviors. Some examples of open-ended questions are:

  • “Talk about a time when…”
  • “What would you do if…”
  • “Give me an example of a situation where…”

7. Check references thoroughly

As mentioned above, past performance is a strong indicator of future performance. This is why it is important for hiring managers to thoroughly check references. Many hiring managers and executives fail to check the references of their candidates, while some don’t require them at all. This is a mistake that can lead you to make the wrong candidate selection.

When speaking with references, you should prepare as though you are running a structured interview. To get the required information you need to make a confident choice on a candidate, consider asking the following:

Situational questions, which focus on the candidate’s ability to perform on the job

Relational questions, which reveal how a candidate handles interpersonal situations

Behavioral questions, which provide examples of the behaviors of a candidate

Like a structured interview with a candidate, open-ended questions can give the reference a chance to explain how a particular candidate performs and how they feel they will perform in the future. Their honest answers will help lead you to the right decision with hiring.

8. Don’t take too long or too short to make your decision

Taking too long or not long enough to make a decision can affect the success of the hiring process. When an organization, executive or hiring manager takes too little time to decide on a candidate to hire, it can mean they are relying on gut instinct or superficial information. Conversely, when they take too long to decide, the candidate may lose interest in the role or accept a different one.

It is possible to avoid taking too long or not long enough to decide on a candidate by following a decision-making process. Establishing a reasonable timeframe for everyone in your organization to follow can prevent the loss of great candidates and can make you look professional at the same time. Also, you can notify your candidate exactly how long it will take for you to come up with a decision.

Making a candidate wait several months, and even a year, to hear if they were hired is simply unacceptable. It can make an organization appear unprofessional, as though they don’t care if they string people along. Additionally, word of mouth travels quickly, so it can discourage other great candidates from applying for another role in your company. So, set in place a step-by-step plan to lead you to your candidate decision in a timely, but thorough, manner.

9. Get your team’s input

The candidate who is chosen for a role will likely only interact with a select few employees in your organization before their first day. Once they step into their role, they will work alongside your team and many other employees. How will you know if your team will enjoy working with the individual you hire? What if the new employee’s traits clash with other team members? To avoid these problems, the simple solution is to get your team’s input on the final candidates.

Granted, you don’t want to have your entire team sit in on the interview with a candidate, as this can be incredibly intimidating. However, writing down some of the key traits, successes, personality type, background and other details about each candidate and running it by your team is a great way to familiarize them enough for input. Ask them which candidate they feel would fit in best with the team and corporate culture. See if anything about a particular candidate stands out to your team. This can ensure the new hire is a good fit for your team and they can stay in their role long-term.

10. Having poor on-boarding processes

You may have identified the ideal candidate for your open role. The person is an A-player and you expect they will excel at every project they take on. However, no matter how excellent an employee is, the on-boarding process can make a large impact on their success in the organization. The on-boarding process of this new employee must clearly state employee expectations, your corporate culture, performance measurement indicators and other factors that are important to your organization. Your new employee should feel confident and equipped to start their role after your orientation.

If you would like to learn more about setting up a successful on-boarding process, our blog post titled, “How to Ensure the Best On-Boarding Experience For Executives” will be of great value to you.


Be Objective in the Hiring Process

Throughout the hiring process, remember to look at it with an objective point of view. If you notice room for improvement in the process, take note of it for the next time you hire someone. Or, you can pass the note along to human resources so they can fix the issue in the organization’s process. When you are objective, it will help improve the process for both you and your employees as you eliminate the top hiring mistakes.

As a manager or executive, your most important asset is your employees. So, you must avoid hiring mistakes to ensure you only hire top talent and A-players. When you take action to prevent the hiring mistakes listed above, you can ensure you make excellent use of your organization’s human capital and your time.