The 10 Biggest Hiring Mistakes and What to Do About Them

Have you ever had to skip a step or two in the selec­tion process because time was working against you?

Have you ever been forced to hire someone be­cause the best candi­d­ates turned the job down?

Have you ever hired someone who looked perfect even though your in­stincts told you other­wise?

If you have experienced any of these dilemmas, you’re not alone. They are some of the most common mistakes made by managers when hiring.

Hiring the right person for any job is a challenging task, at best. Un­fortu­nate­ly, there are no magic wands or secret potions to help you mast this skill. But there are a num­ber of prov­en concepts, procedures, and tech­niques that can substantial­ly improve your chances of making the right hiring deci­sion.

Hiring the right person is impor­tant because your ultimate success as a manager depends on your ability to attract and select highly effective peo­ple. If you don’t have effective peo­ple, it’s next to impossi­ble to achieve supe­rior results.

This means that if you are to be a successful manager, you must mas­ter the skills of interviewing and se­lect­ing. Like the skills an airline pilot must mas­ter for crash-landing maneu­vers, these skills are not called upon that frequent­ly. But when they are, you and the pilot must perform flaw­lessly. If either of you don’t or can’t the results are about the same…you both crash and burn. To fully appreciate the value of making successful hires, let’s first look at the cost of making an unsuccessful hire.  The cost to an organization can be staggering. The most obvious costs in­clude wasted sala­ries and benefits, train­ing time and costs, lost time in the selection process, and reduced produc­tivity. Probably the most dra­matic figure is the one that mea­sures lost sales oppor­tunities.

Outstanding Salesperson: Annual Sales – $1500, 000 x 5 yrs. = $7,500,000

Average Salesperson: Annual Sales – $1,000,000 x 5 yrs. = $5,000,000   

DIFFERENCE                        $2,500,000

The example above demon­strates that the difference over five years be­tween an average salesper­son and an out­standing one can be as much as several million dollars. In fact, many com­panies see this kind of differ­ence in a single year. Com­panies can no lon­ger afford to hire salespeople who “just get by,” let alone fail.

Understanding the most com­mon mis­takes managers make dur­ing the selec­tion process should help you avoid them yourself. The ten most common mistakes are:

1. Skipping steps in the selec­tion process. Every step in the se­lec­tion process is designed to help you collect the data you need to make a sound decision. Skipping steps dramatically re­duces your chances of making a successful hire.

2. Not knowing the type of person you need. If you don’t know who you want, anyone can fill the posi­tion.

3. Not planning the interview.  Many managers “wing” inter­views.  As a result, they neglect to dis­cuss key areas, and then have a difficult time evaluating the candi­dates objective­ly.

4. Letting your biases affect your decision. It is all too easy to enter an interview with pre-exist­ing bias­es that become self-fulfill­ing proph­e­cies about candidates.  Biases severely limit your ability to see the real can­didate. For instance, re­sults have proven that the manager who says, “I never hire inexperienced people,” is just as likely to make hiring mistakes as the manager who says, “I always hire inexperienced people.”

5.  Talking too much and listen­ing too little. It’s difficult to learn much about a candidate when you are doing all the talking. If you’re not listening 80 percent of the time, you are probably talking too much.

6.  Allowing one job dimension to disproportionately influ­ence your judgment on other dimen­sions. Many managers have been “burned” by a candi­date who ap­peared so strong in one dimension that they over­looked several weak­nesses in other key dimensions.

7.  Failing to explore a job di­men­sion sufficiently so you can eval­uate it. If you don’t have enough information to evaluate a dimen­sion, you may have a time bomb waiting to ex­plode. Manag­ers often con­fess that the one area that led to a person’s failure was the very area they failed to fully explore. Remem­ber, what you don’t know about a candidate can hurt you!

8.  Making a decision before the interview is completed. Rely­ing on first impressions may lead you to spend the rest of the interview sub­tly justifying your possibly erro­neous initial reaction.

9.  Failing to evaluate the inter­view data in a systematic and objec­tive manner. If you don’t evalu­ate the interview data this way, you may as well flip a coin, be­cause you’re leav­ing the final decision to chance.

10. Allowing the pressure to fill the job to influence your deci­sion.  Hiring the best can­di­date available when the can­didate isn’t qualified usually com­pounds your problems, instead of solving them.

It won’t be possible to complete­ly eliminate these and other “hiring mis­takes.” However, you can re­duce them and minimize the im­pact of mistakes you do make.

To meet the challenge of select­ing individuals who will be success­ful, we have designed the Perfor­mance-Di­rect­ed Selection System. This is a com­prehensive, flexible, and prac­tical sys­tem designed to meet most comp­anies’ complex needs.

The system is designed around two basic concepts:

  • The best predictor of future job suc­cess is past perfor­ma­nce. With the system, you will be able to elicit and eval­uate ap­propriate perfor­mance data from candi­dates. Then you will be in a good position to match each candid­ate’s per­for­ma­nce data with the re­quire­ments of the job.
  • Successful selection has equal parts: Objective: Can the per­son do the job? And, Interpersonal: Can you man­age this per­son?

The Performance-Directed Se­lec­tion System will help you accom­plish three things:

1. It will help you insure that the final candidate have the skills, knowl­edge, and attrib­utes (Crit­i­cal Job Di­men­sions) that you are look­ing for.

2. It will help you establish the can­did­ate’s interest and moti­va­tion for the job.

3. It will help identify which can­di­date you are best suit­ed to man­age.

The real bottom line to this ap­pro­ach is that you will know what capa­bili­ties your potential employees have and what you need to develop them into high performers.

In order for your selection ef­forts to be as effective as possible, we rec­om­mend that you complete each step as it is outlined and in the order it is pre­sented.

Situational variables (timing, a­vail­ability, etc.) can make it difficult to always adhere to the system as it is designed. Here are the seven steps.

First, develop a profile of the ideal salesperson for your specific job. Interviews of existing salespeople and managers yield data on specific responsibilities. Further research in the field compares and contrasts high-performance reps with average performers. The research probes how sales were gained or lost, and may include interviews with cus­tomers and former customers. This information is quantified and as­sembled into a manageable set of critical job dimensions.

These job dimensions profile the ideal candidate, and are viewed in light of three characteristics:

  • Knowledge—what a salesperson must know for job success.
  • Skills-the talent to perform
  • Personal attributes—essential personal characteristics, such as values, attitudes, and behavior pat­terns.


Second, rank and analyze critical job dimensions. Once the job di­mensions are compiled, the man­ager evaluates their probable degree of influence on the success of the specific job. At this early stage, the manager also considers the future impact of a number of elements affecting the assignment, including:

  • Job factors—key responsibilities and environmental or logistical challenges, such as travel require­ments, the organization’s market position and product mix, labor pool, and time demands.


  • Organizational factors—compa­ny history and ownership, current priorities, and the dynamics of the existing sales force. A great sales­person can fail in a given position if he is wrong for that particular job.


  • Management factors—the man­ager’s personal style, needs, inter­ests, and       ability to sell, train, man­age, and motivate.



Third, plan the interview. Carefully sequenced, perfor­mance-directed questions provide the manager with a structured guide for determining how well a candi­date meets the critical job dimen­sions. This type interview planning allows for the flexibility to digress from the out­line and take advantage of the dy­namics of the interview. Yet it still provides a format that ensures con­sideration of all critical dimensions.

Forth, discover past performance. The interview itself is a mutual dis­covery process in which the sales manager collects data and evidence on the candidate’s past perfor­mance, and simultaneously sells the candidate on the open position. Because past performance usual­ly predicts future success, the most effective performance-directed in­terview moves in a chronological sequence to follow changes in criti­cal job dimension trends. Key di­mensions, such as independence, initiative, and judgment, must be sampled at different periods in the candidate’s career to establish trends.

Fifth, get behind the candidate’s facade. Let’s face it; all candidates put their best foot forward in an interview. Performance-Directed questions will propel the interview beyond this interviewing facade into a revealing discovery session.

The atmosphere for a significant interview is established through comfortable, rapport-building ice­breaker questions that build mutual trust. Discussion of factual data puts the candidate at ease, and serves as a springboard for obtain­ing more subjective, insightful in­formation.

Sales managers have the right to delve into candidates’ specific abili­ty to do the job. This means the manager focusses interview ques­tions to elicit proof of candidates’ knowledge, skills, and personal at­tributes.

When applicants indicate they have a specific quality, the manager is only truly informed by obtaining a revealing example of how that quality was exhibited. Insist upon specific examples of past successes. The burden of proof is upon the candidate, but it’s up to the manager to explore.

In every case, it’s far more satis­fying and definitely less expensive to truly learn about your candidates during the interview process than to have to repeat the entire cycle again—soon.

Sixth, evaluate and compare can­didates. Once interviews are com­pleted, the manager can compare each applicant with the profile of the ideal candidate. Each appli­cant’s profile is evaluated against three key tests of behavior:

Relevancy—was the candidate’s responses and performance data rel­evant to the critical job dimensions under discussion?

Currency        has the candidate’s performance data been validated through recent behavior or experi­ence?

Frequency—has the performance data been expressed frequently enough to exhibit a reliable behav­ior pattern?

Seventh, take an honest look at the success potential of managing and adapting. The manager’s “gut feel” of how well each potential rep would perform in the new job envi­ronment is substantiated with the evaluations. But there’s one more crucial factor: Of the qualified can­didates, which one has the greatest chance for success?

Remember, there is no substitute for good people. Improve your chances of hiring the best people using the Performance-Directed Selection Process. The seven steps outlined are designed to minimize risk when all seven are diligently pur­sued, without shortcuts. Doing so increases the odds hiring the right person—the first time around.


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