“Bank employee steals a million, 2 SBC employees found stealing”… headlines that are probably the worst nightmare of any Human Resources Manager. Certainly not something anyone wants to go down in company history for, and be remembered for eternity as the person responsible for that hire. Well, at least, not intentionally.
It often makes you wonder what could possibly have gone wrong in the recruiting process and what might have prevented something like this from happening. Generally, it isn’t the big things that get overlooked because we’ve prepared adequately for them but more often, the little ones that get right past our eyes.
Here are the 7 most common mistakes that even the most experienced hiring manager will make and how you can avoid them.
#1- Your ad says the same thing as the last time
You’re stretched for time; you have a dozen things to work on, and looking for a new employee once again, is the last thing you need in the midst of everything. So you go for the archives, pull out the ad for the very same position, or perhaps, go to monster.com, find an ad for a similar position, copy and paste it on your word file, make minor edits and viola -it’s done!
Simple and efficient; except that everyone else is doing the same which means that when the ad is written, very little thought is put into the type of person you really want for the job (no, I don’t mean the job responsibilities, because you’ve probably described that really well). It’s the personality traits; after all the job is going to be done by a human, not a robot or superman for that matter, so listing enough character traits to fit in three lines might seem easy but pretty daunting to find in real life.
Instead look for traits that are going to be the most crucial in determining success in the position and focus on finding them. For instance, if you’re hiring for a sales position, go for proactive vs. organized because that is the key determinant for success in the position. Another great way is to use a personality assessment guide such as DISC to figure out what type of person would be great in the position and use those traits in the ad. Focus on the personality traits more than you focus on finding the exact experience, because skills can be taught but not great attitude and character.
#2 Sold on the resume
You’re going through the thousand resumes (ok fifty) you’ve received in response to your ad; they all look the same, say the same things and your eyes begin to glaze over, until a really good looking resume catches your attention. Great experience, education, hmmm… this might be a winner. You put the resume in your pile of potential candidates and decide to call them in for an interview….only to find out at that they looked nothing like what you saw in the resume and hoped to see for that position (yes that’s why professional resume writing services are in business). What a waste of time and energy.
You went for the right approach and every marketer would agree with you; you have to be sold on the packaging first before you’ll buy the product. But don’t make the resume the only criteria. The idea is to eliminate all the bad dancers beforehand, so you can dance with the right partner and not have your toes stepped on, got it?
Be unconventional and build in an extra step before you get them to the interview table. One of the strategies we use for pre-screening is getting candidates to call in and answer 3 questions about themselves. You’ll be surprised at how many people will eliminate themselves which is great because it saves you the time spent on unproductive interviews when you could be focusing on the real important tasks at hand.
#3. Beware of the traditional interview approach
No doubt an interview is a crucial step in the recruiting process to assess a candidate. Interestingly, it is also a great stage for candidates to display their acting skills. Typically most companies will conduct a one on one face interview and primarily base their decision on that. We are so conditioned to doing it this way (ever since the time of the Roman Empire) that both the candidates and interviewers know what to expect and immediately fall into their respective stereotype roles.
In a University of Michigan study titled ‘The Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance,’ John and Rhonda Hunter analyzed how well job interviews accurately predict success on the job. The surprising finding: The typical interview increases your chances of choosing the best candidate by less than 2 percent. In other words, flipping a coin to choose between two candidates would be only 2 percent less reliable than basing your decision on an interview.”
What’s the best way around it? Change your interview process up a little and add some variety. Get your candidates to interview with several people that include their direct supervisor and a colleague they would be working with. Secondly, consider a group interview where multiple candidates are interviewed simultaneously and have to promote themselves and prove why they are the best fit for the position. You’ll be surprised at what you will learn about your candidate.
#4. Don’t need to prepare for the interview really; that’s the candidate’s job
You’re in the middle of sending an email when your secretary buzzes in and lets you know that your appointment is here for the interview. You look around for the candidate’s resume, pull it out from the pile of stuff on your desk, and quickly glance through it. You’re ready for your appointment. You’ve done this so many times that you know how the interview process goes, and don’t really need to prepare for it, right?
The candidate arrives and after exchanging a few pleasantries you roll into how great the company is, how long you’ve worked here, what you see as the future, what the job entails and what it will take to be successful etc. Great, except that as an interviewer, you’ve fallen into the trap of talking too much. Why? Simply because talking is more fun than listening (it’s like eating a cinnamon bun vs. reading a corporate report). Talking makes us feel important and through it we sub-consciously compensate for a lack in preparedness.
And by the way, it works for the candidate perfectly because they’ve got all the ingredients to cook up a perfect answer and give you exactly what you want to hear.
Instead follow the FBI approach. Talk for only25% of the time and let them go on for the rest. Ask open ended-questions that will get them talking more about themselves first and then their skills.
#5. The type questions you are asking
Guess what? When you were looking up The Top 10 Interview questions to ask, your candidates were doing the same, and actually went the extra mile and found the “Best answers to interview questions.” Seriously, what would we do without google?
Ok so now that your candidates are ready to give you the best rehearsed answer, step up the game and throw in a curve ball. Stay away from the hypothetical questions like, “what would you do if you had a conflict with a team member (do you really think they’ll tell you that they want to punch them)?” Of course not. You’ve set up an ideal scenario for them; they are going to create something along the way that fits in with what you want to hear.
Instead get them to share a story and ask this: Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a team member and how did you handle it.” That forces them to share a real life scenario which means there’s very little scope for manipulation and very little time to rewrite the screenplay and give you a canned answer.
#6. Missing out on the non-verbals?
Body language or non-verbal communication makes up 93% of the communication and yet we are so focused on the 7% (words) that we give it more weightage than anything else. Words, words and words! That’s great news for us interviewers because that’s what the candidate has been focusing on (what should they say, what is the right answer etc.). But you don’t have to follow suit. When you look at the entire picture, you’ll catch things you would never have caught on a resume or even in an interview.
Look for how your candidate dresses; do they care about the little details- polished shoes, matching earrings etc. That’ll tell you a whole lot more than “detail oriented” on their resume. Watch for their posture – are they leaning forward and interested in what you have to say or sitting back with an “I know everything” attitude. Watch for eye contact- are they engaged or looking over your shoulder at the picture on your wall. Perhaps they are really trying hard to look interested while figuring out how to stifle a yawn (remember that feeling)?
Tune in with yourself and see if you can pick up on their energy; can you sense discomfort around them or a desire to impress? Are they trying to avoid something or can you feel their confidence?
Don’t discount this as airy-fairy stuff because it is a lot more genuine than just their words. Remember it’s the little stuff that matters. Create opportunities for people to be their best and go beyond what is expected.
#7: Forget the Personality assessments
You’ve been interviewing people for a fairly long time and you can tell if it is the right person or not. There is something to be said for going with your gut feeling and you feel fairly confident that you’ve met the candidate of your dreams.
As great as your ability to read people may be, don’t rely on just the face to face interaction in an interview. Leverage the power of other tools in your toolkit such as personality assessments (there is a reason it is a billion dollar industry), background checks, reference checks, on the job tests etc. The good thing is this usually happens after the interview which allows an interviewer the chance to be more objective and a little bit of time for the “candidate charm” to wear off. Whichever way you look at it, it is a win-win situation because you will either find out that your instinct was spot on (and you can keep making great decisions as always) and if the tests don’t turn out that great, you’ve saved yourself from doom and gloom and have a paper trail to prove you did whatever was in your power to prevent an unfortunate situation from taking place.
All said and done, if you are in the profession of hiring you know that the “great candidate” may not turn out so great after all. No guarantees, simply because we’re human. But what I can certainly guarantee you is that you will save time, headaches, and be 10 times more likely to find the right candidate than before. Good luck.
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