Traps in the Hiring Maze

Systems can be in place, the logo fabulous, and the product something that will absolutely fly out the door but without the right people your business won't go far. Finding the right people is important and often difficult. The size of your business, the resources you have to find and pay people, and many other circumstances affect your hiring. And in case you don't know this, your judgement is probably awful when it comes to hiring. Many businesses fall into the trap of looking for people they like and who might be a "good fit" with the values of the company while horribly neglecting if the person can do the job. Here are the worst traps to avoid when you are in the maze of hiring:  

 Trap #1 - Getting to Know the Person

Information about a potential employees' personal lives, hobbies, age, gender, clothing style, and what kind of tree they see themselves as does not matter. The more you get to like them as people, the less likely you are to be at all objective about their skills to do the job. If you make the mistake of finding out they really need the job so they don't have to move or take their kid out of private school, you are even closer into the trap of hiring because the person needs the job and not because they are a good match for the job. Avoid personal chit-chat even in the interview warm-up and you will be able to better think about the answers to their skill questions. If you are a real people person and have trouble with that, just tell the candidate something like this: "Our first interview will concentrate completely on your skills to do the job rather than other aspects like fit with the company culture. We apologize if this seems clinical but we want to make sure your skills are a good fit for the position before we get to know you better."

 Trap #2 - Asking Generalized, Unstructured Questions

Since you aren't asking feel-good or warm-up questions, what are you talking about? Ideally, you are asking questions based on the job and the skills to perform the job. This is not always as easy as it sounds. In a start-up company when the job is likely to morph, this is difficult. New positions are hard to analyze. Small businesses owners find it particularly hard to devote resources to job analysis since one of the primary tasks of all the jobs is to do whatever it takes to make the business successful, whether that is taking out the trash or restocking the product shelves. Never-the-less, coming up with a job description of the actual tasks instead of personality traits you want is still going to produce better hiring results than relying on your "I like this person" instinct.

Trap #3 - Not Getting Enough Information

Take time to get as much information as you can about critical skills. If you can actually add a skills based assessment (code this, write this, manage this in-box exercise, drive this bus), you will have raised the quality of your interview process.  Adding standardized assessment instruments to your interview process may be a perfect fit for your business. These instruments cost something but spending money to get the right employee will ultimately save you time, money, and aggravation.  At least consider using an assessment instruments if not in the first round, then possibly as a second step once you narrow your selection pool.  Here are just a few of the types of assessments available: MBTI Personality Type (, The Predictive Index (, Wonderlic Cognitive Test (, and the Jung Typology Profiler for Workplace (

Trap #4 - Skipping A Trial Period

No matter what you do with your interviewing, you will eventually make a bad hiring decision. Let's be frank -  some people are not only fabulous actors, they have charm and know how to get through the hiring system. They may even have faked credentials. Your best defense is to have a trial period that you can think of as a continuation of your hiring process. For this to be both effective and fair to the person, you need to be clear there is a trial period and outline how that will work.

Put in writing before you offer the position the length and process of the trial so the person can decide if they want the position.
Get everything they need to do their job like desks, computers, system access, and training before they start their job so they can start working as productively as possible.
Review their performance at least weekly during the trial period. Just like in the interview process, stick to the facts. Are they doing the job they were hired to do?

It is better for the business and for the employees to terminate employment as quickly as possible if they are not a good fit. Not only are they able to resume interviewing for a job more easily, and may even have other offer options, but you are not investing additional company time and energy in them.

If you would like more information about hiring practices, Professor Allen Huffcutt has done wonderful research. This article "From Science to Practice: Seven Principles for Conducting Employment Interviews" goes deeper into the findings, and offers more practical help in navigating the hiring maze and finding those special people who will make your business successful.

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