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The 10 Deadliest Hiring Mistakes

Originally published: 05.09.16 by Patrick Valtin

The 10 Deadliest Hiring Mistakes

Avoid the painful consequences of deadly hiring mistakes.

 Many books have been written on the subject, yet most of them are missing the boat when it comes to detecting the most fundamental and costliest mistakes business owners make in hiring new employees. In this article, we provide valuable tips to help you avoid the painful consequences of such deadly hiring mistakes.

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 1: No awareness of the legal aspects in hiring.

Legal issues regarding hiring are often neglected by the employer. or example, if a dangerous, unqualified or dishonest employee is hired – and harm occurs – the employer faces the potential of a lawsuit for "negligent hiring". Worse yet, a bad-hiring decision can result in loss of business and damage to a professional reputation that may take years to correct. And if the business is sued, there is often little that can be done to show due diligence. Not knowing who you hire is like playing Russian roulette with the future of your business.

How to avoid: You must develop precise policies and procedures which monitor and guide the hiring process, in compliance with employment laws. These procedures must be clearly communicated to every candidate prior to the interview. One important policy to apply is related to the standardization of your pre-employment screenings and/or background checks: no candidate should be allowed to avoid such actions. By getting all of them through such procedures, you force those who have something to hide to either be honest or to look for another job. And you protect yourself legally!

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 2: The long-term strategy is unclear.

The company hires simply because there is an empty spot to be filled. Top management is unaware that providing a clear picture of the company's future and related challenges, is a vital criterion to attract good candidates in your hiring messages.

How to avoid: If you don't seem to see the future, the applicants will not either. GOOD applicants want to have a clear vision of your company's plans. They also want to feel that there are opportunities and challenges awaiting them, so they can prove their ability to achieve things. "Knowing where you are going" is a priority to successful hiring. So as part of your marketing effort, make sure you clearly communicate where you company is going – what is does the future look like?

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 3: The marketing approach is inappropriate.

Most business owners develop a very conservative attitude when faced with hiring challenges. They do not understand that GOOD candidates have the power of selection in their job search. You are just one amid thousands of other employers, looking for the best. The employment market is by far the most competitive one.

How to avoid: Good candidates know they have the power of choice. They are more selective and more demanding when faced with multiple job opportunities. Your attitude in hiring should be one of a marketing manager, faced with too many competitors going after your (few) potential customers: "what do I need to do, to attract good candidates, even before they show up at the hiring interview?"

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 4: The job opportunity is too good to be true.

Too often, employers avoid being clear and honest in regards to the company's weak points or internal challenges. They do not want to discourage applicants. Later on, when these concealed challenges or difficulties appear, the new employee feels cheated… and leaves.

How to avoid: Apply the law of transparency throughout the procedure. Be as precise as possible in your expectations and don't be afraid to describe a realistic scene of the situation. Unqualified, scared applicants will run away. The good ones will love the challenges. Clearly describe what you expect from new employees in terms of results, daily actions and behavior; they will be less likely to rebel soon after being hired.

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 5: Gut-feelings lead the pre-selection process.

A "pretty" resume does not necessarily reflect a qualified applicant. Lack of formalized, objective specifications in the pre-selection process can cost management time and energy in "blindly" analyzing each incoming resume. No one knows exactly what to look for.

How to avoid: Objective, measurable and easily recognizable specifications for pre-selection qualifications must be specified. All concerned in the hiring must then be informed of these specifications, in order to accurately measure the degree of qualification of an applicant. These qualifying criteria must be based on experience and successful actions. The best way to specify an "ideal profile" for a future employee is to look for an existing successful profile "within," with special attention to "soft skills."

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 6: Falling into the personality trap.

Many of us remember being seduced by an applicant with a pleasant attitude who demonstrated good relational skills during the interview — but did not demonstrate acceptable performance, once on post. Most interview techniques are limited to measuring momentary personality rather than performance potential. A strong personality can generate dislike or suspicion. However, it can also reflect the candidate's strong desire to attain results. "Nice" people aren't always the most effective ones.

How to avoid: Your first priority is NOT to find out if an applicant has a nice personality but to answer the following question: "Will the applicant achieve the required results for a specific position?" In other words, what is his or her potential ability to reach specific results on the job, within a specific working environment? The personality-related evaluation criteria are most often subjective; they do not reflect the candidate's future attitude and performance. What you see today may very well be completely different tomorrow! So put your attention on finding out what the applicant has achieved in the past; how has he/she performed on previous jobs? Past performance is a great predictor of future one!

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 7: The applicant controls the interview.

Eager to fill the job opening quickly and worried about losing a good candidate, the employer usually makes two fatal mistakes: (1) he/she talks too much and (2) he/she does not find out enough critical and measurable elements about the candidate's potential (a consequence of the first mistake). In a non-structured interview, the candidate who speaks the best commonly comes out winning the job.

How to avoid: Your questions must be structured and formalized in order to obtain visible and objective selection criteria, such as: the aptitude to get results and the lasting personality rather than the momentary one. A hiring interview must be controlled by the employer – not by the candidate. It is your job to make the candidate talk and reveal his/her true, lasting personality. But don't let him/her say just anything…you must obtain vital information that will enable you to detect his/her true potential to obtain results on the specific job. 

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 8: Dangerous invisible factors are neglected.

Undetected weaknesses are commonly the ones that lead to failure. Diagnostic supports are often used (such as personality, honesty or skill tests), in order to reinforce one's impressions. Unfortunately, their reliability is often questionable. One of the most serious problems is the confusion associated with a candidate's momentary and lasting personality. Using such tests as quality control tools does not assist the employer in determining the candidate's true performance potential.

How to avoid: You cannot hire someone solely based on what is observed during the interview. Within a few months, a costly disappointment can result from many "unseen" personality factors. Detecting elements of the candidate's "lasting" personality is vital if you want to adequately predict his/her behavior and productivity level. Make sure the test you use takes this "temporary" personality into consideration (most don't).

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 9: Subjectivity rules.

Without precise and standard evaluation criteria, one can miss vital information or misevaluate its relative importance. Too often the final decision is based on personal opinions, rather than on objective evaluation criteria. Hope for success rather than probability of success is the norm. Each concerned manager is defending or justifying his/ her viewpoint. What pleased one, displeased another, and no one is completely reassured. Lacking formalization, the hiring procedure remains a game of luck.

How to avoid: You must determine a list of evaluation standards, used by all managers involved to analyze an applicant's potential. Each must be able to measure the same criteria so as to prevent subjective factors from influencing the final hiring decision. Anyone involved in evaluating a candidate's potential must understand AND apply these standards. Only then can a final selection be made objectively.

DEADLY MISTAKE No. 10: Efforts are limited to the hiring process.

The new employee seldom has a formalized line of conduct to follow in order to succeed on the job. It is commonly referred to as the "Tom-Tom" drums law: you explain what is expected once, and then let the new employee figure it out! "That's how everybody learned here…"

How to avoid: You must incorporate a formal on-boarding plan in order to ensure a successful integration of the new employee. This plan must include a complete checklist with sequential actions that must be mastered in order to be quickly operational. The candidate must be aware of what will be done within the next 3, 6 and 12 months, in order to help him/her develop his/her skills and performance. A formal job integration and appraisal plan brings comfort and stability to a new employee who has much to learn before even thinking of performing.


Patrick Valtin is an international public speaker and the author of No-Fail Hiring. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. For additional information, visit


About Patrick Valtin

Patrick Valtin is an international public speaker and the author of No-Fail Hiring. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries.

Call Patrick at 877-831 2299

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