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16 Ways to Hire Right and Without Stress

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The US Department of Labor claims that every time you hire a new employee, you spend 30% on top of the new hire’s annual salary—and every time a new hire is replaced, you spend 16% of their annual salary. If you make a hiring mistake, you’ve just cost your company an additional 46%. No pressure, right?

The main causes of bad hires are:

  • Confusion over the position 
  • Lack of interviewer training 
  • Ignoring the human element
  • Lax hiring, onboarding, and training process.

SMaRT strategies for hiring the right way to minimize these errors and keep your stress levels down. 

TIP: A recent study indicated that companies without a formal, standard interviewing process made bad hiring decisions five times more frequently.

Confusion over the Position

The hiring manager decided the search for a new computer technician was a golden opportunity to hire someone with lots more qualifications that might be needed someday. The hiring manager wrote a job description asking for a computer technician who was also a programmer, had an accounting degree, and could run any ERP system the company might purchase in the future—at a computer technician’s salary. No one answered the ad.

While some hiring managers ask for an impossible set of skills, others ask for too little and take a short-sighted view. They assume their only task is to fill the existing hole. They neglect to see if someone on the team is ready to grow into the newly vacant position, and they neglect to ask team members where they perceive gaps in skills or abilities. 

If you want to hire right, you should look for:

  • Realistic Skills, Education, and Accomplishments. Do you really know what you need this person to do, or are you simply throwing your wish list against the job market to see what fits?
  • Potential. Most skills can be taught; a growth mindset, which will benefit your company in the long term, takes longer to nurture. 
  • Attitude. An open, enthusiastic, respectful attitude will help build—not destroy—your team. 
  • Diversity. Studies consistently show that diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative, better problem solvers, and more productive than completely uniform teams. 

Lack of Interviewer Training

The hiring manager immediately liked the female candidate; she answered all the questions he had prepared and answered them brilliantly. But because she was a woman, he had one reservation. “You’ll be the new woman on the team,” he said. “You know how catty other women can be. Can you handle that?”

Biased questions occur when interviewers lack training or go off-script. Among managers who responded to a Career Builder survey, 20% admitted they lacked interview and hiring skills. The biggest pitfalls of interviewing fall into three categories:

  • Discrimination: Discriminatory comments or actions will discourage great candidates at best and create legal problems at worst; yet, without training, you may not realize you have crossed the line.
  • Poor Preparation: A successful interview should be more than a resume critique, yet without training, you may not know what to ask or how to ask it.
  • Inconsistency: Questions that change from candidate to candidate prevent you from objectively comparing candidates; yet, without training, you may believe you are being objective and fair.

To obtain the training that you need to be a good interviewer:

  • Seek an Interview Mentor. This mentor may be the person who interviewed you for your job, someone in Human Resources, or someone with a demonstrated ability to hire people you admire.
  • Know Your Objectives. Refer to the job description, job posting, and feedback from your team. Make a list of the most important skills you want to see in every candidate and also consider your priorities in personal qualities, such as enthusiasm, a growth mindset, and curiosity. 
  • Practice Interviewing. Practice in interviewing and mindful relaxation before each interview will help you reach a state of calm and focus. Otherwise, candidates who are already nervous will become even more stressed.
  • Ask for Professional Coaching. A professional coach in interview training is adept at picking up attitudes that might interfere with objectivity or decision making, and will help you create questions that elicit the information you want.

TIP: Experienced interviewers know to ask open-ended questions. For example, “Did you like your last job?” is a closed question with only two answers: yes or no. “What did you like most about your last job?” is open-ended. 

Ignoring the Human Element

Bill was happy to be invited for an interview and meet the hiring manager. The manager’s first question was, “Why should we hire you?” Bill referenced some of his qualifications, his enthusiasm for the company’s products, his years of experience, and the alignment of his goals with the company’s. The manager raised his voice: “So why should we hire you?” Bill listed several ways he could contribute to the company’s bottom line. The manager shouted, “I asked why we should hire you. Do you know the right answer or not?” Bill said, “Thank you for your time,” and walked out.

Hostile and trick questions won’t tell you anything about a candidate except their willingness to put up with intimidation. However, some interviewers still believe that interviews are a confrontation when they should be a conversation designed to give both parties valuable information.

Interviews are intended to find a new hire who fits into your needs and company culture but they are also meant to educate potential hires about your company, including its needs, benefits, and attitudes toward employees and customers. Under the tension of an interview, you may stress a candidate, but the candidate may also stress you, interfering with this process of mutual education and communication. 

The following practices will help you hire right:

  • Exercise Mindful Leadership. Does the candidate have clear directions to the office? Are you ready to interview as soon as the candidate arrives? Is the interview environment pleasant and welcoming? What does the candidate need to know about this company? 
    • Be Flexible. If you demand perfection—a perfect match of skills, experience, work history, and accomplishments to some ideal candidate—you place tremendous stress upon yourself, let alone the candidates.
    • Consider the Process. Some Applicant Tracking Systems are sensitive to your requirements; some are blunt instruments. Some candidates thrive in virtual (video or phone) interviews, and some shine person-to-person. Make sure your recruiting process allows candidates to perform at their best.
  • Know Your Criteria. Too many choices make decision making harder. Every interviewer has different reasons for eliminating a prospect: the struggle is to align your choices with the needs of the team and company and not with your own biases.
  • Keep in touch. Good candidates are often lost because the company neglects them, not letting them know whether the opportunity still exists, indicating next steps and a timeline, and being realistic about how long a great candidate is likely to hang around waiting for your decision. 

TIP: Often, you learn more about a candidate from the questions the candidate asks than you do from their answers to your questions. Use your SMaRT listening skills and emotional intelligence.

Lax Hiring, Onboarding, and Training Process

The candidate’s resume matched the company’s requirements so exactly that no one bothered to check on references or follow up with any prior employers. This was the candidate they had been waiting for! Within two weeks of hire, they discovered that the flaunted skills were lacking, the achievements must have been sheer luck, and the team’s productivity was sinking.

The interview process doesn’t end with the interview. While it is unethical to ask a candidate to contribute hours of free labor and expertise, you have every right to ask for samples of their work, to test their skills, or to ask for a presentation. Moreover, you should be checking social media for inconsistencies with the information on their resume and checking references. Trust is vital to SMaRT leadership, but in this case, verification will save you from a major mistake.

Leaders who hire right:

  • Take onboarding seriously. Give your new hires the information, guidance, social network, and resources they need to succeed. If you abandon a new hire on the first workday, you will have to work twice as hard to create a motivated, engaged employee who fits into the culture.
  • Consider a probationary period. Most companies have a 1- to 6-month probationary period after hiring while both the candidate and the company determine if they are a good fit.
  • Arrange enough time and privacy. If you rush yourself or the candidate—during the interview, during onboarding, or during the probationary period—you will add stress to the situation. Constant interruptions from employees or customers will distort communications and prevent effective learning. You need to dedicate time to a new hire to communicate expectations and make sure they have what they need to survive the probationary period.

Key Takeaways

The job of an interviewer is stressful, and you may not be aware of the pitfalls unless you have been trained or mentored in interviewing techniques. Draw on your SMaRT strategies for communication, active listening, mentoring, and relaxation to guide you in making the right hire with less stress. 

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