The 5 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring

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Sad but true – it’s pretty rare for managers to hire the right people.
If there are too many candidates, effective filtering is critical. Too few candidates, and it’s hard to get applications at all, much less the right ones. I want to describe the top five errors you make when trying to hire the best people.

No clear picture of your dream candidate

Usually, people slap together a list of things they need a candidate to know or to have experience in. But this isn’t enough. Too many companies are already searching similar profiles on that level of detail. Imagine your dream candidate: What is his current situation? What is he doing right now? What are his fears and dreams? Only if you zoom in and create a very vivid and detailed picture of your dream candidate, will you be able to address the right people.

No compelling message

A job ad is like a sales letter. It needs to address the problem you solve for your candidate (find a great job) and it needs to show why your job is the best solution. Additionally, it needs to address objections the candidates might have reading your job ad (“will they keep my inquiry confidential?”, “will they offer fair payment?”, etc). Furthermore, it helps to add some testimonials to your job ad: Let your team mates describe how switching jobs was for them. And, last but not least, you need to create a compelling reason why your job is unique and not just like any other engineering job out there.

Searching the wrong places

The best job ad is worthless if it doesn’t reach the desired candidates. Instead of just posting it to general purpose job sites like, you have to chase down your dream candidates and find the places they hang out. Failing to do so means getting flooded by the wrong candidates and wasting a lot of time and money. If you’re looking for a ruby expert, who regularly shares his thoughts and code, you might find them on twitter, github, or stackoverflow.

Poor Handling of Applications

Too much can go wrong in the final stages of the hiring process. The best way to lose great candidates is waiting too long. Waiting too long to invite them for an interview, waiting too long to give them feedback, waiting too long to make an offer. When you start the recruiting process you need to define the exact procedures for following up with candidates. Who needs to decide what? How fast can they make those decisions, etc. If you communicate a clear process with well defined timing, chances are your candidate will be engaged and stay tuned.

Failure to close the deal

After going through all the necessary interviews, you’ve lined up a dream candidate for hiring. This is a critical step in the process. You need to make a compelling offer and dissolve all objections the candidate might have about signing up with you. And it’s time again to re-emphasize your uniqueness to stop the candidate shopping around for comparable offers. Only if the candidate knows everything about your company which helps them make a positive decision, will you be able to close the deal.

What are your worst experiences when trying to hire someone or when trying to join a company? Please share your horror stories in the comments.

2 thoughts on “The 5 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring

  1. Fantastic post! Every HRHiringRecruiting department should read it. One thing I would add: Networking. Put that compelling story out well before a hire is needed. Have the best talent waiting to come on board with the company.


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