Nine most common hiring mistakes


The nine most common hiring mistakes
– And how to avoid them

By Peter Gilbert,

To err in hiring is human – and very expensive. Many "standard" hiring procedures are actually common mistakes; so to hire more competent sales professionals, prepare to revise your hiring methods. Learn the nine hiring errors managers often make, and then eliminate them from your hiring practices to help you choose only the cream of the crop.

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Mistake 1: Relying only on interviews to evaluate a candidate
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%. In other words, flipping a coin to choose between two candidates would be only 2% less reliable than basing your decision on an interview.
Experts offer three reasons why interviews, while the most common selection tool, are such poor predictors of sales success:

  • Most managers don’t structure an interview beforehand or determine the ideal answers to questions (develop a scoring weight).
  • Candidates do much more interviewing than most managers and are more skillful at presenting themselves than many managers are at seeing through their "front."
  • An interview helps managers evaluate personal chemistry and determine how well candidates might work together with others.

    Mistake 2: Using successful people as models
    Duplicating success may seem like a good idea, but the reasons people succeed are not clear from just measuring the characteristics of top performers.
    More important are the differences between top performers and low achievers. For example, a comprehensive study of more than 1,000 sales superstars from 70 companies showed that the top three characteristics shared by high achievers were (1) the belief that salesmanship required strong objection-answering skills, (2) good grooming habits and, (3) conservative dress – especially black shoes.
    However, a study of the weakest performers at those companies revealed that the same three characteristics were their most common traits as well.
    The lesson: You must "validate" critical success skills by comparing large enough samples of top performers and weak performers to find the factors that consistently distinguish the winners from the "also-rans." Otherwise, you may select well-spoken, energetic candidates who fail quickly but with style.

    Mistake 3: Too many criteria
    Only through a method called "validation" can you make more effective hiring decisions. The US government originally used validation research to prove that employment selection practices predicted job success and weren’t discriminatory. Similar to a process insurance companies use to predict accident risk or the likelihood of health problems, validation can dramatically improve your odds of hiring the right people. Not only does it identify critical job success factors, it weights each factor’s importance.
    Consider these two surprising and important findings from validation research:

  • The most critical factor for predicting success in any job is usually as important or more important than all other factors combined.
  • The most accurate prediction of success on the job is based on no more than six to eight factors. Add any more, and you risk diluting your criteria, watering down the prediction of success, and killing selection accuracy.
    To hire winners, decide on six to eight factors that separate them from losers. Ignore factors that are not validated, or you may end up hiring nice guys who finish last.

    Mistake 4: Evaluating "personality" instead of job skills
    Certain personality traits – high energy, honesty, a solid work ethic – seem to practically guarantee success, yet they don’t.
    Many consultants and distributors of pre-employment tests maintain that certain personality factors help ensure management or sales success and offer psychological theories to support that belief. However, solid statistical research from many objective sources shows little correlation between any personality factor and any specific job.
    Producers of competent and reputable "personality type" tests (like the Myers-Briggs) admit their tests are useful for self-awareness and training but not for hiring.
    Only tests of job skills or knowledge are proved to predict job success consistently. You might enjoy knowing your sales candidates have self-confidence and energy, but knowing whether they can operate in seek mode and possess executive credibility is far more important.

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    Next month – the remaining five.

    Peter Gilbert is CEO of Growth Partners, Johannesburg, South Africa, a Stapleton Resources certified implementation partner.

    Dec. 20, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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