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Leadership Insights

What Leaders Get Wrong About Hiring (And Why It Matters)

If you’re an organizational leader who’s been involved in hiring hundreds of employees—and interviewed thousands in the process—you probably take issue with the title of this article. After all, you must know a thing or two about hiring by now. Unfortunately, the statistics are not in your favor.

Harvard Business Review study found that 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions, and 45% of bad hires are attributed to a lack of process. The cost of a poor hiring decision can be quite high, with estimates ranging from a low of $18,700 to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the case of executive-level positions. With leadership turnover averaging 18% annually, it’s clear that most organizations could benefit from a better approach to hiring—especially at the top.

If your company has struggled with hiring, it's possible you haven't been equipped with the right information and tools to select the best talent for the job.

The Factors That Jeopardize Successful Hiring

No matter how much of a knack you have for spotting talent, at every stage in the hiring process, there are obstacles that can thwart your efforts to select the strongest candidates. Common problems like the following often cause hiring decision-makers to get distracted from selecting the right person for the job.

Failing To Identify The Requisite Competencies

Without clearly defining the knowledge, skills and capabilities necessary for succeeding in a role, you won’t be able to gather the right information to make the best hiring decision. In fact, you might not even have the opportunity to interview the top candidates. Without an understanding of the required competencies, your interviewers may screen people using the wrong criteria, eliminate good-fit candidates and allow less-experienced candidates to proceed in the process.

Using The Wrong Assessments

Many organizations use surveys and other written assessments as part of the evaluation process, but not all assessment tools are appropriate for pre-employment screening. While some (like Myers-Briggs, for example) are useful for development purposes, they aren’t validated as good predictors of a candidate’s future job performance. Be sure to choose or design an assessment tool that tells you exactly what you need to know so you can make the most informed decision.

Taking An Unstructured Approach To Interviews

When hiring managers conduct unstructured interviews, they tend to simply go with their gut when making decisions. This can lead to being influenced by the wrong factors. You should take a structured approach and develop questions that will target the key competencies. Ideally, you’ll have multiple interviewers participate, as a panel or sequentially, to provide a variety of perspectives.

Not Establishing Evaluation Standards

It’s vital to evaluate every candidate consistently and objectively—whether it’s a single interviewer evaluating multiple candidates or multiple interviewers assessing the same candidate. The best way to achieve that is to define the behaviors that constitute low, medium or high performance of each competency you’re evaluating. For example, when you ask candidates to describe the most challenging situation they’ve encountered and how they handled it, you need a standard system for rating their answers.

Falling Victim To Common Biases

Unconscious biases can lead to hiring suboptimal candidates. For example, similarity bias causes us to subconsciously gravitate toward people who are like us. Other times, we lean too heavily on first impressions based on traits we deem positive, like assuming someone who's outgoing and interpersonally savvy will be a strong performer. This is known as the halo effect. Worse, we often don’t realize these biases are influencing our decisions.

When your hiring process is standardized, it helps greatly reduce the odds that biases will sway you toward a candidate who isn’t the best fit. For example, taking detailed notes and comparing them against the behavioral standards you've already set means you're more likely to be objective and consistent in candidate evaluations.

Talking Too Much During The Interview

The interview is your opportunity to take notes and collect data that support sound decision-making, and the best way to gather it is to listen. Yet, many hiring managers spend much more time talking than listening. It's important to avoid the temptation to jump in or fill silences. Instead, allow candidates time to reflect and gather their thoughts.

Not Prioritizing Interview Training

As the previous points illustrate, the interview is a critical and complex component of the hiring process. Given the importance of making the optimal hire—and the consequences of getting it wrong—consider investing in training for interviewers. This helps ensure they're equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in identifying the best talent.

As a leader involved in the hiring process, it's vital that you and your team avoid the problems that stand in the way of choosing the optimal candidate. With companies sometimes spending around a quarter million dollars to recruit, hire and onboard a new employee, the cost of a bad hire is too great to get it wrong.

Hiring involves a series of sequential steps, each greatly impacting the end result, and improving the process demands a holistic view. By taking a broad perspective, your organization can assess the hiring experience from start to finish, identify gaps and pitfalls and implement measures to choose the best candidates who help the business thrive.

Originally published: 3/29/2024 on Forbes.com

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