Top 10 Hiring Mistakes for Small Businesses and How to Avoid Them
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Hiring is unquestionably one of the most important entrepreneurial skills. A small business is only as strong as its team, but the right team can conquer almost anything. In fact, many entrepreneurs would likely attribute the majority of their success to the strength of their team. You could actually argue that this is what separates the winners and losers in the business world. Even the hardest-working entrepreneurs will struggle to grow their businesses without a loyal team behind them.

The importance of hiring, however, is reflected in the difficulty of mastering this skill. Finding the perfect employees for your business is no easy feat. Not only do you have to know exactly what kind of employee you’re looking for, but also where to find this person and how to show them that your business is where they truly belong.

Entrepreneurs who don’t understand the importance of hiring usually end up hiring the wrong people. They fail to realize how much work needs to go into the hiring process in order to achieve the desired result. The unfortunate reality is that you won’t find the best candidates for your business’s needs by simply posting generic job descriptions and choosing the most impressive resume.

In this guide, we’ll go over different hiring mistakes, explain why they are so common, and what you can do to avoid them.

When you only have a few employees on your team, every individual has a major impact on the business’s success. Your new hire will help shape your company culture and take on a series of responsibilities that only a certain type of person can fulfill. For this reason, hiring the wrong person could create yet another frustrating obstacle to business growth.

Here are the top 10 hiring mistakes committed by entrepreneurs:

Hiring Mistake 1: Vague Job Descriptions

You can’t expect to find the right candidate if you don’t know what constitutes the “right candidate” in the first place. This is perhaps the most common hiring mistake in existence. Your search officially begins when you post a job description of the open position. Anyone who has looked for a new job would likely agree that job descriptions tend to be extremely vague. They often don’t provide enough detail when explaining the new hire’s day to day responsibilities.

How can you avoid this hiring mistake? The same way you avoid any other common mistake for business owners: give yourself enough time to prepare. Think about your new hire’s most important responsibilities, or the tasks that will occupy most of their work hours. It’s crucial to be as straightforward and specific as possible when outlining these tasks in your job description.

Which co-workers will the new hire spend the most time working with? Will more of their time involve coming up with new ideas, or putting them into action? Which software tools will they be using? Answering these questions will gradually unearth the background and personality you are looking for. Thus, you’ll know exactly what kind of skills and experience to include in your job description.

This information should also be divulged to your current team. The new hire’s integration into the daily grind will be much smoother if their co-workers know what they are doing every day and why their skills are so vital for the business’s growth.

Hiring Mistake 2: Hiring Full-Time Employees for Part-Time Jobs

Wait, shouldn’t this be step one? That might seem logical but the truth is, you won’t know if another full-time employee is what your business really needs at this time until you solidify the new hire’s day-to-day tasks. After writing out the new hire’s job description, you might find that there aren’t enough recurring tasks to warrant a full-time employee. Maybe you could teach these new responsibilities to a current employee who is on track to a promotion. Maybe you could outsource them to an independent contractor or freelancer.

This option might make more sense if the new hire’s main responsibilities have foreseeable deadlines, i.e. a few projects that should be completed in a number of months. What will you do once these projects are completed?

In the past, businesses didn’t think twice about adding full-time employees because qualified freelancers were harder to come by. Fast forward to 2020, when the gig economy is stronger than ever. Even the task of hiring new employees can be outsourced to a freelancer. The point is, you shouldn’t hire a full-time employee for a position that may decrease in value over the next year or so. Full-time employees are suited for positions that will only increase in value.

Hiring Mistake 3: Not Having a Thorough Vetting Procedure

There’s a common misconception that documented recruiting and on-boarding processes are only necessary for big businesses. If anything, they are even more necessary for small businesses, where the integration of every single new hire can affect the entire team’s daily routine. And thanks to the Internet, smaller businesses can create lengthy vetting procedures to ensure that only the most qualified candidates will advance to the final stages.

You may have noticed that businesses are placing more value on online questionnaires and phone interviews. Resumes and cover letters, on the other hand, seem to be losing value. Instead, job candidates are often asked a series of questions to gauge their personality and most unique strengths. Did the candidate apply because they truly feel like they will shine in this position, or did they just apply because they have experience in your industry?

Phone interviews ensure that the company only takes the time to interview a few candidates before making a decision. This is why it’s so important to separate each stage of your vetting procedure. For example, many companies start by requesting more information from top candidates, like writing samples or outlines of previous projects. If this information checks out, the candidate has a general phone conversation in which they expand on the same questions from the initial application. This might be followed by a second phone conversation with the candidate’s potential supervisor, who provides more detail about long-term goals and daily tasks.

Hiring Mistake 4: Posting Job Listings Everywhere

Businesses often make the mistake of posting job listings on every popular job board and social network. This creates an impossibly wide pool of candidates, most of whom may be unqualified. You’d think that posting more job listings would increase the likelihood of finding the right candidate. But it’s actually more likely to do the opposite.

On the one hand, some job boards and social networks are better suited for filling positions in certain industries. For example, though you may get more applications by posting your listing on Facebook, will these applicants be just as qualified as those who applied via LinkedIn? Also, if one social network has been more reliable for your industry, you may consider doing more than posting the listing on your business’s page. Today, it’s not uncommon for businesses to request their teams to help out with the hiring process. In addition to posting the listing on their personal social media accounts, your employees might be willing to reach out to their connections who are most likely to know qualified candidates.

Monitoring the size of your candidate pool is just another way of ensuring that the majority of your applications come from qualified candidates, which prevents you from spending too much time weeding through irrelevant applications.

Hiring Mistake 5: Not Preparing for the Interview

Why do businesses unknowingly end up hiring the wrong people? In most cases, it’s because they didn’t ask the right questions during the interview stage(s). Coming up with interview questions is a lot like writing a job description. You have to think beyond the industry-related skills that anyone can learn. What kind of working style and natural talents are you looking for? Interviews give you the chance to see if the employee’s personality aligns with your company culture, which we’ll explain more later on.

Many businesses make the mistake of asking questions that someone can quickly say “yes” to without thinking (i.e. “Do you have experience with ___?”). Well, you can avoid this by asking questions that require more detailed answers. Two great examples are “Which specific tasks do you enjoy most?” or “What does your ideal work day look like?” These questions will make the candidate comfortable enough to answer honestly. You will get very different answers from each candidate, which makes it easier for the best candidate to stand out.

It’s also your responsibility to have sufficient responses for reasonable questions from candidates. These days, you can’t blame candidates for wanting to know as much as possible about their daily routine. No one wants to start a new job without knowing who they are supposed to be communicating with, where to find certain information, etc.

Hiring Mistake 6: Showing No Enthusiasm

The workforce of the past had very few demands of their employers. They wanted a decent salary, benefits, and a boss who wasn’t too bothersome throughout the day. There was no concern about company culture or the general mood around the office.

Of course, this was before people discovered how much more work they could get done if they actually liked their jobs. In 2020, a positive work environment is arguably just as important to job candidates as the work itself. Nobody wants to work in an office where everyone seems bored or emotionless, and they shouldn’t have to.

For this reason, you cannot expect job candidates to show enthusiasm about the opportunity at hand if you don’t show it in return. No, job interviews are not supposed to be a walk in the park for candidates. But if you appear excessively stern or unforgiving, candidates will get the impression that the rest of the office is the same way.

In summary, you must not forget that the person conducting the job interview is representing the attitude of the entire team. Candidates will immediately lose interest in the opportunity if they are being interviewed by someone who would clearly rather be doing something else.

Hiring Mistake 7: Ignoring Company Culture

We’ve mentioned company culture several times throughout this guide, and for good reason. It’s usually not hard to find job candidates who possess the experience and skillset you’re looking for. One of the most common hiring mistakes is basing hiring decisions on these two factors alone. On paper, a candidate might seem just like the rest of the team. But believe it or not, this does not automatically mean the candidate will succeed at your business.

A more accurate indicator is how well the candidate fits into your company culture. Many businesses have found that the best hiring decisions they’ve made were based on the candidate’s personality and most desirable work environment. During interviews, they ask questions that pertain to the business’s core values, and the way employees treat each other. Some businesses would even say that meshing well with company culture is more important than experience and skills.

Different cultures reward different types of behavior. Thus, you can determine if a candidate is a cultural fit by seeing if certain behaviors come naturally to them. For example, while one business might reward employees who are highly collaborative, another business might reward employees who constantly make suggestions for improving productivity. Your business might reward discipline and following rules, while another business might reward individuality or creativity.

Finding someone who aligns with your company culture will likely take longer than finding the most impressive resume. However, you can shorten this time frame significantly by creating job listings that immediately appeal to fellow subscribers of your core values.

Hiring Mistake 8: Not Judging Everyone by the Same Criteria 

Another common hiring mistake to watch out for when assessing candidates is not judging each candidate by the same criteria. Rather than making sure each candidate checks every box, a business might choose a candidate who checks one or two boxes with flying colors. You might come across a candidate who is very dedicated but has little relevant experience. While dedication is certainly an important quality, the lack of relevant experience cannot be ignored. A similar scenario might involve a candidate who possesses the required skills but has never worked in your industry.

This hiring mistake is often attributed to at least two dilemmas. First is the role of gut feelings. If you have a good feeling about a candidate, does that mean you should dismiss an obvious shortcoming? You might also come across a candidate who checks every box but your gut is telling you something else.

The second dilemma stems from the sheer length of the hiring process. Businesses often forego criteria solely because they want the hiring process to be over. They have yet to find a candidate who checks every box so they assume it will never happen.

Though gut feelings deserve to be acknowledged, you should not hire or dismiss someone based on gut feelings alone. If you’re having trouble finding candidates who check all of your boxes, you must resist the temptation to end the hiring process as soon as possible. Instead, you should consider assigning different priorities to different qualifications, which brings us to the next section:

Hiring Mistake 9: Not Prioritizing Different Qualifications

Even the most reputable businesses struggle to find candidates who meet all of their qualifications. Thus, you can’t expect your business to be the exception. When creating your qualifications, think about which ones are most integral to the new hire’s success. Let’s say you’re looking for a marketing director for a pharmaceutical company. Does the new hire need experience in pharmaceuticals to succeed? Maybe they just need a strong, general background in marketing.

The less important qualifications can be learned on the job. Some of them may be skills that can only be acquired by working at your business and nowhere else.

Assigning different priority levels to different qualifications makes it easier to quickly determine if a candidate isn’t the right fit. If every qualification gets prioritized equally, on the other hand, a myriad of candidates may seem equally qualified. Simply put, some qualifications should be deal-breakers: if you don’t have them, you’re out of the running.

Hiring Mistake 10: Rushing the Hiring Process

The most you can do to speed up the hiring process is prioritizing qualifications, as discussed above. Once you’ve done that, you can only remain loyal to the process you’ve created. Rushing to fill a position is a common but extremely dangerous mistake. Even if you have a strict deadline, hiring the wrong person will almost certainly do more damage than extending your search and putting a temporary dent in productivity. Hiring is not easy, especially for smaller businesses. Several weeks or months could go by before highly qualified candidates start applying.

Speaking of productivity, your team may express frustration about your failure to fill the role thus far. Rest assured, they will be happier knowing that you are carefully vetting each candidate rather than making their lives harder by giving the position to the wrong person.

On the other hand, you also shouldn’t turn down qualified candidates solely because you’re holding out for someone even more qualified. You have to be realistic. Odds are, no one is going blow your interview out of the water, or possess the perfect background for the position.

In summary, you probably won’t know who the right candidate is until you compare them to everyone else. So, don’t get discouraged if no one immediately wins you over or clearly stands out from the other candidates. That feeling you’re searching for will come when you’re comparing your top contenders later on.

Be Prepared for a Rough Road

Virtually every entrepreneur has committed at least one of the hiring mistakes on this list. This is because the hiring process doesn’t usually go smoothly, and new entrepreneurs don’t always know how to react. While there are numerous changes you can make to your hiring process, one thing you should never do is rush it just to get it over with. Hiring is a very difficult skill to master, and it might take one or two wrong hires for you to get finally get it right. But once you do, you will have officially cleared one of the most imposing obstacles to business growth.

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