The Top 5 Hiring Mistakes

No small-business owner can afford the costs of high turnover. Here's how to identify these missteps and rectify them

Written by ProfitGuide Staff
Special Report: Hiring Superstar TalentThis PROFITguide.com Editorial Report is brought to you by
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As a business owner or manager, you know how tough it is these days to recruit the right people and keep them happy so they’ll stick around. The war for talent rages on, even if a bit less intensively in the past few months due to the slowing economy.

With unemployment still near a 34-year low, employers in most sectors are scrambling to fill vacancies. In such a tight job market, employers can gain a vital advantage by adopting smart strategies to recruit and retain top talent. The tight market also means you can’t afford to make many hiring mistakes. The consequences of doing so include increased staff turnover, recruitment and training costs. As well, they include lost productivity and weakened customer service while you get new hires up to speed, as well as the potential loss of major accounts and key intellectual capital to your competitors.

As a human-resource strategist and recruiter, I see the same mistakes over and over. But I also see the same opportunities to learn from them and to craft a hiring strategy that will make it easier for you to land and hang onto the best people. Here, based on my experience, are the five most common hiring mistakes. For each, I suggest solutions that will help you not only avoid these mistakes, but develop an approach to staff recruitment that will give you a leg up on the competition.

You lack an HR strategy

Would you run your company without a business plan, sales or financial targets? Of course not. Yet many employers operate without a human resource plan to manage their most valuable resource: their people. To create a basic HR plan, you need a well-defined strategy to hire the best people who fit your company culture.

How to fix it:

At the start of every fiscal year, look at your growth targets to figure out the skill sets, head count and timing you’ll need for new employees over the next 12 months. Review your current head count and turnover rates so you can identify the gaps and build a plan. A good visual tool is to put an organizational chart up on the wall with current staff and future resources needed, then plan to fill in the gaps.

You offer a poor ‘candidate experience’

It’s a job-seekers’ market. You need to treat candidates and customers the same way: like gold. Candidates form their impression of you as an employer during the selection process, so make sure you wow them.

How to fix it:

Identify all the points of contact you’ll have with candidates during your hiring process and make sure you exceed your applicants’ expectations. For instance, you should call all applicants to thank them for their interest. Remember, even candidates who don’t meet your needs today might in the future—and they might send you some great referrals if you treat them with respect. As well, you should clearly outline to candidates your recruitment and selection process so they’ll know what to expect and when. If you find a top candidate, get her in quickly and make her an offer. Don’t leave her hanging, because odds are she’ll have other offers on the table.

You wait until there’s a vacancy

You can’t afford to wait for turnover to trigger your search for new employees. You need to build a pipeline of talented candidates and constantly be on the lookout for top talent—everywhere.

How to fix it:

The people you want are most likely happily employed somewhere else: they’re what we in the HR business call passive candidates. Look for them at networking events or on social-networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Create a relationship with them and engage with them until future needs arise. Tell passive candidates they’re the kind of talented people your firm is looking to hire. Offer to put them on your career-opportunity mailing list, send them company newsletters, invite them to speaking engagements and send them press releases.

You can also turn all your employees into talent scouts. Create a referral program, offering your staff a finder’s fee of $250 to $500 or a gift certificate to their favourite store if they refer a candidate who is hired and passes the probation period. And develop referral tools, such as business cards saying “We Want You” to give to potential candidates when you find them.

You fail to create some buzz

Is your HR team in the dark ages of administrivia, pushing paper and policies? Or are they a polished sales and marketing machine that can sell your company to attract top talent?

How to fix it:

Be honest. Would you apply to your own job postings? You need to sell the opportunity, and these days a posting that’s merely a standard job description just won’t cut it. You need to create postings that highlight the opportunities at your firm and key career achievements for the applicant. As well, you should have a polished career page on your website where you can educate potential job candidates about what your firm can offer them and what you expect from them, as well as helping convert clients into employees.

Special Report: Hiring Superstar TalentThis PROFITguide.com Editorial Report is brought to you by
West Jet

Applicants who are happily employed elsewhere, need to be convinced to join your team. Ask yourself, “What do we have to offer candidates that differentiates us from other employers?” Ask your current employees to write down the top five reasons why they joined your team and why they stay. Examples might include a great team environment, learning and development opportunities, a top-notch boss, challenging work and opportunities for career advancement. Pull together a list of the five reasons cited most often and include it in your job postings and, most importantly, your website. Even better, profile current employees on your career page or post video testimonials on YouTube.

You don’t teach your managers how to hire

Let’s face it: not all great managers are great interviewers. While your HR people might be sourcing and screening candidates, it’s the manager who does the final interview and chooses who to hire. To avoid bad hiring decisions, you need to ensure that your managers follow a standard process.

How to fix it:

Create a checklist outlining the steps in the recruitment and selection process, including how to set clear expectations for candidates and actions required to wow them. This list should include interview etiquette, post-interview guidelines and the minimum time to call applicants back—say, individual calls within five days if there are a limited number of applicants or a templated e-mail or form letter if there are a large number. As well, you should develop a list of standard interview questions about company fit and desired answers with your team. (Visit www.jobinterviewquestions.org as a resource to get started.) This will get everyone on the same page, looking for the same talents and talking the same talk.

Derek Gagné is president of Vancouver-based talent management consultancy Derekgagne.com. He has been helping organizations with their recruitment and retention strategies for more than 15 years. His areas of expertise include workforce planning, recruitment, retention, leadership development, organization development and customer service.

More columns by Derek Gagné

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com