In good and bad employment times, it seems certain people can locate, attract, and select the best. Whether they’re looking for a new CEO, to fill a line position, or searching out the best childcare worker, some employers seems to get the right results. Why is that? Are they just plain lucky? I say it has nothing to do with luck. What is critical is to avoid a few common mistakes so many of us make.

Here’s a few you might be guilty of:

Mistake #1: Hiring someone just like you, whom you know and like. Too much of any one thing is dangerous and too much of you can be treacherous. Sure, it may be more comfortable to hire a graduate from your alma mater, or a person who grew up in the same part of the country, votes the way you think, or is your age and/or gender, the problem is that individual often brings more of the same to the table. Whenever a team is not working well, invariably their sameness and like-mindedness cause the battles, not their diversity. I’ve always made a point of hiring assistants very different from myself, strictly because I don’t need another me. I require a deputy with different perspectives and talents, even if at times they drive me crazy with their deadline, timelines, and templates.

Mistake #2: Casting too small a net. Many employers look only in the obvious places and use but a few approaches. It’s as if they are going to one party and assuming they will meet the love of their lives in the first hour. Sometimes it’s laziness but more often it is a perceived lack of options or an unwillingness to put in the time required to fish in deeper or warmer waters. Check out your competition, where are they looking? Ask colleagues what sites, networks, or professional organizations they have found to be the most cost effective. And, the best of all methods — constantly be on the lookout for good people and always open to hire when you find someone.

Mistake #3: Interviewing too many people. After a certain number of candidates, everyone sounds alike. Why? Because you are asking the identical questions, have the same preconceived answers and/or find making a decision as either difficult or threatening. If no one is right, reconsider your expectations. Could anyone have all of the skills and experiences you want, and be available at the salary you are offering? Do you really want to fill the position or deep down would you rather do the work yourself, or promote someone from within? Have you made a few poor choices in the past and now fear making another? Would talking to ten more people, taking ten more hours, get you any closer? I doubt it. Maybe the obstacle is on your side of the desk.

Mistake #4: Prescreening candidates by too junior people. This is a pet peeve of mine. A coaching client will be set for a peer interview only to be seen by a very junior person who doesn’t really understand the job or its requirements. Because of this disconnect, the interview doesn’t go well from either perspective. It’s important to acknowledge that every candidate you don’t see is a potential miss on a great person. At least the details of the job and its needs should be fully outlined for the screener. At best, you would coach the screener before and after interviewing candidates to get a sense of what the screener saw, determined, and what he or she might have missed. Then continue to coach the person, so he or she can become a better screener. Better yet, see more people yourself.

Mistake #5: Interviewing only for skills and not for character. The easiest interview questions are the ones where you look to see what the candidate knows about the topic. If they have their facts straight, got the lingo down, and experience to back it up, it’s pretty easy to know if they are right for the work. But, how do you find out about the less obvious traits — ambition, work ethic, and integrity? These require more probing questions and more opportunity for narrative answers. For many interviewers this is not a comfortable place. They don’t often know how or what to ask, or if they do inquire, the answers seem obvious in the question. Who is going to say “no” to a question like, “Are you a hard worker?” On the other hand, asking someone to tell you about a time when the workload was heavy and the resources limited, might just get you the insight you need.

Here’s your assignment:

  1. Look at a recent hire and assess the process of getting the person in the chair as well as the quality of the choice. What went right? What could have been done better? Was the way you made your final selection the most effective and efficient?
  2. Think of a few ways you can share your new insights and information with your colleagues or possibly others who help you in the interviewing system.
  3. Commit to making your next hire mistake free. Follow some of the suggestions. Monitor yourself for the potential of many all-to-familiar mistakes and attempt to create an updated approach.

Your current way of recruiting, interviewing, and hiring may need just a few tweaks or a complete overhaul. You might be the biggest hurdle or possibly it’s the system itself, or the people who support you that are doing it wrong. Invest the effort to save time and ultimately get the best candidate.

You wouldn’t be the first client who came to me not because they needed a job but because they wanted to make an excellent candidate selection. Once we talked it out, we often found that what they stated was the primary requirement or question, actually ended up not being the essential point. We role-play, asking the more uncomfortable questions and practice how to tease out the real person and then make the decision.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.