Four Surprising Hiring Mistakes

Otherwise-competent managers continue to stumble when trying to lure talent.
By: | October 28, 2016 • 6 min read

Top business leaders shouldn’t have any issue finding and selecting the best talent, but the data suggests otherwise. Last year, Gallup released its annual State of the American Manager survey, which revealed that companies fail to select “the candidate with right talent for the job” a whopping 82 percent of the time!


When it comes to human capital management—and hiring, specifically—many businesses and CEOs double down on the same old candidate selection tactics and then wonder why things don’t work out.

Hiring mistakes aren’t just a waste time and money; they can contribute to low company morale and a lack of productivity, too. Here are four areas that even the most competent business leader can easily overlook:

Posting a tired job description. Time to hire a new Director of Finance? No problem! Dive into your archives, and polish up the same job description you used last time. Then hit the “post” button and wait for the familiar flood of applications come flowing through. While the most boring job description often gets traction, the static created by the resulting pool of unqualified resumes causes us to quickly abandon the inbound funnel and fire up outbound recruitment efforts.

Before posting a job description, take the time to think it through. Go beyond the required skills and experience (what they know) and focus also on what behaviors and cognitive ability are necessary to function best in that position (who they are). Then start writing the description in the voice and personality of the person you are looking to hire.

Remember, you are telling a prospective candidate what the job is, what’s expected for success, and how it fits into the broader organizational landscape. Job descriptions are also important beyond the hiring process because they are the cornerstone for how performance is measured and a reference for any disputes or disciplinary issues. You will find that people looking at the posting will naturally weed themselves out if the description doesn’t resonate with them.

Once you have a solid job description, make sure that your job posting is compelling so the application process can begin. Some tips include:

  • Focus on the values and interests of the kinds of people you want to attract—remember, you don’t want everyone—you want the right people.
  • It should be easy to read and understand so you can grab the attention of candidates skimming through multiple postings.
  • Highlight unique selling points—great benefits, free lunches, an on-site gym or strong cultural characteristics.
  • Speak to the type of people you want. For instance, if you want extremely ethical people, then talk about the importance of operational integrity, accountability, solid processes, etc.

Not considering all of the factors. You can’t assume that everyone is 100 percent truthful on their resume (according to a 2015 CareerBuilder survey, more than half of employers—56 percent—have caught a lie on a resume.) As hiring managers, it’s our job to remember that a resume and/or academic background is only ONE of several factors to consider when trying to determine who is the best fit for a position. Natural behaviors (personality and cognitive attributes) are just as important as expertise.

Here at The Predictive Index, we have a fundamental appreciation and belief that every business is a people business. Our teams are collaborative and comprised of people who possess a wide variety of personality types and working styles. We recognize that a certain level of emotional intelligence (EQ) helps everyone be cognizant of their own emotional experiences and those of others. Don’t be afraid to “get under the hood” when recruiting new employees.

For us, EQ relates to both a level of self-awareness regarding inner emotional processes and experiences as well as the ability to constructively utilize emotions when working with others.

Also, don’t get caught up in the “serial position effect.”  Coined by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, this term refers to the phenomenon of recalling more information about an item/person based on that item’s or person’s position within a list. Namely, when individuals are asked to recall a list of items/people in any order, people tend to be better at recalling items/people at the beginning (i.e., primacy effect) and end (i.e., recency effect) of that list (Deese & Kaufman, 1957). As such, managers should make a conscious effort to give interviewers in the middle of the process as much attention as they’ll likely give those interviewing first and last.

Going into an interview unprepared. Taking just 20 minutes to prepare for an interview will give you enough time to review a candidate’s resume and LinkedIn profile, and also think of a handful of scenario-based questions that will take your unstructured interview to structured in no time. This is especially important since some studies suggest that interviewers—even those at the executive level—spend the first two minutes of an interview forming a bias about the candidate and the rest of the time validating that bias.

This is because each manager may value different traits in a candidate, and thus a candidate who does poorly with one interviewer might have done fairly well with another. To minimize bias, managers should utilize identical (or near-identical) structured interview questions. They should also make an effort to minimize their own contributions to the content of the interview, as this can result in conversational tangents that are likely not to match up with the other manager’s interview content.

Data from behavioral assessments provide a way to get a sense of how a person is likely to behave and, better still, why they behave the way they do. This insight enables us to make better hiring decisions for the roles we’re looking to fill and increases the probability that the hire will perform successfully.

Not incorporating data to help predict performance. Studies suggest that no matter how well you scan resumes and no matter how many people you have interview a particular candidate, your ability to predict on-the-job performance (OJP) is almost negligible. By incorporating a behavioral assessment into your hiring process, you can increase your odds of getting it right nearly four times, to 23 percent.

Similarly, if you use a cognitive assessment in conjunction with structured interviews, you can increase your predictive rate to 27 percent. By using all three together—a behavioral and cognitive assessments along with a structured interview—you increase the ability to predict workplace performance to 51 percent.


Cognitive assessments can also be useful after a job candidate is hired. In fact, this is the point where things start to get really interesting: You can use the assessment data as a basis for ongoing communications and interactions with your new hire. It can be especially useful during sensitive conversations such as performance reviews, and in managing team dynamics and development. Think about it—if you know how a person approaches challenges, criticism and other complex situations that impact workplace dynamics and performance, you’re better armed to have a constructive conversation that’s tailored to that individual.

Today, when bringing in new talent, organizations need to be able to respond to factors that impact staffing such as industry growth, increased competition and the economy to stay competitive. By taking the time to determine the cognitive and behavioral demands of a particular position before you interview, you can uncover a wealth of knowledge pre- and post-hire which may dramatically reduce ramp-up time of new employees, increase predictability, improve long-term employee engagement and ultimately improve the quality of the employees being hired.

Interested in learning more about how technology can help you promote your employer brand, engage top candidates and optimize your hiring process? Check out the program for the upcoming Talent Acquisition Technology Conference in Austin, Texas.

Drew Fortin is vice president of marketing at The Predictive Index.