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A Simple 10-Step Guide to Minimising Hiring Mistakes

David Law

Wed, 2 Oct, 2019

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 7 minutes

Your team is wonderfully assembled, productive, and stable— but then someone leaves. Replacing a key component or filling a new position isn’t as easy as they sound. To make sure you get the best results and growth, you’ve got to minimize hiring mistakes.


And it’s not a one-time thing: the interview is just one step in a solid recruitment process. To hire the right person (with the right skills, culture, and qualities), you need an involved team and a detailed, streamlined process.


We’ll tell you just how we do it.


The 10 fail-safe steps in a successful hiring process


It’s better to prevent an issue than to fix a mistake. These are the 10 must-do stages you, as a hiring manager, should be following to avoid troublesome mistakes.


1. Don’t forget your wishlist


When you go to the store without a shopping list, chances are you’re going to fumble around a lot. It’s the same with an open position— if you don’t know what you’re looking for in a candidate, you will make hiring mistakes that throw a spanner in the works.


For an efficient hiring process, you need to write down a solid job description. What does this mean? First, you need to get clear on the key skills and qualities needed for someone to be successful in this role.


Ideally, you’ll divide the job description into two parts:


  • The skills, personal qualities, and experience a candidate must have

  • And the day-to-day tasks their responsibilities entail.


Not only does the job description help you get a clear image of your ideal candidate, but it also provides your potential candidates enticing information that will prompt them to apply.


2. Go source for yourself!


Whatever position you’re hiring for— be it media, marketing, any sort of digital expert or content creator— you should be sourcing your own candidates online. It doesn’t really matter whether you get CVs passively or are using a recruiter: doing your own online sourcing puts you ahead of the game.


What are the advantages? First, it will help you figure out what you really want in a candidate. Then, you’ll get a feel of what this segment of the job market looks like. And lastly, by taking the initiative, you could even end up hiring the perfect team member who wasn’t actively looking for a job.


How to source online? Start by browsing sites like LinkedIn. You can search for users working in a similar position or toggle with the filters to get more depth and specifics.


When you find someone who matches your ideal candidate profile, send them a message but please don’t copy and paste. This is very transparent and it will cause the reader to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction.


Instead, write them a personalized message, mentioning items of their experience and abilities that stood out for you. Tell them about the position in a way that makes it sound like the logical next step in their career.


Even if you don’t find a lucky hire, you can send the profiles you liked to your recruiter, your hiring team, or even to the rest of your network. It’ll make your expectations more clearly tangible as well as open up the possibility of referrals from your contacts. 


If you don’t know why referrals are so good, the basics: in the digital world, employees found via referrals stay three times as long as other hires.


3. Team up with Google


In this industry, you need employees that understand how to market themselves well— essentially, how to present an effective CV tailored to a specific position and company. 


When you keep that in mind, CV reviewing gets a lot easier. And, nowadays, it’s even more simple than that. Use Google! What is the applicant’s online presence like? Take a look at social media, blog posts, website— anything public that has their name on it. Does their profile fit with your company’s style and values? If you skip this step, you’ll probably regret it later!


Besides researching and cross-referencing, you should keep a couple of things in mind when looking at candidates’ CVs: they should read like a coherent story, stay concise, well-written, be results-driven as well as showing clear metrics.


4. Screening interview— short and sweet


Before an extended, in-person interview, you should carry out a quick screening to separate wheat from chaff. Keep in mind that, in this preliminary, step, you’ll probably have a long list of candidates. That means you will have to keep it short.


The best way to do a screening— a phone interview of strictly 30 minutes. Why such a short time? This is the phase to ask the most basic of questions, not to conduct an in-depth skills test. What you want is to assess whether an applicant meets the critical requisites in a reduced period of time.


Before you start calling people, create an outline with the questions you will ask all candidates. They should be targeted and cover three areas: skills, judgement, and behaviour. You can also throw in some questions specific to each particular candidate (is there anything you didn’t understand from their CV? Gaps? Timeline issues?).


During the phone call, avoid departing from the questions too much. Beware, though: you don’t want it to sound like a police interrogation. Keep it friendly by using filler phrases like, ‘Great! Now that we’ve talked about x, this brings to mind…’.


How to pick who goes to the next round of in-person interviews? Go with your impressions: is this someone you’re thrilled about? If you aren’t excited about working with them or even talking to them again, you should always send a follow-up email explaining why you’re not moving forward.


5. Real-life written exercises


A big part of any hiring process is faith and crossed fingers. However, you can minimize the risk of a terrible mistake by checking (and re-checking) your interviewee’s skills. This is the perfect time to do just that: after the screening phone call and before the in-person interview.


Think of what the person who fills this position will be doing. Maybe their tasks include writing articles or blog posts, creating social media content, optimizing landing pages, or coming up with insightful case studies.


The written exercise stage requires you to create a test task that mirrors what they’ll be doing on the job. So take your pick, write clear instructions, and let your applicant show off their abilities!


6. It takes a village: build a team 


The process of hiring someone might seem like an insurmountable challenge. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone: you can (and should) assemble a team. 


Choose people who have a horse in the race: those who work with the new hire, your superior, and (of course) you. If someone else in your company has an awesome interviewing or hiring track record, consider getting them involved as well.


There are clear advantages to assembling a team like this:

  • Making sure that the candidate and the people who have to successfully collaborate with them can have a good relationship.

  • Combining different perspectives, experiences, and feedback.

  • Getting specialised interviewers (for example, someone who will focus on analytics, culture, or people skills).


7. Bring everyone up to speed


A clear, unified strategy is a must for in-person interviews. Everyone has to be on the same page regarding the questions to be asked and the different stages of the process. This will keep both interviewers and candidates sane (getting the same question from three different people doesn’t leave a good impression), as well as optimising schedules.


Start by thinking of each candidate’s profile— what are their particular skills and experiences? And what gaps and weaknesses can you pinpoint? 


Once you’ve got that down, decide who is most qualified to interview the candidate on each specific area. The goal is to clear up any doubts and find out everything you can about the interviewee, so splitting up for efficiency makes sense. 


After deciding on a sound strategy, create a brief for everyone on the hiring team. It should include all relevant info about the candidate’s background, strengths and weaknesses, and possible skill or experience gaps. To save time and keep things smooth, you should also inform everyone of who will be testing what.


8. Construct insightful interview questions


You’ve got to make the most of your time with the candidate, so it’s critical to have a set of thoughtful, probing questions ready to go. You can create your own and also help out anyone on your team who doesn’t have vast interviewing experience.


Where to start? Types of questions: you should combine (and, ideally, intersperse) both CV and experience inquiries with behavioural questions (read this article if the term sounds alien to you).


The key areas to focus on are: 


  • CV: It never hurts to go over the CV one last time. The candidate will start to feel confident and you will get a sense of their (self-)marketing skills. However, keep it short (5 minutes, tops), as this is just an introduction.

  • Interest: Essentially, ‘Why do you want to work in our company/this position?’. Ideally, the interviewee will tell you a compelling story of their journey leading up to this moment. This step also gives you valuable information about their dedication and research skills.


  • Behavioural: Situation-specific behavioural questions (like the ones we suggest in this article or the STAR method here) help you assess the interviewee’s skills and qualities in real-life action. Note: don’t ask generic questions here. Rather, tailor effective behavioural questions to each candidate’s experience (or lack thereof) and CV presentation.

  • Case exercises: This is a bit like a repeat of the written exercises in step 5 but in real time. They’ll show you how fast your candidate is on their feet, as well as how incisive and skilled their reasoning is.

  • Reverse it: Finally, it’s important to let each interviewee ask you questions. Prompt them to do it and allow them 5-10 minutes. The depth of insight they show in this step is critical!


9. Feedback matters


You’ve got a balanced interviewing team with an unshakeable, unified strategy. But all of that is worth absolutely nothing if you don’t actually listen to their feedback on the candidate. 


Making room for every suggestion and doubt from your team members, instead of relying solely on your own judgement, minimizes hiring risks like nothing else. 


This is the right moment to have a joint meeting and give everyone the mic to express their impression of the candidate. If they are voices of doubt, don’t disregard them— you can always conduct one more interview with the applicant to clear things up. Better safe than sorry! 


10. Follow up— Always


Nothing is worse than getting interviewed for a coveted position and getting no follow-up message. Leaving people to wait around damages the company’s reputation and, perhaps, even future hiring options.


If you decide not to hire someone, you can either send an email or call them— the choice depends on the depth of your relationship with them. Always give a reason for your decision and, if the candidate asks for feedback, make it concise and constructive. 

On the other hand, if you do choose to hire a candidate, keep it snappy! You don’t want your ideal employee to be snatched from your hands. Formulate a clear, enticing offer and work to keep the relationship alive.


Disclaimer: following these 10 steps doesn’t mean you’ll get a perfect employee every time, it does improve the chances exponentially. Minimizing hiring mistakes will get your team working like clockwork and you’ll get groundbreaking results in no time. Choose wisely!


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