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Hiring Tips for an HR Pro

Making the wrong choice between candidates can be costly. Here’s how to avoid making hiring mistakes by updating your interview and onboarding process.

We all have heard horror stories about what happens when the wrong hire is made. From the new employee who downloaded inappropriate materials onto the company computer to the new employee with a negative attitude who brings down the morale of an entire team.


Of course, no one purposefully sets out to make bad hires. Job candidates that turn into bad hires may have had qualifying credentials and promising answers to standard interview questions such as, “Where do you want to be in five years?” or, “What is your biggest flaw?” So, what should hiring professionals do to prevent the onboarding of a bad employee?




If hiring professionals want to avoid hiring disasters, they’ll need to be more creative, more vigilant and more determined to ensure the hire will be a good fit for the position, as well as the organization. They may need to re-think the interview processes they have used in the past. After all, the mistake of hiring the wrong candidate can be expensive. Recruiting, hiring and onboarding a new employee is estimated to be a hefty $240,000.




One of the first considerations in becoming better in the hiring process is considering how you interact with the candidate. For example, do you have standard questions that may need to be revamped? Chief executives interviewed by the New York Times had several ways to gain more insight into a candidate, such as asking:


  • “What qualities of your parents do you like the most?”
  • “What is the biggest misperception people have of you?”
  •   “Let’s assume we’ve worked together now for six months. There’s something that I’m going to observe of you that I have no idea about right now. What would that be?”


Such queries are designed to get a better understanding of the candidate as a whole. However, HR professionals shouldn’t rely solely on their own questions or insights. Experts say it’s a good idea to also get input from others in the organization. Ask the receptionist and the team members who first greet the applicant about their mannerisms, tone, and personality. Was the candidate polite? Did he or she seem uninterested? Or did they intentionally ask questions about the job and organization?


At Google, for example, a hiring committee must agree on a candidate before a job offer is made. “Research tells us that teams that have diverging opinions can make better, less-biased decisions. And that also applies to the way we make hiring decisions too,” says Lisa Stern Haynes, Google’s global staffing lead and senior recruiter.




In addition, experts say there are several other ways to improve the hiring process, such as:


  • Defining the culture. It’s one thing to have a mission statement on your website, but are you truly helping the candidate to understand your organization’s culture? Once you feel you’ve conveyed the message, ask questions such as, “How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen?” and “Do you personally feel aligned with our core values?”

  • Keeping score. To avoid unconscious biases or stereotypes, create a scorecard that “can provide a quantitative basis for comparisons between interviewers, enabling you to validate your perceptions,” explains Ben Dattner of Dattner Consulting. He suggests scoring candidates on things like interpersonal/team skills and technical ability. Rate the candidates before you hire them, and after you hire them. What lessons have been learned? How can it help you make a better hire the next time?

  • Using experiential interviewing. The candidate’s resume may show that he or she has the necessary qualifications for the position. But, when put to the test, how does the candidate perform? One HR professional suggests those applying for sales positions demonstrate his or her abilities by showing how they would make an initial call to a new client. They could then ask the client how they’ve handled carrying a large portfolio of clients, while still actively working on onboarding new clients. This demonstrates the candidate’s ability to take proper notes and prioritize his or her time in true-to-life conditions.




Finally, hiring professionals must remember that once the hire is made, the best way to ensure the employee doesn’t turn into a bad hire is by putting a great deal of effort into the onboarding process. Make sure you are clear about the expectations of the role and responsibilities. Be sure to check in with them on a regular basis to let them know they are supported.