How Managers Can Make Better Hiring Decisions

June 15, 2015

hiring decisions

The idea that managers always select the right candidate for the job is a common misconception. There are a number of qualifying factors which potential candidates need to meet in order to contribute to the company’s overall success, and managers often overlook or underestimate the complexity of the hiring process.

Over the last four decades, we’ve trained thousands of managers to make better hiring decisions. As we worked with our clients, we began to document some of their most common mistakes. Some of the major ones are listed here.

1. Failing to seek complete and consistent information from applicants on the specific competencies needed for success in the job.

In fact, if you were to ask a group of managers hiring for the same requirements for success, they’re often likely to come up with different lists.

2. Misinterpreting applicant information.

Some managers play amateur psychiatrist. Trying to determine an applicant’s underlying personality trait or innate talents is likely to lead a hiring manager astray. So too is asking applicants to describe themselves in a sentence, or to name three strengths or weaknesses. And asking a theoretical question (e.g., “What would you do . . . ?”) in a certain situation, rather than what she actually did, can easily mislead a hiring manager. Explaining how she might handle a situation is far different than having done it.

3. Disregarding job motivation.

Many hiring leaders tend to focus only on an applicant’s skills, asking whether that person can do the job. It’s just as important to find out if the candidate is motivated to do the job.

4. Allowing biases and stereotypes to affect judgment.

The hiring manager’s biases can reflect negatively or positively on decisions for reasons that have no relationship to the job responsibilities. For example, a manager might be biased against an applicant who has an unusual hairstyle, has belonged to certain college groups, or shares common interests with the manager.

5. Making wrong decisions based on first impressions.

Reaching quick decisions based on information in the person’s application or resume, attire, or even a handshake is the wrong way to go. Accuracy is diminished because objectivity is lost. When interviewing, first impressions definitely should not become lasting impressions.

6. Allowing pressure to fill the position to affect judgment.

The pressure to fill an open position can come from a variety of sources: How long the position has been open, the degree to which business or resources are affected by it, or the level of attention paid to the vacancy by senior management. Within reason, a selection decision is not one to make without gathering all the right information.

7. Failing to sell applicants on the advantages of the job, organization, or job location.

Remember, top candidates are likely in high demand. A key part of any hiring process is conveying a positive impression of you and your organization. A story from an IT candidate: He was in demand and had three offers. He decided not to accept one from his top choice, based on the callous way he was treated during the interview process.

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Avoiding the common mistakes that managers make when making new hires is an essential management skill. Build on those skills through AMA's tools and resources,

About The Author

Tacy M. Byham, Ph.D., is the CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI). Tacy has worked with dozens of global organizations, creating custom solutions to improve their leaders’ performance. She believes that better leadership is not only about the workplace, but also about better communities and, ultimately, a better world. Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., is a global expert in leadership development. He is Senior Vice President of Development Dimensions International. Your First Leadership Job is his fifth book on talent management, including the bestseller, Empowered Teams. His research has been featured in Fortune, BusinessWeek, CNBC, NPR, BBC, and Forbes.

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    […] Have you ever been haunted by a bad hiring mistake? Not fun. Here are seven missteps you must avoid. […]

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