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Dana WilsonWe’ve all been there: you have to fill a position, and it needed to be done yesterday. Any warm body will do, right? Wrong.

Poor hiring decisions mean decreased profits, lost sales, productivity and costumers, increased costs and a decrease in employee morale – costly mistakes for any employer. The average cost of a bad hire is 2.5 times the person’s salary.

If you don’t want to incur unwanted expenses and grief, pay heed to the seven deadly sins of hiring:

  1. Not understanding the job thoroughly

If you don’t fully understand what the position you’re hiring for does, how will you know what to look for? In order to understand the job thoroughly, you need to conduct two types of analyses.

A job analysis will not only provide you with detailed information about the duties and responsibilities of the job, it will also identify the key soft and technical skills required to perform the job successfully. It will also tell you what experience, education, attributes and physical skills are needed.

The organizational analysis will provide you with information about the company, its business practices, culture, mission statement and vision. This information will help you determine what type of person will fit the best into your organization.

Once you have this information, you can start writing interview questions that focus on the key skills and attributes needed to be successful on the job.

  1. Not developing a comprehensive hiring plan

Prior to conducting your search, it’s critical that you develop a comprehensive, well thought out plan. This plan should spell out the methodology you’ll be using to source candidates and include written interview questions based on the key skills. It will also include the interview format and questioning strategies you’ll be using as well as a mechanism to rate the candidates.

Employers often tell me that they don’t have time to put a plan together. If you’re going to be successful, you need to find the time. It’s a short term investment that will pay huge dividends in the long term. As the saying goes, 10 minutes spent planning will save you one hour in execution.

  1. Not having structured interviews with prepared, pertinent questions.

There is nothing worse than an interviewer who likes to “wing it”. The scenario goes like this. The interviewer shows up for the interview late and appears to be harried, harassed and disorganized. The interviewer apologizes, requests a couple of minutes to read the resume and proceeds to develop and ask questions based on whatever comes to mind at the moment.

This type of interview lacks structure and consistently. As well, it may be legally indefensible if the hiring decision is challenged by one or more of the applicants.

In a structured interview, the interviewer has a set of pre-prepared questions that follow a logical progression. The same questions are asked to all candidates, ensuring a consistent approach. It also makes it easier for the interviewer to evaluate the interview answers.

  1. Asking illegal questions

Illegal questions can occur in two places: in the interview and on the application form. Usually, they involve matters that are considered to be prohibited grounds of discrimination in provincial human rights codes. They include questions about age, sex, marital status, disability and so on.

The best way to avoid these questions and to stay legal is to visit the website for your province’s human rights commission. Take some time to read up on the issues. Become educated. Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense.

  1. Ineffective listening skills

The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said: “God has wisely given us two ears and one mouth so we may hear twice as much as we speak.”

Unfortunately most interviewers don’t practice this philosophy. They spend huge amounts of time talking about the company, the job and themselves and precious little time listening. As a result, they learn very little about the candidate and their ability to perform the job. They have very little upon which to make an educated decision.

Active listening skills are critical to effective interviewing. You need to listen carefully to the answers given so that you can probe for additional information. You need to get a clear picture of the candidate’s skills and abilities. The only way you can do this is by asking questions and listening to the answers.

  1. Failing to conduct a realistic job preview

The purpose of the realistic job preview is to provide candidates with accurate information about the job and the organization. This includes providing information on the negatives and positives of working at your organization.

The goal of this exercise is to improve the person and job fit, to allow candidates to opt out if not interested and to prepare them psychologically for the negatives and positives of the job.

The interviewing process is a two-way street. You are evaluating the candidate and the candidate is evaluating you and your organization. If you don’t tell the candidate about the negatives and they join your organization and quickly find out that the job contains a number of things they don’t like or know about, they could quit.

  1. Making hiring decisions based on “gut feelings”

This type of decision making is not based on objective criteria, but rather on subjective factors like feelings, stereotypes and biases. This approach is not legally defensible and usually results in a poor hiring decision.

Gut feelings do have a place in the interviewing process. Instead of using them for hiring decisions, use them to ask more questions. If you get a gut feel that something is out of place or wrong, ask a question about it. Don’t let the “gut feeling” go un-answered. Probe into it by asking good opened questions.

Hiring good qualified candidates in today’s marketplace requires a major investment of time and resources. Avoid these seven deadly sins and you’ll be sure to improve the quality of your hires while at the same time providing a return on your investment.

Dana Wilson is an Edmonton based freelance writer.

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