YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Mistakes Common in Hiring Workers

April 20, 1999|Gary Izumo

Hiring an employee is one of the most important decisions a manager makes, but hiring the right one can be enormously challenging.

Each employee makes the business either better or worse. An employee's effect on the organization is never neutral.

Yet, despite the importance and the known challenge of hiring good employees, managers often make four common mistakes:

* Not spending enough time.

There is a generally held belief that people are a business' most important asset. Yet, some managers spend more time on an equipment purchase or decorating an office than on hiring an employee . . . even though much more is at stake for both the company and the prospective employee.

It is difficult to get to know the capabilities, attitude and fit of someone in 15 or 30 minutes. Good companies understand the importance of hiring the right people, so they invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process.

Senior executives of good organizations communicate this through their words and active participation.

Invest your time and involve your team in interviewing and getting to know prospective candidates. As you narrow down the field to two or three prime candidates, consider a second set of interviews.

* Delegating the process to others.

At some companies, hiring decisions are based on just a review of an application and a half-hour interview. At others, managers largely delegate the groundwork to the human resources department and hire a candidate forwarded to them after conducting only a perfunctory interview. Worse yet, at some companies, new hires don't meet their supervising manager until their first day on the job.

It is not a surprise to observe personnel problems in these companies, from morale issues to high turnover. A manager, with involvement from her team and human resources, is in the best position to determine a candidate's fitness for a job in her department.

Hiring is a serious matter, a vital task that should not be delegated. There are no short cuts in hiring the right person.

* Not looking for the right qualities.

Some managers might say: "We review resumes. We test for skills. We interview. So why don't we do better?" Part of the reason is because they focus more on easily measurable criteria, such as skills, experience and education, and less on the fit of values and attitudes.

Attitudes are as important as skills and experience when hiring. If you look at the performance review forms of most companies, there is far more emphasis on evaluating the so-called soft skills and attitudes--for example, communication, initiative, teamwork and leadership--than on technical or hard skills.

Unfortunately, the basis on which candidates are evaluated is not always consistent with the criteria used to make the initial hire. Managers need to adjust hiring criteria and the time spent in the hiring process to better reflect what they want in performance.

A candidate with the right skills, experience and education, but whose attitude doesn't fit with those of the organization, should not be hired. Simply stated, managers need to spend more time asking the right questions to have a sufficient understanding of fit with company values and attitudes when interviewing candidates.

* Rushing the process.

Sometimes managers feel compelled to make a decision. They have a huge backlog of work that gets bigger every day. Or they feel as though they have searched and interviewed candidates forever, and the departments involved just want this task completed.

If this is the case, be strong and continue to search for the right candidate. Hiring is not a task to be rushed or compromised. Each person is too important. And dealing with the aftermath of a bad hire is far worse than any delay in hiring a long-term employee.

We all have worked with someone who just wanted to do the minimum and get by. Or with someone who is selfish. This is not fun. It impairs the organization and it weakens morale.

Instead of pushing ahead, managers must invest precious resources in remedial training to pull this employee along. Instead of seizing new opportunities, they end up spending time on counseling. And worse, working with a bad hire takes a huge emotional toll and can affect how they manage, if employee trust is damaged.


Managers should not simply go through the motions and view hiring as just another task on their to-do list.

Hiring should be viewed as an opportunity to increase the productive capacity of the organization. Hiring enables managers to enhance the work environment with the right attitudes. And hiring the right people allows companies to sustain the values that are essential for an empowering culture based upon trust, respect and learning.

Translate the importance of hiring into behavior. Invest meaningful time into each new hire. Demonstrate, through the hiring process, that people are the company's most important asset.

Gary Izumo is a professor in the Moorpark College business department and has managed his own consulting practice. He is a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and practice leader for the Strategic Management Consulting Practice of Price Waterhouse. You can e-mail him at

Los Angeles Times Articles