5 Huge Hiring Mistakes Business Owners Frequently Make That Are Totally Avoidable

How often have you been at a function (or meeting) with other business owners when someone will say something like this, “I love what I do. I just hate dealing with employees!” Or, “Business would be great if I just didn’t have to deal with employees any more.”?

Probably more times than you care to count. In fact, you might have been the person saying that. I know I’ve said that from time to time.

Back in my old pastoral days, I would often say to my wife, “My job would be great if I just didn’t have to deal with people.” So I fully get where this emotion comes from.

That said, whenever you or I say something like that, we’re usually saying it tongue in cheek because we know that without people (in this case, employees), we wouldn’t be able to create leverage and have the kinds of businesses or impact that we do.

However, there is a little truth to those statements. Unfortunately, it’s usually not because of what we think it is. We like to think that employee problems are always because of them. But the reality is that we’re usually the guilty party. Why? Because, typically, we blew it during the hiring process.

That old adage about management is absolutely correct,

“Eighty percent of managing is hiring right.”

You know this to be true. Whenever you have the right people on your team, employees are never a problem. They’re a joy. It’s only when we have the wrong people on the team (or in the wrong positions) that employees are a drain—and that’s something we have to own.

So, how can you turn that around? How can you become more proficient at hiring the right people the first time around so that employees are a joy, not a burden? Well, one of the fastest ways to make anything better is to stop doing what’s causing the problem in the first place. In this case, to stop making bad hiring choices.

Now, if you and I were to try to list all of the hiring mistakes that business owners make, we’d have a huge list. Instead, I’ve narrowed the list down to the five most frequent hiring mistakes I’ve observed a lot of business owners make. Just by avoiding these you’ll automatically improve your batting average.

Note: no one who hires people frequently bats 1.000. So, don’t worry about batting 1.000. Just keep moving your batting average forward with each hire until you’re consistently batting in the .700-.900 range (which would make you an all-star talent recruiter).

That said, here are five huge hiring mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1 – Hiring Without Clarity on Exactly What You Want and/or Expect

Both of these matter. I’m constantly amazed at how frequently business owners and entrepreneurs blow this one. Someone will say to me, “I want to hire X (an admin, a sales person, a marketing person, a programmer, a …).” I’ll then ask some basic questions.

  • Do you have a job description for this person? No
  • Do you know exactly what you expect from them? No
  • Do you know what kind of person you’re looking for? No
  • Do you have any metrics you expect them to achieve in their fist six or twelve months? No

Mind-boggling. How can you hire well if there’s no real clarity on who you want or what you want or what you expect for them to achieve?

The answer I keep getting back is, “But I just need X (let’s say, “someone to be my marketing person.”). Well, marketing alone, as a term, isn’t very helpful.

  • Do you want someone who’s more of a strategist who’ll create your marketing plans and strategies or are you looking for someone who’s more of a tactician?
  • Do you want someone who will be more of a project manager who might be working with outside vendors or a marketer who can actually write copy and create marketing materials?
  • Are you looking for someone with a direct response marketing background or someone with more of a branding background?
  • Do you want someone who can create online marketing funnels and automate your marketing or someone who will run your social media strategies, etc.

You get the idea, there are a hundred different ways you can go with something as broad as marketing. Let alone issues like, “Are you looking for a seasoned veteran or someone who’s recently graduated?” or, “Are you looking for someone who will serve at a VP of Marketing level and be on your top team or someone who will be more tactical and report to someone else?”

Is there any wonder why the batting average for most business owners and entrepreneurs is so low?

If you want to make better hiring choices, the first place to start is to take the extra time to clearly define exactly what you want, what you expect and the kind of person you’re looking for. All of that time you invest on the front end will save you massive amounts of time and headaches on the back-end.

Mistake #2 – Hiring Without A Clear Process in Place

In the typical “shoot-from-the-hip” style of most of the business owners and entrepreneurs I’ve met, this is a huge mistake—they have no clear system for hiring in place (note: I say, “no clear system for hiring” because technically a “shoot-from-the-hip” style is a system, it’s just a bad one).

If you desire to scale your business, one of the most important elements of scaling is the ability to add the resources you need before demand arrives (or as soon as it arrives). Therefore, you need to have a solid hiring process in place so that you can hire reasonably fast to meet demand while, at the same time, ensuring that you’re hiring the best talent possible for the job.

Coming up with an idea (I need a marketing person), going through your Rolodex, posting an ad online, interviewing the first few names and hiring the best of those first three people is a poor process.

In a future post, I’ll outline my recommended process, but for now, I’d simply encourage you to think through your process. If you were to design a hiring process, how would you lay it out (note: mine has 12 key steps)?

The key thing about a process is that it should help you avoid quick hires. There should be multiple people involved (next point). There should be some checks and possibly tests. Etc. No process is perfect. But a good hiring process will always win out over a “shoot-from-the-hip” hiring process any day.

So, what does your ideal hiring process look like?

Mistake #3 – Hiring On Their Own

As I just alluded to in mistake #2, one of the process mistakes that most business owners and entrepreneurs tend to make is that they frequently do most of the hiring on their own (after all, it is their business). So, they meet with the prospect. They ask the questions. They decide, “This is who I’m going to hire.” And they do the on boarding (which is usually a very brief introduction and “Now, get to work.”).

But, as Dr. Phil likes to say,

“How’s that working for you?”

I was talking with a client the other day and we had this exact same conversation. Most of the people he’s hired in the past are people he knows and he does most of the interviewing. Now, after several less than optimal hires, he’s decided that there’s probably a better way.

At a minimum, you should be doing tandem interviews. No more interviews on your own. Even if you don’t have people on your team who you think would be great interviewers, you do have people in your network who could help. If you’re a smaller business, you could ask another business owner or entrepreneur, a friend with a background in hiring, someone you know who has hired a lot of people in the past, your accountant or attorney, someone in your networking or mastermind group, etc. Be creative. Just don’t interview alone.

If you have a larger team, go beyond tandem interviews and engage a couple additional people in the process. Why? Because EVERYONE has blind spots, including you and me. We all tend to see what we want to see. So, having multiple people engaged in the hiring process means we’ll usually have better acuity on the candidate than if we just do it ourselves.

In addition, the other people involved in the process usually don’t have the same compulsion/weight/need to hire someone fast like we often do (i.e. we just want to get it off our plates and move on).

So, whatever you do, refuse to hire on your own. You’ll make better decisions.

Note: this doesn’t mean you have to go with the majority view or you can’t make the final decision alone. It simply means you’re getting perspectives from other people outside of your own before you hire.

Mistake #4 – Hiring Fast To Fill A Spot Vs. Waiting For The Right Person

Are you starting to see a theme here? These all flow from one to another. Someone who makes one of these mistakes, often makes several of them—and this one is no different.

As business owners and entrepreneurs we all like to make things happen. We like speed. We like moving on to the next thing. And most of us get bored really, really fast.

So, whenever we need to hire someone, there is an intense desire to get it done fast (usually because we’ve waited until the last moment when we absolutely must hire someone vs. hiring them before demand—which would be another mistake).

What do you think happens when you take someone who wants to get things done fast and mix that with a pent-up demand for a position? Exactly, something bad. In other words, we move as fast as we can to hire someone and “Trust that it’ll all work out.”

There is a reason why the most common refrain amongst business owners on the subject of hiring is, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Why? Because we’ve all paid that dumb tax. And, of all the dumb taxes, it’s one of the most costly.

Just think through some of the costs (Note: depending on who you’re listening to, it’s usually between 1X-6X the cost of the person’s salary)

  • Their salary
  • The cost of moving them (if you are), uprooting them and, if they have a family, their family
  • The cost of their benefits
  • The cost of their on boarding
  • The cost of your time (or whoever is their boss)
  • The cost of lost time dealing with problems they create
  • The cost of meetings
  • The cost of any attorneys that might be involved
  • The cost of lost opportunities (from them not doing their job and you because you’re dealing with them, etc.)

When you add that all up, it adds up fast. Hiring fast to fill a spot is almost always a bad choice. Waiting to hire the right person is almost always the right choice. Choose wisely.

Mistake #5 – Hiring to Help Someone Out

I’m always amazed at how often the media makes business owners and entrepreneurs out to be bad/greedy people. I just don’t get that. The vast majority of business owners and entrepreneurs I know of are some of the most generous and giving people on the planet.

Unfortunately, this sense of generosity, along with our positive belief system that we can make anything work, carries over into our hiring practices—which is frequently the cause of those bad hires (Note mistake #5 is often found in combination with mistakes #2, #3 and #4 … okay, and #1).

Classic example, Joe needs someone to work in their business. He’s at church and Angela, a friend, tells him that Frank was recently been let go of at his company because of downsizing, not because of anything Frank had done, and is looking for a job. Joe, out of the goodness of his heart thinks, “Hey, I need someone. Frank is in need of a job. He’s a pretty good guy.  Angela, my friend, vouches for him. This must be a God thing. I’ll hire him.” Done. Check that one-off the list.

I’m sure if you go through your past hires, you’ll find something similar. I’ve done it as well. And while sometimes it does work out, the vast majority of times, if we’re honest, it doesn’t.

It’s far better to work the process and, if they pass through the process as the best candidate for the job, awesome. But, if they don’t, pass on them. If you choose to hire them, you’re doing a disservice to them, to your customers, to your other employees, to your other shareholders (if you have any), and to you and your business. So, don’t do it.

Make a commitment to only hiring the right people, not just to helping someone out–and you’ll be glad you made that choice for years to come.

So, if you want to accelerate the growth of your business and see your employees as a joy, not a burden, make sure you avoid all five of these huge hiring mistakes

  1. Hiring without clarity on exactly what you want and/or expect
  2. Hiring without a clear process in place
  3. Hiring on your own
  4. Hiring fast to fill a spot vs. waiting for the right person
  5. Hiring to help someone out

By simply avoiding these five, you’ll automatically increase your hiring batting average.

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other hiring mistakes you’d like to add to the discussion, make sure you add them in the comments section below or click here >> if you’re reading this by RSS feed or email

P.P.S. If you’d prefer the positive version of the list above it would be something like

  1. Be crystal clear on exactly what you want and expect
  2. Always use a process
  3. Make sure you engage others in the hiring process
  4. Always wait for the right person
  5. Always choose the best person for the job (not just because you want to help someone out)