6 Key Mistakes When Interviewing And Hiring Employees

Giving someone a job is a big responsibility. You're not just choosing someone to do a task, you're choosing somebody who will be interacting with your other employees and representing your company. There are a lot of things to think about when interviewing and hiring employees, but here are six of the most common mistakes people make. Avoid these mistakes and you'll be on your way to finding the perfect employee for your business.

Hiring Mistake #1: 
You're Not Sure What You're Looking For

A senior HR manager once shared that she spends a lot of time asking the hiring manager what they want in a new employee. If they balk at the amount of time or information she wants from them, she tells them, “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will I know it when it walks in the door?”

Companies usually (but not always) have a job description on file for a position. If you have a written job description, at least you’ve spent some time thinking about what you want in your job. If you don’t, you are really flying blind.

Most job descriptions only list skills or functions of the job. Must be able to lift 40 pounds. Able to use Word and Excel. Must have a driver’s license and a H.S. diploma or equivalent. Can read and interpret written information.

Of course you do need to have this – you can’t hire a driver for your company if they don’t have a driver’s license. If there is a manual component of your job (lifting 40 pounds), you need to know that too. (On that subject - I rarely hear hiring managers ask someone to lift 40 pounds in an interview.)

More importantly, you need to explore and know the personality traits of the job. Things like “able to deal with frequent change and delays”, “reacts well under pressure”, “able to make decisions on their own” and “able to work long hours when necessary to reach goals” can be translated into personality traits needed for success in the job. This is where new employees disappoint.

Careful review of the skills the job required, the personality of the job, the fit to the hiring manager’s style and company culture are all key components that help you understand what you are looking for in an employee.

In addition, you need a tool to create a Job Benchmark for each position in your company. One that helps identify the traits and skills that your current successful employees possess ... and you're less than successful employees lack.


It’s hard to find that “perfect one” without a vision of what you are looking for. Gather information on who has been successful (and unsuccessful) in the position and compare your candidates to this “benchmark”. This will increase the chances that the candidate you liked in the interview is the employee you want and need.

Hiring Mistake #2: You're Too Desperate

In a conversation with the owner of several pizza stores in town, he shared he’d like to be a bit more selective in who he hired to deliver pizzas. But with 20 pizzas on the table to be delivered, if a candidate could pass the license background check and meet insurance standards, they were hired.

Hopefully, most hiring decisions don’t have that degree of desperation or need in them. You may think they do and act that way, but it’s often not the case.

When you are desperate, your standards decline. You talk yourself into seeing greatness in a candidate that is probably not there. You put on your rose-colored glasses and fail to see the reality of the person sitting in front of you.

Everything they say and all their answers take on a touch of “perfect for the job”. Your critical thinking and skepticism goes out the window.

If for some reason you are truly desperate for a person to fill your position, consider using someone else in your organization on a temporary basis. Or use a temp service to get you someone short term. Then continue to seek the right person to fill your position.

Two things I’ve learned about interviewing candidates, especially salespeople:

First, they are salespeople … and they are selling themselves in an interview. Be skeptical and don’t get sold. Selling you may be the only thing they are good at.

Second, good sales leaders are usually positive and optimistic – and look for the best in others. This works for you as a leader but can be something that works against you when hiring, especially if you are desperate.


It is hard to make a non-emotional and wise hiring decision when desperation creeps into your thinking.

Choosing the wrong person can have an emotional and financial toll on the new hire, other employees, the company and especially you.

Hiring Mistake #3: 
You Talk Too Much About Yourself

My my mother gave me a key piece of advice when I first began dating and asked her the question “what will we talk about?” She suggested I ask him questions about himself.  “People like to talk about themselves so he’ll do all the talking … and he’ll think you’re a brilliant conversationalist.” That advice is even more valuable in a hiring interview.

Ask the RIGHT Questions that let the candidate talk ... and you listen.

Employers spend far too much time talking about themselves, their company and the job. It’s more like you are selling the candidate on why they should come work for you rather than getting them to sell YOU on why you should pay them and allow them to work for you.

They need to convince YOU to take the chance to give them access to your company, your reputation and good will, and your finances.

Asking the right questions and putting yourself in the role of listener provides many clues to who they are. It allows you to focus on not only what, but how, they say things. What do you notice in their non-verbal clues as well as the responses they share? Are they believable? Do their answers contradict themselves?

With a job benchmark of past performers, you have a better idea of what you are looking for. Your interview questions are then targeted to the specific behaviors you know the employee will need to be successful or what hasn't worked in the past. Learn from history.


Even in a tough job market, your purpose in the interview is to learn as much as you can about the person you are thinking of hiring. It is not to win their approval or convince them to please take your job.

Just like dating, in hiring you are looking for a long-term relationship that will benefit both of you.

Hiring Mistake #4: You Fall In Love Too Fast

It’s rare for “love at first sight” to work out in dating. The same is true in hiring. Not that success couldn’t happen in both … it just usually doesn’t.

No one sets out to hire someone who will fail in a job. (One sales manager once told me he’d rather donate a kidney than have to fire another salesperson.) So how do they get hired?

It’s because we made a decision on our first impression that wasn’t accurate. Over time, we learn more about the other person and what was once “love” turns into disappointment.

Statistics show that most hiring decisions are made in the first 4.3 minutes of an interview. The rest of the time is spent justifying this first impression of like or dislike.

As a result, good and talented people are hired into a company, job or team that is not a good “fit”.

The wrong hire can cost your company thousands of dollars, so only depending on your “gut” to hire can be expensive. Making a decision too quickly, without data, facts and a reality check increases the likelihood of a wrong hire.  

It’s human nature to feel more comfortable with people who remind us of ourselves. But you might be a terrible fit in the position you are seeking to fill – and so will they. It also limits the talent pool and the diversity of talents and strengths that your team might need.


Use employee assessments as tools to offer objective data that supplements and/or supports your experience and “gut” in hiring.

Assessments provide targeted, results based questions to challenge your first impression – and will either confirm or cause you to rethink whether this is the right person for you.

Assessments bring objectivity, consistency and thoroughness to the interview process - something you can’t do on your own.

Hiring Mistake #5:
You Believe Everything You're Told

Sales candidates may lie or exaggerate.  Well, perhaps not on purpose – but they really want a job and have a strong desire to make a great impression in the interview. So perhaps they stretch the truth a bit.

Technically an exaggeration is a lie. But most people don’t see it that way, so most people exaggerate. Executive search professionals agree it is naïve to think that all candidates are going to be truthful. I even found an article on LinkedIn entitled, Why You Must Lie on Job Interviews and What You Must Lie About.

A Harris Poll survey reports 58% of hiring managers say they’ve caught lies on resumes.

What kinds of things might a candidate exaggerate or lie about?

  • Education
  • Background check information
  • Experience
  • Reason they failed to arrive on time (or at all) for your interview
  • Why they were terminated
  • Past salary

So how can you tell if a candidate is lying? Verify information.

Dig deeper if something feels or looks off, such as gaps in employment, vague references to experience, education or credentials.


Be skeptical and look for body language such as voice changes, failure to make eye contact, breathing or posture changes, and telling you too much or over-explaining.

Consider outside resources such as background check services or an Attitude pre-employment assessment to measure things like integrity, honesty, hostility and substance abuse.

Hiring Mistake #6: You Think You Can
Change Employees After You Hire Them

What you know changes – who you are does not.  Dating someone you know is wrong with the belief that you’ll “fix” them later rarely works out well. It’s also not a formula success when hiring.

Hiring someone with the right skills but the wrong mind-set or personality can be a costly hiring mistake.

Basic personality traits do not change and are hard-wired at an early age. Introverts don’t become extroverts … and vice versa. Strong willed children become strong willed adults. Your personality is essentially the same throughout your life.

You can train and improve skills but you can’t train attitude. Things such as work ethic, honesty and integrity (to name a few) are ingrained in people once they are old enough to be in the workforce. You can teach a sales person prospecting skills - but they may be too introverted to prospect. You can teach a sales person how to close - but they may be so conflict averse they won’t ever take the actions needed to close.

You also can’t train your way out of a bad hire. When people don’t fit a job, a company culture or the boss they work for – training won’t fix it.

You waste time and money by trying to train the wrong people for a job.

I want to be a good steward with my clients’ money when I’m hired as a trainer. We both want to see good results from the time and money invested. But sometimes the wrong people are in my sales training sessions because they don’t “fit” the job they’ve been hired to do. And ultimately, my best efforts, their hard work, your money and no amount of training (regardless of how good it is) will make them more successful.


Don’t put a square peg in a round hole. Hiring people with the right experience or education doesn’t ensure job success.

Hire people with the right attitude and “job fit” for you and your job – and then train them with the skill and knowledge they need to do well.


If you’re not sure what you’re looking for in a candidate, it can be tough to find the right person for the job. You may be tempted to hire someone who is desperate for a job or who talks too much about themselves. Resist that temptation! Hiring the wrong person can cost your business time and money. Instead, take your time and make sure you find someone who is a good fit for both the position and your company culture. Falling in love with a candidate too fast can also lead to disappointment down the road. Don’t believe everything a candidate tells you – do your own research to verify their claims. Finally, remember that you can change employees after you hire them, but it’s always better to get it right the first time. What are some of the red flags that have caused you to regret hiring someone?

Together Let's Build Your Process to HIRE RIGHT

Hiring the right employees is essential to the success of any business. But finding candidates with the right skills and qualifications can be a challenge. That's where Assessment Pros can help. We offer a range of assessment tools that can help you identify the right candidates for the job. We also offer guidance on how to build a hiring process that makes it easy to find and hire the best candidates. So if you're looking for help with your hiring process, contact Assessment Pros today. We can help you find the right candidates for the job and build a process that makes hiring easy.

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