Hiring the right people is crucial for any organization's success, but sometimes, managers can make mistakes that have serious consequences. Here's a cautionary tale about a hiring process gone wrong, and how to avoid the common pitfalls.
The Tale of Alex
When building a team for a startup, the founder, and advisors crafted a seemingly foolproof recruiting strategy. However, they overlooked Alex's red flags, who had burned bridges with former employers and had a bad reputation. But Alex's passion and potential were enough to convince the founder to hire him. Unfortunately, Alex turned out to be a disastrous hire who stole information, lied, and destroyed intellectual property. Despite the warning signs and an investor's concerns, the founder made the recommendation to bring Alex on board.
The Danger of Overconfidence
The founder's blind spot was his overconfidence in his ability to develop employees, even if they lacked essential character traits for growth, like accountability and openness to feedback. The founder believed he could reform Alex, but the reality is that most hiring managers don't have the resources, skills, or time to rehabilitate troubled hires. Furthermore, founders are often vulnerable to this pattern because they have tight budgets and look for a deal. To avoid this blind spot, it's crucial to seek out a second opinion and listen to it.
Another common blind spot is validation-seeking, where hiring managers only look for people who praise the product or company excessively. This overconfidence in their abilities leads them to overlook contrarian candidates who point out problems. Leaders who develop "heightened overconfidence from high levels of such ingratiatory behavior" will be less likely to "initiate needed strategic change." To avoid this blind spot, don't overlook the candidates who offer thought-provoking criticism of your business, even if your knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss them.
Boundary breaching is when managers blur the lines between personal and professional relationships. Sarah, a marketing executive, believed a selling point for job candidates was that her team was "like a family" - until she discovered that her team resented how much time she spent helping one of her direct reports with personal issues. While empathy is an essential trait for a leader, it can be misapplied. Describing the team as a family signals a lack of professional boundaries. To avoid this blind spot, communicate with your team that while empathy is valued, professional and personal boundaries must be respected.
One of the most common mistakes hiring managers make is having inconsistent criteria for evaluating candidates. Hiring managers should have a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves for the position they're hiring for. If you don't have clear criteria, you'll be more likely to overlook red flags or dismiss candidates who might be a better fit. To avoid this blind spot, define what you're looking for in a candidate before starting the hiring process.
Hiring managers often have unconscious biases, and they're more likely to hire people who are like themselves. A study found that men were more likely to hire men, while women were more likely to hire women. Biases can also manifest in assumptions about a candidate's race, age, education, or background. To avoid this blind spot, be aware of your biases and seek out diverse candidates actively.
Are you struggling with employee turnover, poor team performance, or other talent-related challenges? Talent Optimization can help solve these problems and many more, so why not take action now? If you want to create the company of your dreams, don't hesitate to contact Straightline Consulting today. We'll start a discussion and work with you to quickly develop effective solutions.