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Avoid These Small Business Hiring Mistakes

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If you run a small business, you know that there isn’t a wide margin for error.

One bad experience could be the difference between a client referring you to all of their friends or leaving a nasty review on your Facebook page. As your business grows and you start thinking about expanding your team, the pressure to maintain a high level of quality might leave you feeling a bit apprehensive about hiring.

This new employee will be representing your brand, so you want to make sure you pick the right person for the job. Then there’s the issue of timing. Hire too quickly, and you might not have enough work or revenue coming in to support them. Wait too long, and your work may pile up, and the quality of your work may suffer.

If you’re a small business owner looking to bring on your first employee, or you’ve made a few bad hires and want to see where you might’ve gone wrong, keep reading to learn some of the most common hiring mistakes we see small businesses make (and how to fix them).

1. Unclear (or non-existent) processes

That ‘I’ll figure it out as I go’ mentality may have worked for you when you were just starting your business, but it doesn’t quite translate to hiring. Skipping steps like background checks, reference follow-ups, or test assignments means you could miss out on red flags that could’ve prevented a lousy hire.

Even if you’re only hiring one or two new employees, it helps to have a systematized process. Typically, there are four critical stages in the hiring process:

  • Planning: crafting the job description, determining who will be involved in the hiring process
  • Sourcing: promoting your open position to attract candidates
  • Selection: reviewing applications and conducting interviews
  • Offer: choosing a candidate and offering them the job

Each of these stages involves various tasks, so you’ll need to map out this workflow and create a reasonable recruitment timeline, so you’re not tempted to rush through the process or skip key activities.

2. Relying too heavily on your opinion

“Trust your gut” or “listen to your intuition” is standard advice given to entrepreneurs who are preparing to hire. Unfortunately, relying too heavily on your gut instinct can lead to bias (i.e., when employers apply different or unfair standards evaluating potential candidates). While sometimes, bias can be conscious or explicit, a lot of the time, bias is unconscious, stemming from pervasive stereotypes or personal past experiences.

Fortunately, there are a lot of simple ways that you can reduce bias during the hiring process. You could ask applicants to complete a skills test, like writing a blog post or social media caption if you’re hiring for a marketing role. Having candidates complete this before the interview and removing names from the tests can reduce bias even further. You could also make sure you ask every candidate the same questions and use the same scoring criteria to more accurately compare and contrast their abilities and overall fit.

Lastly, you could look into leveraging predictive tools that can help you automate the candidate screening process. For example, our tool enables users to automatically compare and rank the top candidates against their top performers, so they can make hiring decisions based on data instead of gut instinct or their intuition.

3. Rushing the hiring process

Hiring can be time-consuming, so it’s understandable why you’d want to get through it as quickly as possible. However, rushing the process and hiring the wrong person will only slow you down later on, as you’ll need to spend more time training or even replacing them.

Also, keep in mind that some of the best candidates tend to be passive, which means they aren’t actively searching for a job. These types of candidates are a little more skeptical and will likely take their time vetting your opportunity, but they’re often worth the extra effort.

If you’re short on time, consider finding a contractor who can support you in the interim, so you feel less pressure and have more time to focus on finding the right person for the position. However, as a rule of thumb, expect to interview at least three to five candidates in the first round and two to three for the second. Anything less and you’re not being selective enough and any more means you’re not qualifying your candidates enough before you interview them. If you’re in the latter category, spending some extra time in the planning stage putting together a solid job description can save you hours of interview time down the line.

4. Not prioritizing hiring

From posting jobs to screening resumes, shortlisting candidates to scheduling interviews, there’s so much work that goes into hiring that you might be tempted to keep putting it off. Still, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you needed somebody yesterday, and now you don’t have the time or capacity to hire at all.

So how do you make time to hire when you’re wearing all of the hats? Two words: automation and delegation. For example, rather than individually scheduling interviews into your calendar, you can use an app like Calendly or Acuity to allow candidates to book interviews with you automatically. You could also use InsightsWork to pre-screen candidates.

From there, see what tasks you can delegate to your team. For example, could you have your assistant pre-interview candidates or review applications and create a shortlist for you? Not only will this save you a tone of time and effort, but it will also improve the quality of your hiring decisions as you won’t be solely relying on your own opinion.

Lastly, see what work you can handle remotely. Online and phone interviews eliminate the need for travel or scheduling meeting rooms, and thankfully, in the age of Zoom, we’ve all gotten pretty comfortable with video conferencing software.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve hit the ceiling on how much new work you can take on and your revenue is consistently climbing, it’s probably time to hire. Expanding your team can help you work with bigger and better customers, bring new ideas to your company, and can free up more of your time so you can focus on big-picture, strategic thinking, or have more time for yourself. However, hiring is never something you should rush into or take lightly. If you avoid the missteps on this list, you’ll be in the best position to find the right person who will take your business to the next level.