The team you assemble to get your small business off the ground will make or break you. Avoid these ten common hiring mistakes to give your company the best chances for success.

1. Hiring for an Unspecified Role

Starting a new business is chaotic. You will need a strong team to help you turn disorder into order. But don’t hire someone just because the workload feels unmanageable — know exactly the role you need her or him to fill. Without distinctly defined responsibilities, you’re just inviting more chaos.

2. Trusting Your “Gut Feeling”

Hiring employees based on a personal affinity or instinct is a poor way to assess if they will actually be good at their jobs. According to the small business advisors at Newtek, while you can let a personal connection guide you, you must first select candidates with well defined hiring process that follows these steps:

  • Write a specific job description that includes necessary skills, experience, qualifications and responsibilities
  • Find applicants from the same sources every time, such as job boards and referrals from your network
  • Conduct a 15-minute phone screen with promising candidates to determine if it’s worth bringing them in for an in-person interview
  • Prepare a list of questions you ask all candidates so you can objectively compare them
  • Ask questions that get candidates to think through how they would handle specific responsibilities
  • Have other members of your team interview candidates and select the best one with their input
  • Conduct a thorough background check

3. Treating candidates unprofessionally

Candidates won’t work for you if you don’t respect them. Show up on time to interview applicants and follow up when you say you will. Make sure you and your hiring managers don’t play favorites and be sure to treat each candidate with the same amount of courtesy and respect. Otherwise, you might lose out on some stellar candidates, says Heather Huhman, president of Come Recommended.

4. Hurrying the Process

When starting a new business, you have so much work to get done that you’ll feel pressured to hire new employees as soon as possible. But it’s worth taking the time to hire someone who won’t end up hurting you in the long run. Avoid applicants who:

  • Don’t have the necessary skill set for the job
  • Don’t work well with a diverse team under pressure
  • Don’t have a strong work ethic

5. Waiting for the “Perfect” Candidate

Conversely, don’t stretch out the hiring process trying to find the perfect candidate. She or he doesn’t exist. Pick the very best candidates you can, provided they meet your requirements.

6. Hiring Friends or Family

It’s tempting to hire someone you know well and trust. But the relationship between employer and employee requires an emotional detachment and impartiality that people close to you will not like.

7. Hiring Someone in Need

It’s hard not to help people in trouble, but you probably didn’t start a charity. Keep your empathy for people desperate for work in check, says ActionCOACH founder and chairman Brad Sugars. Because if they don’t work out, it makes it more difficult to fire them.

8. Hiring a “Jack of All Trades”

As a business owner, you have your hands in all parts of the operation. However, your employees should be specialists. It sounds cost-effective to hire one person to work on a wide range of tasks, but it is much more likely your business will grow faster if you hire one person for each specific function.

9. Hiring the Candidate with the Best Résumé

Education and experience matter, but so does cultural fit. Qualifications mean nothing if an employee can’t work well with coworkers. Ross Kimbarovsky, co-founder of crowdSPRING, suggests asking candidates about their most and least favorite previous projects. By contrasting the emotions, effort and outcomes they describe for each project, you can assess their working style. You can teach skills, but you cannot teach passion, respect and collaboration, Kimbarovsky says.

10. Ignoring Diversity

Research suggests the more diverse a workplace, the better the business does. While managing diversity takes more work, hiring people from different backgrounds bring a wider range of experiences that will help your bottom line. Make an effort to step outside your comfort zones and hire qualified talent from different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexual orientations and social statuses.

It’s a lot to keep in mind, but the stronger your hiring process, the stronger your company will be. Contact an UpCounsel employment attorney to help you assemble the best team possible.


Photo: “Supervisor’s Guide to Hiring Process” by Office of Human Resources, used under University of Rochester



About the author

Alex Liu

Alex Liu

Alex began his career as a scientific legal consultant and then as a journalist researching and reporting on health policy and health sciences. At UpCounsel, he enjoys researching and analyzing data to help businesses make informed decisions. In his free time, Alex is working on a documentary.

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