The Top 10 Hiring Mistakes Managers Make | No BS Hiring Advice

The Top 10 Hiring Mistakes Managers Make

The Top 10 Hiring Mistakes Managers Make | No BS Hiring Advice

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Originally published on Brainz Magazine

Interviewing and Hiring Leaders

Having worked in search for many years, I listened to thousands of hiring managers, human resource professionals, and executive leaders at the beginning of the hiring process, in the middle, as they were hiring someone, and after a person was on board with them. After all, I needed to learn how they think and evaluate talent to fill a position successfully.

As a coach, I help job hunters navigate their job search AND employers hire more effectively. I use the lessons that I learned as an executive recruiter to streamline the process for both.

Statistics show approximately 46% of new hires fail within 18 months. In addition, according to a survey reported by Harvard Business Review, nearly half of the leaders who are hired from outside an organization fail within the first 18 months. Worldwide employee engagement is at 15%, based on the findings of Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” report. No one goes out of their way to attain results like this, but it’s clear to me that no one is hiring with the end in mind.

Here are what I believe are the top 10 hiring mistakes I’ve seen hiring managers make that result in these hiring failures. They are easily correctable and, if you do so, you will eliminate many of the hiring mistakes you might make.

10. Recycling job descriptions and correct them on the fly. Typically employees resign on a Friday afternoon. Hiring managers then call their recruiting contact or HR business partner and ask, “Do you have the job description we used to hire Maria? She just gave notice. Would you the job description wherever you do, get it out to our recruiting resources, posted on our website, work your magic and see who you can get onto my calendar for Tuesday.” Of course, no one ever updates them.

Recruit Rockstars

As a result, you have many people spinning their wheels evaluating talented individuals who are not quite what you’re looking for. After all, Maria was not the perfect employee. She had skills deficiencies that you want to improve upon. Unfortunately, you haven’t taken the time to think through what you need until you start interviewing people. As a result, a lot of your time and other people’s time within and outside the organization is wasted while you sort out what you need this time.

9. You don’t decide how to evaluate the people you interview or communicate it to the people involved with the interviews. In most fields, you might ask hundreds of questions to assess a person who is being interviewed. The problem is no one knows quite what you are looking for—not even you.

As a result, when you ask for the people on your staff to talk to a candidate, they have their idea of what is needed, which may be different from yours. What some might call spontaneous questioning qualified to do the job. As a result, you are referred to the best “contestant” instead of the best possible new hire.

8. You trust your first instincts. When you meet someone, they remind you of a person from your past. Maybe it is their appearance that reminds you of that person. Maybe, it is the background or how they talk or what they are wearing. You know nothing about them but ascribe positive or negative qualities to them based upon your experience of the other person.

Thus, you don’t evaluate them thoroughly. Instead, you take a shortcut that may cause you not to hire the right person or hire the wrong one. Doing this is similar to the psychological concept of projection, where you project attributes onto someone else without basis.

7. Not preparing or coaching hiring managers. It is common for hiring managers to be unprepared for how to interview. In addition, HR recruiters may not take the time to coach them about doing it well. Without a process, hiring managers are left to learn through trial and error and make a lot of mistakes.

Hiring the wrong person is expensive. Statistics show that most managers believe that they hire the wrong person within 18 months of joining. Thus, being proactive and taking the time to coach them during the hiring process. In addition, too few managers receive coaching about becoming better managers, directors, VPs, and the like. Learning happens after a critical error that causes people to leave and projects to fail if it comes at all. Yet, that is what too many firms do.

6. You (or the interviewer) talk too much during interviews. Candidates often report that they answer one or two interview questions, then required to listen to the interviewer talk for 15 or 20 minutes about the job, the team, their life story while stifling a yawn. The job of an interviewer is to ask great questions to evaluate whether someone is competent or not. One or two questions are not enough to make a decision. The more you talk, the less you were listening to them. The less you are listening to them, the more likely you are to make the wrong decision. When you do all the talking, you are asking them to bask in your grandiosity. Stop yourself and go back to asking questions.

5. Trying to hire team players. In most organizations, being a team player means taking direction and not offering their own opinion. On the other hand, a group of “yes people” means no one speaks up when they see something wrong. There are stories of airliner pilots from such cultures who, when told to circle an airport and are low on fuel, do not speak up and eventually crash. No one thinks it’s going to happen to them until it does.

Having obedient staff who do the task, they are told to do when they are told to do it is nice until you find yourself in a situation where your blind spot about something could have been brought to your attention if only your obedient team players spoke up. But, unfortunately, you decided to value conformity ahead of thinking.

What Do Rockstars Really Want from their Employer?

4. You oversell the opportunity and don’t speak to the challenges someone will face in the job. Most jobs can be described as, “We want to do the same thing you did for your current employer for us.” However, when you present the opportunity to the job hunter, you describe it as being “an exceptional opportunity with a terrific team of people, all committed to excellence. We’ll move your career forward in ways that you can’t imagine (or words to that effect).”

You never talk about the friction the new hire will experience in the job and what happened to the last four people who sat at the desk you’re going to ask them to sit at. The new hire joins and discovers from their colleagues and their own experience that there is far more friction in the role than they had been led to believe and regret the decision to join within a few weeks.

As a result, they don’t give you their best work because they are disappointed in what you did NOT tell them during the interview.

3. You don’t talk about what success will look like for the new hire during the interview. How will they be evaluated once they join you? After 90 days or after one year, what will they have accomplished if they were a terrific hire?

If they don’t know the target they’re aiming for, how will someone know they are being successful or failing? If you spring it on them at the annual review, you are setting them and you up for failure and disappointment.

During the interview, it is essential to be transparent about evaluating whether they were successful hire. If you scare them off because they think your demands will be too challenging to meet, that is great!

At the same time, if you make offers to people who turn them down because those demands exceed what they believe their capabilities are, that’s feedback forjob intervew you that you should adapt and change.

2. Making a decision takes an eternity. You interview five, 10, or 20 people. No one is quite right. That’s all because you are fuzzy about the criteria for filling the position. You can’t decide who to hire because you’ve never become firm about who is qualified, let alone how to evaluate qualifications. The longer you delay, the more costly the process becomes.

You invest more and more time interviewing people, which costs time and money by pulling you away from your other responsibilities.

It is important to decide what would make someone qualified and evaluate those skills during interviews.

And the #1 mistake hiring managers, HR professionals, directors, VPs, leaders, and business owners make is:

You think you can evaluate for fit. Unfortunately, everyone involved with the hiring process is exaggerating their capabilities. As mentioned earlier, most hiring managers talk about having a terrific team of people and a great opportunity.

“Did I mention we’re like family here?” Maybe you’re like all the families in those American holiday movies that want to kill one another!

If you hired people before, you know that job hunters exaggerate their capabilities, too. But, in addition, they are on perfect behavior because they were trained to be courteous, polite, and respectful during interviews. After all, they want the job and were instructed to act that way in all serious situations.

How to Elicit Missing Information

As a result, given that you are on good behavior and present your opportunity in a beautiful light, and so are they, how can you possibly decide whether they’ll fit in? The data says you can’t.

Hire for qualifications.

Check references to identify “maniacs.” Ask for secondary references instead of only relying upon the ones provided to you by the potential new hire.

“Who else do you know who I could speak to about Maria’s qualifications?”

Listen for what is said and not said. Then, dig in deeper on both instead of letting their statements stay on the surface.

Hiring doesn’t have to be hard, difficult, or painful. It doesn’t need to take a long time or result in constant failure. The skills required to hire effectively are different than those required to manage or lead.

Implementing the changes recommended in this article will provide you an organization with a giant leap forward with your hiring. If you would like my advice with hiring more effectively, your job search, managing and leading and/or resolving workplace-related issues, you can schedule time with me at

If you prefer a more do-it-yourself approach, the blog has thousands of posts that you can watch, listen to, or read… But they are not personalized for you.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2021 

What’s So Good About Hiring Team Players?


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2400 episodes. He also hosts Job Search TV on YouTube, and Amazon, as well as onNo BS Hiring Advice for Apple TV and 90+ smart sets.

I do a livestream on LinkedIn and YouTube (on the account) Tuesdays and Fridays at 1 PM Eastern. You can send your questions about job search, hiring better, management, leadership or to get advice about a workplace issue to me through LinkedIn’s messaging. You can also message me through chat during the approximately 30-minute show.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching? People hire me to provide No BS career advice whether that is about a job search, hiring better, leadership, management, or support with a workplace issue. Please click here to see my schedule to book a free discovery call or schedule time for coaching.

My courses are available on my The courses include ones about Informational InterviewsInterviewing, final interview preparation, salary negotiation mistakes to avoidthe top 10 questions to prepare for on any job interview, and starting a new job.

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