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6 mistakes to avoid when recruiting employees

When it comes to hiring, it pays to take a methodical approach

5-minute read

Hiring mistakes can cost your company big-time. A bad hire can damage morale, hurt productivity and even cause reputational damage. More expense comes if you have to fire the person and start the whole recruitment process over again.

To help you avoid that kind of trouble, BDC Business Advisor Michelle Feder, an HR expert, identified the six mistakes to avoid when recruiting employees.

Mistake No. 1

Losing sight of your business strategy

Too often, business owners are focused on filling positions ASAP. However, no matter how urgent the situation may seem, it’s important to take time to think about your strategic plan and how your new employee will fit in. What is your company’s competitive advantage? How do you plan to grow? What skills are you missing?

“It’s critical to reflect on how you see yourself competing and then be proactive in seeking out the talent you need to make that a reality,” says Feder, who advises entrepreneurs on overcoming HR challenges.

Mistake No. 2

Failing to see recruiting as a marketing challenge

Especially at a time of near full-employment, talented job seekers have lots of options. They will be studying you just as closely as you are studying them.

Putting your best foot forward starts with your website. You should brush up your overall branding and also have a recruitment page where you lay out your employer value proposition—what your company stands for and what you offer employees.

“It’s not enough to throw your opening up on a job board and expect people to be excited about applying,” Feder says. “You need to really explain what it means to work here.”

Mistake No. 3

Passively waiting for candidates to apply

Your initial goal is to put together a pool of qualified candidates from which to select your new employee. Of course, you should post your position on job sites, industry employment boards and your social media pages. But you need to go further and actively seek out strong candidates.

You can search for promising profiles on LinkedIn and find top performers working for your competitors, suppliers and even your customers. You can also encourage your existing employees to refer candidates by offering them a bonus if someone is hired and still with the company after six months.

Mistake No. 4

Ignoring groups of potential employees

Competition for skilled labour is already intense in many parts of the country and the situation is only going to get worse with the slowdown in Canadian workforce growth. Yet, many employers are ignoring large pools of potential candidates.

Recent immigrants, Indigenous workers and the disabled all offer rich potential to entrepreneurs. A report published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada notes that by 2032, immigrants will account for up to 100% of Canada’s population growth and a third of the total population.

However, some entrepreneurs are still reluctant to recruit immigrant workers to fill their needs for skilled employees.

To eliminate unconscious bias, you can practice “blind recruitment.” Removing all the applicant names from résumés will ensure you’re hiring exclusively on the basis of education, work experience and skills.

Mistake No. 5

Taking a haphazard approach to the selection process

Once you have a pool of candidates, it’s time to winnow the list down and make a decision. This is the stage where many entrepreneurs rely on their intuition to choose employees. But research shows a more objective approach leads to better hiring decisions. How do you do it?

Start with a process that’s the same for all candidates—the same criteria for reviewing résumés, same skills or cognitive ability tests, same interview questions.

Take notes and use a simple evaluation grid to score applicants at each stage.

“You really want to compare apples to apples,” Feder says. “Make every candidate go through a very similar experience and then you can see how they differ from one another.”

She notes judgment will still play a major role in the final decision, especially when you have a number of candidates who score similarly. But a structured process will help you make well-reasoned decisions.

Mistake No. 6

Asking bad interview questions

It only takes a simple Google search to find many examples of useless, insensitive and plainly discriminatory interview questions. First and foremost, you should be aware of the questions you cannot legally ask because they violate human rights legislation. These include ones that touch on a person’s race or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, marital and/or family status and financial situation.

Beyond illegal or inappropriate queries, Feder says you should also avoid what she calls “chit-chat questions.” These are the ones you think are breaking the ice or giving you a feeling for the candidate’s personality. A classic example is: Tell me about yourself. In reality, unfocused or irrelevant questions won’t help you differentiate candidates and may even sour talented ones on your company.

Much better questions are tightly focused on work:

  • Tell me about a time when you did x or encountered y. What happened? How did you handle it?
  • What would you do if scenario z occurred?

These are interview questions that will help you identify employees who will excel in your workplace. Spend some time researching your questions and make sure to use a list. The effort you put into this and other recruitment strategies should pay off for years to come.

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