Turf Magazine - February, 2014

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10 Common Hiring Mistakes

By Mel Kleiman

In my years working with home services business owners and their managers about how to "hire tough so they can manage easy," I've discovered there are 10 commonplace mistakes almost everyone makes. Making them almost guarantees bad hiring decisions. They will also cost you precious time, money and grief.

While I've never had a client who's made all these mistakes at once, it only takes two or three of them to sabotage your efforts to hire great hourly employees to help you build your business. Ask yourself if you're guilty of any of the following:

1. Going grocery shopping without a list:

When you don't have a list, you buy things you don't need and forget some of the things came to buy. The same is true in hiring. Many employers recruit applicants with no clear picture of the specific mental and physical capacities, attitudes, personality traits and skills it takes to be successful on the job. When they discover that the experienced, talented person they hired has an attitude problem, they have to go "back to the store" again. This mistake is the most common cause of employee turnover.

2. Using the "post and pray" technique:

You need someone now, so you post a job on your website or run an ad on craigslist or put a "Now Hiring" sign on your vehicles and pray someone who can start tomorrow will respond.

3. Fishing in the wrong pond:

Your recruiting ads attract people who are looking for a job - any job - rather then all the great people who are employed now and might be interested in working outdoors or who'd love an opportunity to exercise their green thumb. The best way to find new hires is to ask your employees, customers, vendors, family and friends if they know of anyone who would be a good fit for the job. Referrals are the number one best source of new employees.

4. Making it difficult to get into your hiring system:

The best hourly employees are busy working now and don't have time to look for a better job or fill out a lengthy application on the chance they may be invited to interview. You also exclude many excellent candidates by having unreasonable requirements. Is a high school diploma or degree really necessary? If you only want to hire someone with five years of experience, you might get that or you might get one year of experience five times over.

5. Relying on gut instinct:

If you like an applicant, you look for reasons to hire him. If you don't like them, you look for reasons not to hire them. This way you always get to be right; but you also often don't hire the right person for the job. A common hiring pitfall is hiring the person you like best rather than the person who is best for the job.

6. Failing to use tools:

You don't prescreen applicants by phone to ensure that they meet your minimum hiring requirements. These may include reliable transportation, willing to work the hours needed for what you are willing to pay, etc. You don't test them for the needed mental and physical capacities, attitudes and skills. Skipping the use of these prescreening testing tools is a sure way to waste time interviewing unsuitable applicants.

7. Failing to plan for the interview:

You haven't planned what questions to ask, so you just start talking about what you do know, i.e., what the right person for the job will be able to do and how they'll do it. Then the applicant uses this information to tell you exactly what you want to hear.

8. Not asking the tough questions:

Hey, the applicant is clean-cut and pleasant so you assume you don't have to ask about criminal activities, drug use, values, past performance and dependability - big mistake!

9. Not having a "unique hiring proposition":

Do you know the top 10 reasons your clients do business with you? If you want to hire the best, you need to have at least five compelling reasons "the best" should want to work for you. Opportunity for advancement? Flexible schedules? Family-friendly? You're looking for a great person and great people want a great employer. Make your list so you can sell them on the job and your organization.

10. Not checking references:

You just assume that none of the references provided will tell you anything useful. A failure to check references, no matter what you do or don't learn, leaves you wide open for a negligent hiring lawsuit.

If you found yourself not guilty on any of these counts, congratulations, you're one of the few. If you found yourself guilty of two or more, what will you do to remedy the situation? Fixing your hiring process will be far less costly and time-consuming than continuing to make bad hiring decisions.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is a consultant, author and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best employees. He is president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes and tools for recruiting, selection and retention of the best hourly workforce. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.