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8 hiring mistakes you are probably making

A Chess piece.

Hiring is like chess – it takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master.

Much like a game of chess, you can make the right noises and things might even look as though they are going well for a while but invariably, if your opponent has been playing to a strategy, they’ll come out on top.

You’ll likely be making a couple of the right hiring moves but you might also be making a couple of these common mistakes which could be really hampering your hiring success.

Here are the 8 most common mistakes I see…

  1. You’ve not done the job you’re hiring for yourself
  2. You’re worrying that the person doesn’t have all the skills
  3. You are hiring to get bigger rather than better
  4. You’re expecting too much of people
  5. You’re hiring based on number of years’ experience rather than quality of experience
  6. You’re hiring people who are way too focused on your industry
  7. You’re hiring an experienced subject matter expert to be a manager
  8. You’re placing too much emphasis on the CV

#1 – You’ve not done the job you’re hiring for yourself

This goes beyond the business owner’s code that you shouldn’t ask someone to do a job you wouldn’t do yourself – this is about not being qualified to hire someone for a position that you haven’t turned your hand to at least once.

Doing the job yourself gives you a better idea of what’s involved day to day which means you have a clearer picture of the skills required and therefore the type of person suited to the role.

According to Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37Signals, doing a job yourself will make you a better manager because you’ll understand the daily challenges so you will know “when to criticise and when to support”. Jason and David, before they hired a system administrator, both spent a whole month setting up servers!

#2 – You’re worrying that the person doesn’t have all the skills

When you’ve designed your person specification, it is very likely you’ve outlined key competencies and skills – in fact most people overlook the crucially important personality factors such as their attitude and mindset.

Of course the person should have a general aptitude and be willing to learn (this is what your training programme is for) but if they aren’t a good cultural fit within your business then you are both going to get frustrated.

Most businesses are very people driven which means finding the right recruits to come aboard with your company is much more complex than grading the individual against a set of ‘skills’ you’ve deemed necessary.

Training people is one of the key ways you can differentiate yourself to both clients and potential recruits. Clients will love that your people are unique to other businesses and recruits will love that you invest in developing your people.

#3 – You are hiring to get bigger rather than better

This mistake comes down to our innate belief as humans than more is better. Small businesses can very often produce stellar products and services that other much larger organisations can’t match.

Adding to your headcount is only a good idea if it means the business is going to get better – if you’re hiring through ego, because of a power-trip or because you think more people will mean you’ll be able to get more clients then don’t.

Bringing on-board more people, even if they are talented, may just spell the end of your business. Not only might the extra couple of salaries bleed the coffers dry but potentially you could starve the talent of anything worthwhile to do which means they’ll become de-motivated and low morale spreads like woodworm.

#4 – You’re expecting too much of people

There is this fallacy that you should always hire people who are better than you but this isn’t always the case. If you’re a perfectionist (as I am) you’ll quickly find that there are very few people out there who care as much as you do about your baby. Yes they’ll work hard, offer their most creative ideas and generally do their best but it’s very difficult to find someone who is actually better than you are at the business you are in. After all, that’s your name above the shop – there’s probably a reason for that!

#5 – You’re hiring based on number of years’ experience rather than quality of experience

Continuing on the belief that more = better it is assumed that the older a person, the wiser they are. The longer the person has been in an industry the more of an expert they must be.

Young, fresh, innovative, talented individuals may have only been ‘working professionally in their field’ for 6 months or 2 years – but they could potentially bring a heck of a lot more to the position you are advertising.  Don’t convince yourself that you need someone with 4+ years industry experience.

#6 – You’re hiring people who are way too focused on your industry

Hiring someone who is focused on your industry may not sound like a bad thing however hiring someone who is too focused on an industry can be a very bad thing indeed.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy argued that you should hire people who have ‘exceptional curiosity about every subject under the sun’ –this might not always be possible, however his sentiment, I think, hits the nail on the head.

We all need to be hiring individuals who show they are human not industry-driven robots who immerse themselves solely in one industry. This leads to small mindedness and a lack of innovation whereas we ought to be seeking individuals who are curious about other areas of life, work and the universe – some cross-pollination can be a very good thing indeed.

#7 – You’re hiring an experienced subject matter expert to be a manager

Possessing a particular skill doesn’t necessarily mean an individual has the attributes required to manage a project or lead a team.

Sir Richard Branson believes that if somebody can run one business, they can run any business. This comes down to management being a skill set in its own right – being an expert doesn’t necessarily make someone qualified to run a business or lead a team. Think about how many small consultancies and freelancers don’t last a year in self-employment.

Small teams can’t necessarily afford to hire someone who is solely a manager rather than a doer but even if the person you are hiring is going to have some people or business management responsibilities then you should ensure this is considered in the hiring process.

#8 – You’re placing too much emphasis on the CV

One of the miracles of social media and the online world in general is that you have a plethora of information at your fingertips which will likely tell you more than any CV ever can.

Maybe we’re not ready to hire people based on their Klout score alone just yet but I know of companies who have hired individuals based on their standing in a well -respected online industry community!

JobPage’s candidate discovery engine makes this process really easy because it automatically pulls together all the social stats on any applicant which means you can see at a glance if they are as active online as they say they are.

As someone who is heavily involved with the UK and US employment scene, I’ve seen many companies making the same mistakes time and time again. I’m really excited to be sharing these tips with you – and I’d love you to avoid making the same mistakes that I have made along the way :)

If you have your own tips to share, please leave a comment – I look forwards to hearing from you!

And don’t forget – put your hiring on the right track and start using JobPage to get the right talent on board with your business.


About Matthew Ogston

Matthew is one of the co-founders of JobPage. He's been searching for a job he loved for the last 13 years... and when he couldn't find it, he started JobPage. He blogs here along with Naz, Louise and Claire. Connect with Matthew on JobPage, email, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus

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  1. avatar Fritz says:

    Number 7 says “Richard Branson believes that if somebody can run one business, they can run any business.”, yet mistake number 1 is “You’ve not done the job you’re hiring for yourself”…recommend you straighten out your story.

  2. avatar Matthew Ogston says:

    @Fritz – good observation!
    Richard Branson is referring to the job of ‘running a business’. So in other words if you’ve run one business, you’ve already done that job, and so you can do it again elsewhere.

    Point #1 is referring more to a manager hiring a PHP developer but never having done any programming, developing or PHP before.


  1. [...] 8 hiring mistakes you are probably making – by Matthew Ogston Why this is epic SEO is a business driven by the people and quality people at that. Recruitment expert Matthew offers up some common hiring mistakes that he sees companies making and provides some ways to avoid them in your own business. [...]

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