5 pitfalls to avoid while hiring exceptional talent

May 13, 2019 Debankan Chattopadhyay

Today, we flip the coin over and give you insight into some of the pitfalls to avoid during the hiring process. These apply to all hiring processes, engineering or otherwise. Here are some of the most interesting ones.

This is a continuation of our earlier post where we discussed some of the best practices for hiring exceptional engineering talent and giving you an insider’s look at what worked for us.

Today, we flip the coin over and give you insight into some of the pitfalls to avoid during the hiring process. These apply to all hiring processes, engineering or otherwise. Here are some of the most interesting ones.

Don’t oversell

Look, all of us do this or have done this at some point. Hopefully, we have learned our lesson and decided not to. What am I referring to? To give potential hires the impression that you are the best company, offering the most challenging work environment, with the best benefits, and so on. First off, it doesn’t sound believable to anyone even with an average intelligence. To the rockstars you are trying to hire, it comes across as disingenuous. You lose your credibility and any hopes of hiring that person. But that’s not the worse outcome. What could be worse is if that person buys into your pitch, and does decide to work for you. Now, you’re in a bind. Because, very soon, they will be disillusioned and be ready to update their LinkedIn profiles! Probably, not before you have invested 6-9 months of your time in them to see them walk right out the door! It’s easier said than done, but it’s always good hiring policy to be honest and direct about your company and what you do. Maybe you will be rejected by a lot of potential hires, but those who do say yes, are in it for the long haul.

Don’t focus on making yourself look good

No, I wasn’t referring to physical appearances. Of course, both the interviewer and interviewee ought to look sharp…always. But, as is the case with many hiring processes, there is an interview panel comprising of a small group of people. Don’t make the interview about yourself. The only reason you’re in that room or on the call is to use your skills (technical or otherwise) to vet the new hire. It is not…I repeat NOT…an opportunity for you to try and look/sound smart in the room or cast an impression with your boss about how good you are. That’s not the goal. Don’t lose sight of it. So choose your questions accordingly.

Don’t ignore cultural fit

When you’re on the other side of the interview, it’s likely because you have spent some time at the organization. Long enough to get a good understanding of the “organizational culture” or as most of us laymen call it “how things work around here”. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t be making hiring decisions. Because cultural fit is a very important criteria that people tend to underestimate or worse still, completely ignore. Often times, we hope that if we pay people enough, they will adapt to any situation at work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Research has shown that inability to align oneself with the corporate culture is one of the top reasons people quit their jobs. So, while you do not need to let potential hires know if you have a particularly inflexible or top-down culture, it behooves you to understand their personality traits and make a judgement on whether they will fit. If you don’t get a resounding “yes” in your head in two seconds, don’t hire.

Don’t place degrees over drive

I’m assuming you already have a hiring process to weed out candidates who don’t meet your minimum educational qualifications for the job. That’s a given. But once the candidates are past that and you end up interviewing them, place as much importance, if not more, to their “drive” and personal goals, as much as their professional and educational achievements. It’s a nuanced thing but something that most experienced Human Resource professionals should be adept at. Get a sense of what motivates the individual. Ask them what was the last thing they did that made them proud of their own selves. Be honest with yourself. If you get a sense that someone doesn’t have any drive, it will give you a sense of whether that person will be a go-getter. If such an attitude is a misfit for the role, move on from this candidate. On the other hand, if you think the person’s drive/ambition is likely to move at a much faster clip than what the role provides, then…well, even then you are better off moving on. It’s important you assess and select candidates who you think expect to move at the same clip as the current role you want to hire them in. There could be nothing worse than investing in someone for a period of time and then seeing them walk out the door.

Don’t go unprepared

This is 2019. Everyone has access to Google. People know most commonly asked canned questions and are prepared for them. Don’t ask them the obvious. Spend some time trying to frame questions that will help you understand the candidate better. Avoid “where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” kind of questions. If you do, you will get the typical responses that won’t do any good in your hiring decision. This of course requires you to be disciplined and spend some time before each interview to prep yourself with questions that will get the most out of that person. Remember time is precious in an interview and you’re looking to make important decisions for your company. Your lack of preparation can hurt the organization.

In conclusion...

Good people are hard to find. We get it. And all of us are likely tapping into the same talent pool. So, in our quest to hire the best people available, we might have committed some of these “sins”. But I’m also hopeful that we have all learned (we certainly have) our lessons and are better for it, by avoiding them now, and being able to hire & retain exceptional people who over time contribute to the success of our companies.

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  • suril shah

    Great point to note down!

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