Over the years, I’ve come to see and hear lots of reasons why employees don’t work out. But all the fault for poor productivity and performance doesn’t fall entirely onto the worker.  Here’s a list of the 6 most common hiring mistakes small business owners make (as well as a lot of other hiring managers too.)

  1. Hire on skill, fire on attitude.  Despite all the research to show that employees can learn new skills but rarely change their attitude, small business owners continue to rely on the application/resume and an interview to hire workers.  But repeated studies show the resume has become just a candidate’s marketing tool and the interview has no better reliability than flipping a coin.
  2. Ignore cultural fit.  Employers tend to think they can mold an employee to fit their culture.  Maybe that was true with the Baby Boomers and Veteran generations but culture is extremely important to Millennials and Gen X.  In fact, working for a company where they feel they belong tops the list on reasons 40 years and younger employers choose to work. Top talent today puts a lot of weight on the “company brand” and small business owners who think they can offer a job and a paycheck and that will be enough to attract and retain skilled employees are in for a big shock.
  3. Rely on gut instinct.  Hiring is likely the one remaining operational responsibility where management discounts data and objective measurement in favor of flying by the seat of the pants.  Interviews are loaded with personal bias – the interviewer sees the world through his eyes and the candidate does and says what it takes to make a good impression.  Both cloud the ability of managers to hire people who can do the job and fit in the culture. Background checks, pre-employment tests, office skill tests … they all add the “third-eye” and objectivity to screening and selection. Unfortunately many managers who use assessments often deny the results when they conflict with their “gut.”
  4. Fail to embrace competencies.  Maybe this is a corollary to #1.  Managers tend to focus on specific personality traits such as extroversion, detail-orientation, and energy and fail to assess their relevance and priority in predicting top performance.  Alternatively, managers and owners need to focus on competencies like managing others, getting results, and problem solving and assess how different traits, behavioral styles and even personal values might impact productive activity and behavior.
  5. “Analog” recruiting.  Skilled workers and top talent don’t look for jobs in the newspaper.  They don’t submit resumes to generic black-holes such as “hr@abccompany.com.”  They hear about jobs on social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, through friends, and on niche job boards.  They search for jobs on tablets and mobile devices. They don’t fax and don’t snail mail documents.  But many small business owners are so overwhelmed by social technology and the inbox full of unqualified candidates that they resort to looking in familiar places, which are not where talent is hiding.

And finally a bonus – the sixth mistake small business owners make when hiring and recruiting workers.  “We’re just a small business” is no excuse for accepting mistakes and mediocrity when it comes to hiring employees.  The cost of a mistake resulting in employee turnover or poor productivity is as high if not higher in small vs larger organizations.  And the impact that one bad apple has in a small bucket is much less than the impact of one bad apple in a bushel.