Top 10 Hiring Mistakes, #2: Fast Food Hiring

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If you want to make a great hire, do yourself a favor: don’t fall in love with the first person who seems like a halfway decent fit.

Does the following situation sound familiar? You’re in a bind, and until you fill a certain position, you can’t take on additional work, move a project forward, or grow your business. You just want to get somebody in the door so you can move on to the “real work” — and the person sitting in front of you seems to fit the bill just fine.

Too often, managers under pressure settle for the “fast-food hire”. When you’re famished, the lines at that healthy salad joint always seem so long, but a burger, shake and fries are right around the corner. You figure you can work off the pounds — or deal with the stomachache — later.

But making important decisions when you’re desperate doesn’t generally work out well. If you wait until you absolutely have to hire someone to create a new position, you’ve probably waited too long.

In a crunch, inexperienced managers figure that hiring people who are “good enough” is their best option — and waiting to find exceptional people is a luxury they can’t afford. The problem with this approach? Once you go down that path, you’ll see that “good enough” begins to seem like an acceptable standard. You’ll start to believe that candidates you see in the first week of interviewing are representative of the whole population. You’ll never know how many needles might’ve been in that haystack, since you didn’t bother to roll up your sleeves to look.

Early in my real estate career, I shared an administrative assistant with another partner. At the time, my duties were expanding, the phone was ringing off the hook, and paper was piling up on my desk. I was getting desperate — so I decided to make a hire, something I’d never done before.

The first person I interviewed was a former Army machine gun instructor — discipline written all over her. “Perfect,” I thought. I hired her on the spot. Indeed, the paper pile shrank and my phone stopped ringing. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that she was taking her duties so seriously that she wasn’t letting anyone through to me. I’d become impossible to reach.

The next time I did it right: It took two months to find a great match, but the extra time I spent paid off. She was with me for a decade.

That early mistake helped me realize that it’s worth taking the time, thought, and care to hire the right way: to interview a broad range of quality candidates, consider a number of criteria, and think about how each would fit in the long term.

Like scarfing a burger, making desperate hires can end up leaving you with long-lasting heartburn. When you have the wrong people, client relationships get damaged, bad decisions get made, and existing employees are forced to spend valuable time picking up the slack.

So next time you’re sitting across from a candidate who seems “good enough”, ask yourself what “great” would look like. More likely than not, you’ll have to digest the fact that you’ve still got some work to do.