GuideStar Blog

Avoiding Common Hiring Pitfalls

There are a number of ways that recruiting and hiring processes can go wrong, and hiring the right people into the right positions is too important to leave to chance. Whether your organization has dedicated human resources professionals or not, there are a number of common hiring mistakes that can be easily avoided.

  1. Planning: Make sure that you have dedicated the appropriate amount of time to planning your search before beginning the hiring process. Too often, organizations need the person hired "yesterday" and therefore jump into the process by throwing a poorly developed job posting up on a random smattering of job boards. Instead, take some time to identify exactly what you are looking for in the role, make sure that all decision makers and constituents are involved at the outset, and ensure that all stages of the recruiting and hiring process have been outlined in advance. These steps will help you focus on the needs for this role, keep the search on schedule, ensure that everyone involved is aware of his or her role in advance, and dramatically increase the chances of a successful hire.
  2. Position Scoping: Define a position that is both realistic and appealing. Are you looking for a set of skills and competencies that usually doesn’t exist within one person? Recognize that if you go forward, your search will be slow and challenging and may not lead to a successful hire. Consider recasting the position into something more realistic. Also, make sure that the salary range you have designated for the position matches the requirements and experience level you are seeking. Again, if you move forward with a disconnect in this area, your search will be slow and challenging. Adjusting expectations or the salary range at the outset is preferable to risking an unsuccessful search.
  3. Candidate Sourcing: Use a broad variety of tools and resources to generate the most diverse pool of candidates possible. One or two job boards are not going to be enough to generate a sufficiently robust and diverse candidate pool. Make sure you tap active job seekers through advertising as well as passive job seekers through aggressive outreach to the personal and professional networks of people associated with your organization.
  4. Momentum: Recognize that searches follow a particular cycle and ensure that your search does not lose valuable momentum. There is usually a lot of energy within an organization at the beginning of a search, as the possibilities of bringing a great hire on board are imagined. When the position is initially posted, you can expect a significant level of interest, especially if you have outlined and implemented an aggressive sourcing plan. As the search goes on, however, people’s energy may wane. Colleagues in your organization will realize how much time a search can take, and the number of candidates interested in the position will diminish. It is your job to make sure that the energy and momentum carry through until the successful completion of the search. Accomplishing this goal requires an ongoing effort to generate a great candidate pool, reviewing applications regularly, and moving through the interview process efficiently.
  5. Candidate Consideration: Treat your candidates well. Be sure to put yourself in the candidates' shoes—recruiting is as much a marketing opportunity as a means to a hire. Remember that for any given position, only 1 candidate will be hired, but the other 100 or so could become donors, board members, or future hires. At the very least, your goal should be to have every candidate say, "I know I didn’t get that job, but I really loved learning more about XYZ organization and was very impressed by the interview process they led."
  6. Reference Checking: Don’t underestimate the power of reference checking. Too many organizations are so exhausted by the time they identify a strong candidate and are so anxious to "close the deal" that they overlook the incredible value of learning from others about their top candidate's past performance. It certainly can be frustrating when you learn that your top candidate is not going to be the right fit for your position, but it is much more advantageous, both emotionally and financially, to come to that conclusion before the hire is made than two or three or six months later. Remember also that what a reference says about the candidate you end up hiring can be extremely helpful as you bring the new hire on board and help him or her to be successful in his or her new role.
  7. Timetable: Don't hire too quickly! It is important to resist the tendency to let your urgency to fill a position lead to an abbreviated process that lacks rigor and consistency. Similarly, don’t hire too slowly! Make sure that your process moves efficiently through the different stages, and resist the urge to "hold out" for an even better candidate to come along. This strategy will almost always lead to a prolonged and often unsuccessful search. Knowing in advance exactly what you are looking for and what you could compromise on will help you identify when a candidate will meet your needs.

Commongood Careers
© Commongood Careers, 2009

Commongood Careers is a national nonprofit search firm dedicated to helping today's most effective social entrepreneurs hire the best talent. Founded by nonprofit professionals, Commongood Careers offers personalized, engaged services to job seekers and organizations throughout the hiring process as well as access to a wealth of knowledge about careers in the social sector.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice
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