The 3 Worst Hiring Mistakes Startups Make

October 13, 2014

You may say finding the right people are your top priority, but if you’re making these startup hiring mistakes then you’re putting your company in a sticky situation.

Hiring the best candidates can be a big challenge for any company, but especially if you’re a startup. Not only do you have less time and fewer resources to devote to the search, but it’s also far more difficult to recover if and when you make a costly “bad hire.” That means it’s even more important for you to be able to hit the ground running with your hiring process, and to avoid the common hurdles that most startups experience.

3 Common Startup Hiring Mistakes to Avoid

1) Trying to Cut Corners

  • Hiring too quickly: As I’m sure we all know, the hiring process can be strenuous and time-consuming for both the hiring team and the candidates. This can tempt many hiring managers to consider cutting corners to speed up the process, and that includes hiring a “good-enough” candidate who may not actually be the best possible fit for the role. It’s an understandable impulse — after all, they want to fill the need in their department as quickly as possible — but the ultimate cost can be incredibly high.
  • Hiring exclusively within your immediate network: Another example of cutting corners is hiring someone solely because you know them personally or you are trying to help them out. That has recipe for disaster written all over it. That’s not to say hiring friends or family members is never a good idea, but the relationship does have a potential to impact everything from the hiring decision to how that person expects to be treated within the organization. It can definitely be tempting to make a quick hire of someone you know, but if they are not qualified for the role or aren’t the best fit for the team then you are setting that person up for failure (not to mention setting yourself up for an awkward situation that could damage the relationship).
  • Hiring one person for two positions: Ah yes, the hunt for the mystical, all-inclusive candidate who will be able to handle the responsibilities of not one, but two (or more!) roles. Let me cut that chase short for you — more than likely, that person doesn’t exist. If they do, they’re not coming cheap. Searching for these jack-of-all-trades candidates will only drag out your hiring process and suck up your resources. If there really is a need for both roles or positions, then treat them as such and start searching for two hires.

2) Selling the Wrong “Product”

  • Not selling the candidate on the opportunity: One thing hiring managers can sometimes forget is that it’s just as important to sell candidates on your company and the position as it is for them to sell you. You want to make sure the candidate knows that the opportunity with your company is the best thing for their career moving forward.
  • Not selling the candidate on your vision: That said, the true key to making a successful hire is selling your company and your vision over the position, itself. While the position is of course very important, you want to find candidates who are passionate about what the company represents. In a startup, it’s much easier to tailor career progression specifically to align with the individual’s strengths and interests. It is fairly common to see candidates come into a company in a role like Business Development Representative and transition into Marketing or other areas of the organization. When you sell your company and hire candidates who are completely on board with your mission and values it creates a well-oiled machine that plows forward with all pistons firing, regardless of the individual position responsibilities.

3) Not Making the Hiring Process a Top Priority

  • Thinking a recruiter can handle everything: I know what you’re thinking — maybe things don’t have to be so difficult. You can just hire a recruiter to handle your searches, right? The answer is not that simple. Ultimately, the recruiter will do everything in their power to present the best candidates and keep them actively engaged throughout the hiring process. But if hiring managers and other team members think they’re too busy to review resumes or conduct interviews and offer feedback then the search is bound to stall. The longer the search, the more likely it is you will lose good candidates or give them a negative experience, which will ultimately damage the company’s reputation in the industry.
  • Not getting buy-in from interviewers: If it’s next to impossible to schedule in-person interviews with everyone involved with the hiring process, it could mean that a) you have too many interviewers in your process, or b) you have a prioritization issue. If hiring someone is a priority then all parties from top to bottom need to be able to adjust their schedules to complete the necessary interviewing steps in a concise fashion. Let’s be honest, do you really want to lose a great candidate because another company operates faster?

Treat Hiring Like Training: You Get What You Put In

Overall, I like to compare the recruiting process to training a new member of your team. It is an additional responsibility that has been placed on your shoulders without alleviating any of your current responsibilities. This is a tough position to find yourself in, but the more time and dedication that you can focus into the employee’s training, the quicker that employee will be able to ramp up to speed within the company. The same can be said for the recruiting process — as long as all parties involved are actively pursuing the same goal and making the hire a top priority, the search can be better managed from all angles and close quickly with a top candidate who will want to rave about the efficiency of your hiring process!

Photo by: Ryan McGuire via Gratisography



<strong>Brandon DeWitt</strong> is a Talent Acquisition Manager at Criteo <a href="">Criteo</a>. Prior to that, Brandon was a Talent Specialist at OpenView, focused on recruiting engineering candidates, and also previously served as a contract recruiter for CVS Caremark where he sourced candidates in a variety of functional areas nationwide.