Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Find the Right Candidate by Avoiding These 6 Hiring Mistakes

Glenn Polyn//April 1, 2021//

Find the Right Candidate by Avoiding These 6 Hiring Mistakes

Glenn Polyn //April 1, 2021//

Listen to this article

Have you ever experienced Body Snatcher Syndrome? It works like this: You think you’ve done everything right during the job interview process to find the right person for the job. However, sometime between the interview and the first day of work, the person you hired is body snatched and replaced by an alien.

Now, you’re left scratching your head wondering what happened. More often than not, retailers blame the applicant for Body Snatcher Syndrome. On the contrary, the fault actually lies within your hiring process.


Mistake No. 1: You don’t have job descriptions or they’re outdated.

You can’t hire someone for a job if you haven’t defined the position clearly outlining its purpose, qualifications for the position, tasks and responsibilities. If you want to make better hiring choices, you need job descriptions that accurately reflect the job. You don’t have to include every minute task someone will perform, but you should identify and categorize responsibility and task areas so applicants will know what to expect. When writing job descriptions, the tasks and responsibilities should be in order of time spent on the task and importance. This ensures that anyone looking at it can easily see where most of their time and focus should be. A clear job description will also help when evaluating employees, whether that’s for a promotion or termination. Finally, you can use the phrase “and all other duties as assigned,” in a job description, but don’t use it as an excuse for not taking the time to outline the job in detail.


Mistake No. 2: Not using your best employee as example for hiring new employees.       

Hiring clones is never good for your business. However, identifying the characteristics and habits of your best employees helps to distinguish other great employees with the same needed characteristics and habits. Retailers often hire based on experiences and skills, but fail to ask enough questions about an applicant’s personal qualities and values. Rarely are you burned by a hire’s inability to stack food or work the cash register. Instead, you get burned by hires that lack integrity, work ethic, caring and other qualities and values. Your best employee is probably proactive, positive, honest, dedicated, etc. Identify the qualities and values that make your best employee successful in their role and be sure to ask questions about them in your interviews. It’s also great to ask your best employees why they like working for you, what makes them stay as well as what keeps them from leaving. This information helps you paint a picture of the benefits of your business to potential exceptional applicants. Finally, find out where your best employee “hangs out” when not at work. Knowing what they read and what they do outside of work can provide ideas about where to focus your job advertising and the messages you want to send in your ads.


Mistake No. 3: Your job ads read like a wanted poster instead of an attractive invitation to great candidates.

“Wanted. Head Groomer. Must have 10 years of experience. Must be able to work long hours. Must work weekends and Holidays. Must hate job within the first two days of employment.” Ads like these are only appealing to someone who is desperate for work. People who are at the top of their game have options open and won’t apply for this position. Instead, provide positive information and incentive in order for that perfect person you’re looking for to respond. Be honest and mention why your great employee said they work for you. Try to make ads fun, creative and if appropriate, use a little humor. If your ad reflects your personality and the personality of your business, and so will the person who answers it.


Mistake No. 4: Your interview questions stink.

I’m often shocked when I consult with clients, even those that are human resources experts, by how terrible their interview questions are. If you’re asking questions like, “What’s your greatest weakness?” “What’s your greatest strength?” or “Why should I hire you?” you’re wasting your time and the time of your applicants. Why? Because anyone can do an internet search and find thousands of articles about how to answer these outdated, unnecessary questions.

Instead, ask questions that help you asses the knowledge, skills, abilities and characteristics of the applicant. I recommend my clients make most of their questions “behavior based,” because you want to know what skills and characteristics they’ve demonstrated in past experiences. If an applicant has stayed calm when dealing with an angry customer in the past, the odds are the person will do the same when working for you. Behavior-based questions often start with, “Tell me about a time when . . .”

For example, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an angry customer. What did you say, and how did it turn out?”

A question like this requires a specific scenario, and it’s unlikely an applicant could make up or “Google” the answer.


Mistake No. 5: You’re interviewing by yourself instead of conducting a panel interview.

Some of you reading this may not have the luxury of having more than one person interview applicants. However, if you do have multiple people involved in your process you may want to consider panel interviewing. During panel interviews several people interview the applicant at the same time, rather than sequential interviewing where one person does first round and another does the second, etc.

Panel interviews allow everyone to experience the applicant at the same time, in the same place while answering the same questions. Panel interviews also allow you to discuss the interview right afterwards, so the experience is fresh in everyone’s mind. For example, a great panel for a vet tech position might be the practice owner, practice manager and most senior technician. If you’re hiring for a cashier at your retail store, maybe it’s the store owner, manager and most senior cashier. Even if you can’t spare a third person for the interview, having two people see the applicants from two different perspectives is better than interviewing by yourself.


Mistake No. 6: You don’t have a rating system for each of your interview questions.

If you’re going to take the time to create great interview questions, then it’s worth the time to think about the answers you’re looking for, as well as the ones you don’t want to hear. Otherwise, how will you be able to separate good answers from the mediocre? I recommend for each question, that you identify key words you’d expect to hear in a great answer, in a fair answer and in a poor answer.

Create a scoring system for each category, such as five points for a great answer, three points for a fair answer and 1 point for a poor answer. As applicants answer each question, interviewers can check or circle the words they hear, score each applicant’s answer to each question and get a total score for each applicant. At the end of all your interviews, it doesn’t come down to anyone’s gut or guesses as to who should be hired, but solid evidence based on the final scores.


Author bio: Amy P. Castro, MA, is a business, leadership and communication expert, author and speaker who helps organizations develop leaders and build amazing teams one person at a time. She works with pet industry professionals who want to grow their loyal customer base by building a “Best in Show” team that can deliver a 5-Star Customer Experience. Amy is also the president of Starlight Outreach and Rescue, a nonprofit rescue in the Houston, Texas, area, and she has personally fostered more than 1,000 shelter pets.