what do you wish you knew before you started hiring people?

Want to win a $150 Amazon gift card? Modis, an IT recruiting and staffing company that connects IT pros with great opportunities at leading companies, is offering a $150 Amazon gift card to the person who leaves the most useful or interesting advice here.

A very busy friend who’s about to start hiring employees for the first time asked me recently what I wish I’d known about hiring when I first started doing it. I told her:

* You’ll be really drawn to candidates who remind you of yourself. You have to resist this impulse because it can mislead you — making you blind to to their weaker spots or other candidates’ strengths — and can result in an overly homogenous staff.
* Likability matters, but it isn’t everything. Being the most likable person in the world won’t make up for a lack of skill in what you need done.
* Experience isn’t everything either. Having an incredibly talented jerk on your staff won’t be worth it in the long run.
* The longest interview process in the world won’t get you as much information as actually seeing candidates in action, doing simulations of the sort of work they’d be doing on the job, will.

I want to know what you wish you’d known before you started hiring people — and to make it extra fun, we’re going to turn this into a contest, with the person who leaves the most interesting/useful comment winning a $150 Amazon gift card, provided by Modis!

To enter: 

  • In the comment section below, share what you wish you knew before you started hiring people. If you’ve never hired people, you can still enter — just share something you wish hiring managers knew.
  • Make sure to leave your email address in the box that asks for it when you leave your comment, so that I can alert you if you win. (I’m the only one who will be able to see it.)
  • Leave your comment by 11:59 p.m. EST Wednesday, April 16. I’ll pick the winner on Thursday.

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Here’s mine:

    First impressions are often very misleading.

    Some candidates who seemed distant and disinterested have turned out to be some of my hardest-working, most capable and enthusiastic employees. I think interviewing nerves accounts for a lot of that – so anything you can do to put them at ease will help them show you their real selves.

    Likewise, people who seemed like real go-getters in a resume and interview have been real duds when they showed up on the job. I think this is where it’s especially useful to do simulations of the work and ask behavioral types of interview questions.

    1. Ed*

      I agree. Interviewing is not something the average person does often enough to ever get really good at it. Not to mention, there are some horrible interviewers out there but a poor interview is almost always blamed on the candidate.

      In a similar situation, my friend was recently complaining to me about online dating and how awful all of the profiles are. I had to remind her that none of these people have probably ever written about themselves before creating this profile and the whole process is very unnatural for most people. Yet everyone dating online is judged solely based on their self-written profile (and photos of course). Think about how many fantastic people are being passed over because they don’t know how to write a catchy profile.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Agreed, but you can weed out a lot of people just on grammar alone. It doesn’t have to be the best-written thing, but it should show a bit of effort.

        (BTW, you might share this with your friend – I actually gamed the online dating system like this: I’d read that guys under 5’9″ or so get no love in online dating – they’ll send out a bunch of messages and get nothing back. So I figured my best odds of finding a diamond in the rough was to look at that population, since I’m 5’5″ pretty much everyone is taller than me, and height isn’t something important to me at all. So I set my parameters for specifically UNDER 5’9″. I don’t know if I ever would have found my 5’7″ fiance otherwise!)

        1. Someone Else*

          A bit late, but this is adorable, my fiance is 5′ 9″… I am 5’8″. Short guys are so sweet.

      2. SevenSixOne*

        I wish more interviews would include people who will be working directly with the candidate. I’ve gotten several jobs where I didn’t even meet anyone I’d be working with until after I’d already started– I’d have a phone interview with HR, then interview(s) with my future boss’ boss… then after I got hired, I’d have a day or two of orientation, then a day or two of training (and often the orientation and training were off-site). For one job, I didn’t even SEE anyone I’d actually be working with day-to-day for the first week!

        It’s a lot harder for candidates to gauge culture and fit when the hiring process is that far removed from it.

    2. Nick Firis*

      Remember that anyone at an interview is trying to be on their best behavior. If the act odd during it, you can expect more of the same when they hit the floor. Also, listen to the reasons why people say they have moved on to another company. If they are constantly saying they were the best but they were run out because of a bad boss, or bad coworkers, it is a good bet that maybe they are the problem.

  2. Bryan*

    It’s not an honor to work for your company, you have to prove to candidates why they should want to work at your company.

  3. HeatherSW*

    I wish hiring managers knew that asking about “culture” is not a dirty word. i want to work where I am a good fit.

  4. Adam*

    I’ve never been in a position to hire people, but if I were I think I’d start with a solid baseline. What is it the person in this position actually MUST be able to do. Establish that and then interview candidates which can fill the need.

    But after that, let the rigidity drop. So many times I’ve been on interviews where everything is “serious business” and if it seems I do not 100% fit the profile of what they envision as the “perfect” employee. Be willing to consider all angles and backgrounds. If I’m hire a cakemaker, and in addition to the necessary experience, the applicant boasts an extensive background in basket weaving, let them make the case for why it’ll be of value in the position.

    Maybe I’m biased because my particular office has undergone so many transitions in the comparatively few years I’ve been there, but I’d want to get behind an applicant who shows they can adapt to change and does not have their feet in the cement when rolling with the inevitable changes of the workplace.

      1. Ali*

        I completely agree. I have writing and editing experience from working with websites for the last few years, and I’ve been rejected from jobs like media relations/PR and communications roles rather than journalism because I don’t have that specific experience. But I don’t want my whole career to be in journalism-based stuff and would actually rather have a communications or copywriting role. I wish more hiring managers appreciated transferable skills.

        1. Adam*

          Not to start a big discussion, but this is something that irks me too. Maybe it’s just the reality of the world but it seems like in recent years specialization has become more and more of a thing, and if you are not specifically trained to do THAT EXACT THING, then you are perceived as not being able to do it at all or having a baseline of relevant skills won’t enable you to learn the core functions in a quick enough time for the employer.

          I dunno. Maybe this is just my inexperience and naivete showing, but while writing for journalism and writing for PR are definitely different trades, so long as you can WRITE I don’t see why you can’t learn to do one or the other or both. Sure you shouldn’t expect to go from director of journalism to director of PR in a single bound, but your experience in one shouldn’t pigeon-hold you out of the other.

          1. fposte*

            Here’s the thing, though–you’re competing with people who don’t have to learn to do them, because they’re already doing it. It’s not a failure to appreciate transferrable skills, it’s that they’re trumped by skills that didn’t need to be transferred.

            1. AdAgencyChick*


              Also, speaking as a hiring manager — budgets keep getting tighter, and the tighter they get, the harder it is for me to be allowed to pull the trigger on hiring someone. So, it almost always happens that when I FINALLY get to advertise an open position, the need is *acute*. And the more acute the need, the more I need someone with enough specific experience to start making contributions immediately (even though I know of course they won’t be up to speed 100% in the first week).

              Something’s gotta give at some point — otherwise there won’t be any qualified candidates for junior positions eventually — but please understand that the rigidity isn’t always based on a stubborn hiring manager. It may be due in part to what fposte said (there are enough candidates with the specific experience that they don’t need to stretch their requirements) and also due to upper management having refused to allow the position to be open until somebody has to do the job OMG NOW.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              Exactly. I always look for transferrable skills, but if I have 5 candidates and #1-#4 have the exact skill I’m looking for and #5 has only transferrable skills, it’s unlikely #5 would have much of a chance unless the other 4 candidates turn out to be not a great fit. I’d rather not have to train unless necessary.

              1. Julie*

                Also, as the hiring manager, you might not have time to think about whether skills A, B, and C are transferable. It’s really up to me, as the applicant, to point out how these skills apply to the position I’m seeking.

            3. Adam*

              I respect that. I really do. And I think I really have accepted that as just part of today’s work society.

              But it’s hard not be jaded in my position where I feel like I’ve done entry level jobs to death (and I’ve never felt I was owed more than the opportunity to pursue a basic entry level job right out of college) and am simply not getting anywhere because my various work environments are not at all interested in cultivating the people they already hired. I fully understand that my career path is my responsibility, but from my experience it seems like employers today aren’t interested in helping with that and then find it surprising that I’m looking elsewhere. Employee/employer is a relationship after all.

              1. fposte*

                I understand it’s frustrating if you want to transfer skills and you’re not finding somebody who wants to adapt them. I’m just saying it’s not a hiring manager flaw that that happens.

                1. Adam*

                  I don’t think I’ve ever held it against a specific hiring manage. I think it’s just one of those “rage against the system” quirks for me.

                2. Lili*

                  Lateral hiring seems the rule here, if one is slightly “junior” for the role, chances are less than zero.

  5. Joie de Vivre*

    Hiring is not an exact science.

    No matter how involved the interview process, you will from time to time engage an employee who turns out to be a bad fit.

  6. iseeshiny*

    You will not always get it right – you need to be willing to let a bad hire go when someone is just not working out. Lots of managers fall into the sunk-cost fallacy of hanging on to bad fits even when it’s apparent as early as three months in that they are not going to work out.

    1. iseeshiny*

      Also, having to fire someone does not necessarily make you a failure as a manager. Nor does it make you a mean or bad person.

    2. LQ*

      This one. This is what I came to say and it is so important.

      Just because you made a bad hire doesn’t mean there is something wrong, everyone will make a bad hire now and then, if you have a blind spot certainly work on it. But don’t hold onto bad hires. Some of them might be nice people who just aren’t able to do the work, let them go. Some of them are “rockstars” at getting the work done but everyone else around them suffers from the way they do it and your productivity plummets, let them go. Some of them don’t show up but always have a great excuse, let them go.

      Your entire team will benefit from keeping the great people and letting go of the bad hires. Over time you will find it easier to attract great people and have fewer bad hires.

    3. some1*

      +1. When managers keep bad employees on for whatever reason, it hurts the morale of the rest of the staff who have to pick up the slack.

  7. Apple22Over7*

    It might not be that interesting, and I know AAM has said this before but I think it bears repeating:

    I wish hiring managers knew that candidates want to hear about the down-side of working in this company/role. If we’re going to have an impatient boss – tell us. If we’re going to be working long hours – tell us. Yes you’ll lose some candidates – possibly good ones – but putting out all the information in the interview process allows people to self-select out if they don’t want to work past 5pm every day, or whatever. Much better that way, than pretending your company is all roses and sunshine, and then having to recruit new people every 6 months as people leave when they realise they’ve not been given the full picture.

    (This also works the other way – candidates need to be upfront about their weaknesses, to ensure a good match so they’re not then fired 6 months down the line for poor performance in an area they knew they weren’t good at).

    1. AnonForThis*

      Yes, this! We’ve hired repeatedly for a position involving working with a very difficult and temperamental client. As soon as people realize they are going to be yelled at by the client no matter how perfect their work is, they quit. I can’t tell you how much I wish we’d just say up front “for this position, we need someone with a thick skin and a bombproof tolerance for dealing with unreasonable angry people.”

      1. C average*

        Can you imagine what it would be like if job descriptions WERE actually this accurate? “Write the unfiltered version of necessary qualifications for your job” would be excellent open thread fodder.

        1. LizB*

          That would be such a fun open thread! There’s so much about my current job that I didn’t realize would be a part of it when I signed on. I love it, but I could write a much more accurate version of the description now.

        2. Chocolate Lover*

          Can you please remember to post that on the open thread? I’d love to read the responses :)

        3. SevenSixOne*

          One time I went to a job fair that was set up like a speed-dating event– candidates got five minutes to talk to a recruiter, then a bell would ring and the recruiter would move on to the next candidate.

          I realized immediately what a bizarre and stupid setup this was, so I decided I’d answer every question with total honesty, not my usual rehearsed diplomatic half-truth answers. I didn’t get any offers (surprise!), but MAN OH MAN was it ever cathartic to say exactly what I thought of past jobs/employers/colleagues, the recruiter’s posting, and job searching in general.

      2. T*

        I recently applied for a job where one of the required qualifications was having “the patience of a saint.” I think jobs working directly with the public expect irate customers from time to time, so maybe jobs in other sectors should be up front as well.

        1. AnonForThis*

          Yes. I mean, I understand that we don’t want to badmouth our client, but there has to be some tactful way of saying “this job made the last person in your position cry.” It might turn off some applicants, but I genuinely believe that in this job market, there’s someone out there who is really great at dealing with angry people and who would like a job.

          1. Bea W*

            Better to turn them away up front than have them walk out on short notice in tears. Some people are really good at dealing with “difficult” clients, and like the challenge or at least have a very thick skin that it doesn’t bother them.

          2. Kera*

            I was told on the first day of my first non-entry-level job that the client I’d been scheduled to meet a couple of days later had made my predecessor cry in a board meeting. This didn’t make me nervous about what kind of situation I’d just walked into /at all/.

            I salvaged that relationship, and my successor mentioned that she’s got a rock solid relationship with them now. It’s also given me a good story to tell in interviews. It’s still information I could have used during the hiring process, not 5 minutes after induction!

        2. Ali*

          Oh this is why I never want to be back in customer service. I have a season ticket account with a local sports team and my account rep is INCREDIBLE, even when I wrote him an e-mail to complain about some things last year. I told him I felt a little bit bad about complaining to him about things that were (likely) out of his control and he handled it flawlessly. I would’ve been feeling silently aggravated in the same position, but he’s been nothing but great since I’ve worked with him.

      3. Mephyle*

        I can’t tell you how much I wish we’d just say up front “for this position, we need someone with a thick skin and a bombproof tolerance for dealing with unreasonable angry people.”
        What, then, are the reasons why you don’t say it? Those don’t seem like implausible working conditions in, say, retail or customer service; people going into those jobs can expect them. So why not tell your applicants that that part of the job has aspects that are like dealing with unsatisfied customers at the merchandise return counter.

      4. Grace*

        Bob Sutton, at Stanford University, has a book (and blog) called The No A**h*ole Rule. One company got so tired of an abusive executive/rainmaker that they did the math on how much he was costing him. Then they docked his bonus for same.

    2. Rose*

      YES! I am really lucky and thankful that my current boss presented a pretty accurate picture of the job I am currently doing. She was really honest and told me that it was a great job, but it’s busy, very busy and that I’d have challenges with clients who thought they knew more about communications than I did. There are tight deadlines and it can be very stressful. And that I would encounter a lot of politics and push-back. ( I am a communications officer for our City)
      I took the job knowing this, and though the reality of the job was shocking and overwhelming, I expected it. I’m thankful she was honest.

  8. meg.*

    Hiring is the most important responsibility of a leader. An organization will do better with employees who are the right fit (e.g., culturally, work ethic, aspirations) for the organization than with employees with long resumes or hefty backgrounds experiences.

  9. Liz T*

    I wish hiring managers were better at bringing up their reservations about candidates. I had a GREAT interview yesterday in which they brought up something I never would’ve thought of, and because they did I got to to address it. (They were concerned I’d be unhappy in the position because I wouldn’t be able to do long-term projects like one I had listed on my résumé–I got to tell them how miserable that project had in fact made me.)

    1. Cube Diva*

      Yes! I once had a second interview where they told me, “You’re our top candidate, but we want to make sure– and we want you to be absolutely sure if we extend an offer– that you’re going to like this atmosphere. We are lower-key and less fast-paced than what you’re used to, and we don’t want that to be a surprise.”

      I was so thankful to be able to actually think about that, and make sure it was what I wanted (when I did get and accept the offer :) ). Honestly, I was burned out from my previous jobs, so it was a perfect change.

  10. MR*

    Be honest!

    I’ve been in interviews where it was obvious where I was being misled. The worst was in an instance where I was misled, and it wasn’t apparent until after I was hired and started the job. As a result, the bait-and-switch made it a terrible fit and I was only employed there for a few months.

    If you have to lie to potential candidates, you may need to look at what you are doing and what you need to do different to attract and retain the best candidates.

    1. NK*

      Yes, THIS! I have a friend who works for a company who makes a big deal about being all touchy-feely, happy people who do good things for the world (it’s for-profit, healthcare-related). But the reality is very different. If they could just be honest with their prospective employees about who they are (and I suspect part of the problem is they need to start by being honest with themselves), there are plenty of people who would thrive in that environment. It’s just not what they’re selling, and it leads to poor fits.

      1. Prickly Pear*

        This sounds so much like ny employer. They’re awesome, you guys, really- for everyone except their employees. I get that some things are just business, but we devote half our time to making us look good as opposed to actually being good.

        1. MaggieMae Teapot*

          Do you happen to work for Sedgwick? Sounds exactly like how they sell their services to clients (yet all their employees hate their jobs).

  11. Cat*

    If, at any point in the process (including post-offer), someone is rude or hostile to your staff–particularly your admin staff–that should be a dealbreaker. Yes, it may be nerves or social awkwardness; but if nerves or social awkwardness are manifesting in rudeness, that is not going to get better. The person will continue being rude every time you hit a stressful situation at work and that is not something you need.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      Goodness, yes. At my last job, we would introduce candidates to our student workers and have them make small talk. It was enlightening to hear their thoughts on people and how the behavior a candidate showed them might sometimes vary from what they’d show me and certainly from what they’d show our library director.

    2. Ed*

      At a previous position, our department was sort of buried in the building. We had our own external door but that part of the campus was locked down so candidates still had to go to the main desk. Because of this, my manager’s assistant would meet candidates and walk them down. She was very talkative (and somewhat nosy) and grilled them on the way down. It always surprised me how many candidates don’t understand the interview begins as soon as your car enters the parking lot.

      I even remember way back when I stocked grocery store shelves in high school and the people at the customer service desk would put notes on applications when they were dropped off. Typical comments were “was rude” or “smelled like pot” (this was very common and guaranteed you were not getting a call) and also positive comments like “dressed neatly” or “was friendly”. Most people probably don’t consider that when dropping off an application for an $8/hr job (though it was a $4/hr job back then:).

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking along these lines, too. Don’t hire jerks. Jerks bring down your whole department/company. I’m sure some put on perfect interview performances, but others are clearly rude, overbearing, and egotistical in their interviews. Or else it will be revealed in their reference checks.
      Why would a hiring manager hire someone that they wouldn’t want to work with?

  12. AdAgencyChick*

    Make sure you see their work product. Some people are amazingly articulate and personable, such that you think, “Wow, this person really knows their stuff!” You hire the person, s/he comes in, and flounders like crazy on the actual work.

    I now know: Seeing work samples is an absolute requirement when I hire. For most people, that’s going to be a portfolio of work the person has done in the course of his or her career, and I’ll ask detailed questions to find out what the person’s depth of knowledge on those projects actually is. For entry-level candidates, no matter how polished and confident they sound, I absolutely require a writing test. I’ve learned the hard way that some people who are incredibly articulate when speaking are incredibly INarticulate on paper.

    1. Windchime*

      Yep, samples are imperative. Although one has to be careful; we had one candidate submit a code sample and it was clearly the product of some kind of code generator; the candidate wasn’t even knowledgeable to remove the generic comments and the applicant made it past the initial screening because the HR person didn’t recognize (and shouldn’t have been expected to recognize) that the code sample was garbage.

      We recently had a candidate who couldn’t answer even basic technical questions that he should have been able to answer, based on his resume. It seems common in IT that people can talk about programming (they know the buzzwords), but talking about something is not the same as doing it. So managers should watch for that.

  13. Marie*

    Being good a job and being good at interviewing for a job are distinct skill sets. Don’t mistake one for the other (by penalizing candidates with poor interviewing skills but who might otherwise be good at the work or by rewarding candidates who give a great interview but don’t have the required skills/fit), and do your best to create a hiring process that focuses on what is really needed for success in the role.

    1. PJ*

      YES! In spite of my best efforts, and lots of practice, I’m weak at interviewing. I started my current job as a temp, so they got to “test drive” me and knew I would be awesome at the job — because I already was! I’d have lost out if they had to rely solely on my interviewing skills.

    2. OriginalYup*

      Totally agree. Employers so often mistake form for function, and end up with an excellent interviewee who can’t/won’t do the job well.

      The converse is true too. An excellent interviewing process often indicates that a company has its act together administratively, but candidates shouldn’t mistake a great hiring process for a great working/operating environment.

    3. Windchime*

      Yes. I am not a hiring manager, but I sit in on interviews and give my feedback. I give a lot of leeway for nervousness; if you know what you are talking about and seem like a pleasant person, that will at least get you a callback. Smooth operators may look good in their new suit and talk a good game, but if you don’t have technical chops then your fancy suit and smooth moves aren’t going to help.

  14. Liz in a Library*

    So many things…

    I wish I had known the value of a more laid-back conversation earlier. Some of the most important things I’ve learned about candidates have come out as we toured the building and chatted informally; when people let their guard down a bit, two things can happen. People who are very competent but also very anxious in interviews can sometimes come off as disinterested or awkward in interviews (I’m that person), but communicate better in casual conversation and once in the job. Also, sometimes folks who seem great but have a hidden loose screw will let that slip in a more casual conversation.

    I also wish that I had been more aware of the applicant-view of the hiring process. I learned to be careful about promising follow-up by a certain date if the date wasn’t solid, but it took time. I think hiring folks should try to eliminate unnecessary anxiety for applicants if they can, and not following through with promises does not do this. It’s better to candidly say “I expect to get back to applicants on the 14th, but we might be delayed if blah blah blah.”

    Alison already said it, but I also wish I had focused on personality/fit in addition to skills. The skills are crucial, but soft skills are pretty darn important too. Nothing kills department morale like a jackass who can’t be bothered to treat colleagues decently.

    1. C average*

      I love your third paragraph.

      Seriously, just be kind.

      I read some of the comments here from job-seekers and you’d think they were talking about online dating when they talk about job-seeking. “They said they’d call in a week, but that was a week ago. What does it MEAN? Should I call them? I couldn’t tell if they were into me. They seemed like they were into me.”

      Make promises carefully. Keep the ones you make. Remember that you’re dealing with actual humans for whom this job-seeking adventure is a high-stakes one with real-life consequences. Don’t be flaky.

    2. Mimmy*

      Re timelines: Additionally, candidates can mitigate their own anxieties by wording any questions about timelines more carefully. Rather than just asking, “What is the timeline/when will a decision be made?” I may ask something like, “What is the estimated timeline?”

  15. HM in Atlanta*

    Sometime people just don’t know ________. There’s no ill intent, but what’s perfectly normal at one workplace is very odd at another. If you just give people nice and direct feedback, a huge amount of the time they’ll say – I can do that, I didn’t realize – and then change. You’ll always have the ones that don’t (the rusted wheels), but those are more often the minority if you’re clear with people.

  16. Anonymous Analyst*

    Don’t rely strictly on referrals. Take the time to interview candidates, even those referred by the VP. Referrals are great, but they should be just one tool in your hiring arsenal.

    And I can’t stress enough the importance of simulations. Follow it up with questions: what did you think of the simulation? Did you like it? Could you see yourself doing this type of work?

  17. ArtsNerd*

    Don’t settle for an inadequate candidate just because you’re understaffed! I know AAM has mentioned this before, but I learned that the hard way. Feeling that I needed to fill the position RIGHT NOW led me to hire a poor fit (not a bad employee, but definitely bad for this role) and more wasted energy trying to manage the employee’s work than I would have spent keeping the opening vacant and doing better recruiting.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Oops, forgot my email. ALSO what a great contest idea. Really one of the best giveaway competitions I’ve seen in a long time.

    2. Karowen*

      I completely agree with this. OldBoss would hire whoever was at hand in order to get a position filled. We had some employees where it felt like every week we’d spend 1/2 of our time walking the person through a project and then another 1/2 of our time cleaning up after them on older projects, meaning we got none of our own work done.

  18. VictoriaHR*

    It’s easy to become jaded in hiring – we’ve all got horror stories of terrible candidates and examples of horrible resumes posted for all to laugh at. It’s important for anyone who does hiring to enter each new transaction with a fresh outlook and an open mind, and not bring in preconceived ideas from past experiences.

  19. valser*

    Every time I’ve ignored a red flag in hiring I’ve regretted it. I was part of a team that hired, and I really wish I had advocated against (and for) certain candidates, because I didn’t have the vocabulary to appropriately categorize those red flags. (Now I do though!)

    1. Alison Green* Post author

      Me too — every time I’ve brushed a concern about a candidate off as seemingly small or insignificant or petty and hired them anyway, it’s turned out to be a problem. I now take those red flags (even pink flags!) really seriously.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Just throwing this out there – is there a possibility that hindsight bias is playing a little role here and you’re just more likely to remember the red flags that turned out to be issues?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve thought about that a ton because you’d figure that there would be, right? But I think I’ve been pretty rigorous in thinking back on signs with candidates who turned out to be good too, and there really does seem to be a real pattern.

          1. Eudora Wealthy*

            The problem is that we’re just so wonderful at self-deception. And our memories trick us.

            The solution is to write down what all the red flags are when you’re going through the hiring process. Put the red (and pink) flags down on paper. File the paper away. Over time (years), you’ll become more discerning. Review the “red flag file” periodically and learn about your ability to judge.

            This works with lots of choices. For example, instead of gambling on sports teams as a novice, secretly write down which teams you believe will win (and why you believe that). Over time, you’ll have a win-loss record and concrete evidence that you are good at picking winners in a particular domain (and why). Then you can actually bet on them with confidence.

            The same holds true for hiring.

            It’s about learning what you’re good at and–perhaps more importantly–what you’re not good at. It helps you to refine your skills and get better. It helps you recognize when you should seek help from a colleague.

            Nobody is perfect at hiring in the beginning. The goal is to always be learning and improving. It takes time.

              1. Eudora Wealthy*

                I don’t know if the ellipsis indicates hesitation, but I appreciate feeling like my methods are validated. Thanks! I’m not the only one who’s weird.

          2. Windchime*

            What kind of red flags have you overlooked in the past, Alison? Is that something you can share?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Usually relating to either or attention to detail or (less often) interpersonal skills, like seeming a little arrogant.

              Oh, another in the interpersonal skills category — not quite tracking 100% of the nuance in conversation — 95% of it maybe, but not everything. Turned out to be a big problem once on the job.

    2. Maddy*

      I think the comment about being part of a team that’s hiring is really interesting. If you’re ultimately the one responsible for managing an employee, don’t let the team’s opinions override your own instincts (those pink flags!). Your colleagues won’t be the ones cleaning up messes and trying to mediate personality problems when the person ultimately ends up not being the right fit!

    3. NENonprofitStaffer*

      I once hired a candidate for a part-time job. He had a small hole in his sweater which bothered me, but I told myself I was just being petty. He had some good credentials and I had a small candidate pool because the pay for the job was very low. His work was disastrous and I had to fire him within months.

      1. Joey*


        I’m confused. I don’t see the link between a small sweater hole and disastrous work.

        1. fposte*

          Not seeing it myself. On the other hand, it reminds me of my old tendency to fall in love with front runners and make everything from them fit the “they’re wonderful” narrative and make everything from the less-strong candidates fit that “not as good” narrative. I think it’s because I generally get a pretty close pack and want to differentiate as much as I can, but wow, did I have a tendency to overdo it when I started.

          1. Fish Microwaver*

            At my son’s school, one of their precepts is “Little things matter”. If a candidate is prepared to overlook a small hole in their sweater, they are likely to overlook a small hole in their accounts/budget/calculations/customer service/etc.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I get what you are saying- things that just don’t fit in with everything else.
        My dad hired a lawyer to handle a large (to us) legal matter. It was critical for my father to have success in this matter. We went to speak to the lawyer for the first meeting. His shirt looked like he had slept in in for the last three days. But he was wearing a suit. I said “What is up with the shirt?”
        Long story short the lawyer was a disaster. He made mistakes that as a regular civilian I know not to make.
        After many months of this nonsense my father said “You said it in the beginning, ‘what’s up with the shirt’?”
        He did not return calls, he was disorganized, he filed a large claim in small claims court, he was providing counsel for the opposing party on another matter and never disclosed that to us. The list was endless.
        I have never, ever seen such a wrinkly shirt in my life. This wasn’t a case of “I have been working since 4 am.” It was a more like “I have not been home for three days.”

        I can’t explain the feeling. It could be that hindsight is 20/20. It could be that other things registered with me subconsciously and the only thing I reacted to was the shirt. Once in a while something will trigger a red flag with me. I was younger in those days and I did not respond to those red flags. Now that I do I realize that this does not happen to me often- so when it does I need to pay attention. I have met many people with moderately wrinkled shirts and never gave it a second thought. But this guy I did and I should have paid attention. It just did not fit- it didn’t make sense.

  20. Cake Wad*

    The size of your organization greatly affects how important likeability is. In a very small (think under 10 people) organization, you need someone who will get along very well with the whole team; negativity or toxic behavior will have a more harmful effect on a small team than a large one. This does not negate the need for strong experience, but weigh carefully what experience is essential versus “teachable” or “nice to have.”

  21. Trixie*

    Cuttings someone loose when it’s clearly not working out, whether it’s performance or a poor attitude. Letting someone stick it out because the alternative is too messy to deal with makes the entire team deal with poor management skills, and then high turnover.

  22. PEBCAK*

    If the candidates you are getting are too homogeneous, you are not recruiting well. I don’t care what field you are in, there are people out there who want to work for you who are not just like everyone else in your organization.

  23. JG*

    Everyone has biases. It’s impossible to be completely objective, but you can and should make a conscious effort to separate opinions based on personal biases from observations relevant to the position. You may immediately dislike a candidate because she reminds you of your draconian eighth grade gym teacher, but you have to set aside that first impression in order to effectively assess her qualifications for the job.

  24. C average*

    Know the difference between aptitude for the role and competence in the role, and know that in most cases, finding aptitude is the more important thing.

    Your odds of finding someone who arrives 100% ready to take on a new role and perform competently on Day One are slim, unless the person happens to be an internal hire with EXACTLY the right experience and qualifications.

    Your odds of finding someone who arrives 100% ready to start learning the new role and achieving a quick trajectory toward competence, though, are quite good. Look for someone who has demonstrated an ability to learn quickly, the capacity to adapt to change, and an eagerness to absorb new information and put it to work. Look for someone with the confidence to try new things and the humility to ask for help when they need it.

    I think too much weight is placed on candidates checking the right boxes on the form, slinging the right industry jargon in the interview, and showing that they’re ready to occupy a narrow niche.

    The truth is that even the narrowest niche is a dynamic one, at least in my industry. I’d much rather have someone adaptable with a breadth of experience and a demonstrated ability to learn and evolve than someone with a very specific skill set and experience list as their only assets.

  25. Lauren*

    I was 22 when I started hiring for the first time. I wish I had the confidence to realize the owner put me in charge as the gatekeeper of letting only good candidates be interviewed by him and that I didn’t need to spend any time convincing 50 year olds to work there in spite of me (a kid) being their manager. There were plenty of candidates that didn’t treat me like a stepping stone to get to the ‘real’ interview with the owner, but I didn’t think it was my place to not move those candidates forward since on paper they were good. Those that were hired ended up circumventing me and going over my head to the owner, when I was their boss and giving them work to do. They wouldn’t take my word as the final word, and eventually I fired one woman because she kept doing it. I should never have let those candidates move forward to be a second interview. Though in that instance, the woman went into the owner’s office expecting him to overrule me, and he didn’t. “Lauren fired you, so you’re fired.” He walked the woman out and made it clear that I was in charge of the decision. He had no idea I was planning on firing her, but he backed me up as if he knew all along. :)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      What a great boss.

      I hate to say it but those 50 somethings were old enough to know better than to behave that way. They knew what they were doing was wrong and they did it anyway. How sad.

  26. kyley*

    I wish there was more discussion about the fit, specifically between manager and employee. I have had jobs go from being really fantastic to truly horrible because of a change in who I reported too. Being able to have a healthy working relationship with your manager is probably the single biggest factor of your happiness at a job, and I don’t think there’s all that much transparency about managerial styles, etc. in the interview process-which is a disservice to everyone involved.

    1. Sharon*

      There’s an old saying, “people join companies, but leave managers”. I think managers should be reminded of this fact once a year. :-)

      1. Marcy*

        Unfortunately, the kinds of managers that need that reminder don’t care if you leave so reminding them would probably not help. They view everyone as replaceable.

    2. Leah*

      I’ve certainly had issues with fit between me and the person to whom I’m reporting. What I don’t know is how assess fit with a potential manager during an interview. Any suggestions?

  27. Annie O*

    Before you even post the position, take some time to learn about your local industry and jobseeking marketplace. What’s the local supply and demand look like? Are there local skill shortages? What are competitive salaries? This step is so important for setting realistic hiring timelines, and knowing what a position is worth *locally*. But too often I see companies skipping this background research in their haste to fill an open position.

  28. Victoria Nonprofit*

    This sounds so basic, but the most important lesson I learned in hiring was this: My job was to find and hire someone who was going to excel in the work and on the team – not to execute a perfect or perfectly consistent hiring process. Rigid structures simplify the process, but flexible plans get the best outcome.

    So that meant things like: Considering a strong application that came in after the deadline rather than rejecting it on principle; interviewing a candidate who didn’t meet the education requirements but impressed me with her clear, engaging cover letter; treating the interviews like conversations rather than a checklist of questions to ask or topics to cover – and telling candidates explicitly what I wanted to hear from them, so they weren’t left guessing about which experience to highlight; asking a candidate for different references when the references provided weren’t helpful; etc.

  29. Samantha*

    Trust your gut. I had just been promoted out of my entry level position and was part of the team hiring my replacement. We met a girl who everyone LOVED and I just didn’t gel with. I would be her direct manager so I should have just say “no, next”. But I was railroaded into hiring her by my boss, his boss and his boss and regretted it for the next four years due to her poor attitude, general lack of skills and the fact that I had nothing in common with her. She stayed on for nearly five years until she transitioned off. If I had just refused and trusted my gut, I would have saved my company a lot of headaches and money.

  30. Jamie*

    Hiring for a DBA position – mock up a database with dummy data and create some tests which are reflective of the position entails. You want t0 give them a chance to show, not just tell, what they can do.

    Network/system admin – every network is unique. Like snowflakes are all made of crystallized water, but are individual so is it with networks. So when asking practical “what would you do when X happens” questions don’t just lock into the person who hits on the exact what you’d handle it – but listen to answer for insight into the thought process. I will take a good critical thinker who can adapt to a different environment over someone who is marginal but just happens to come from a more similar architecture.

    All positions – hire for what you can’t teach. If someone has the core skills, a willingness and ability to learn, and a good work ethic and appropriate sense of urgency they will be far more valuable in 6 months even if they require a little more training than someone who is slightly more aligned with the exact position – but no desire to expand beyond that.

    I can teach the tech stuff to someone with the right aptitude – I can’t teach you to care about the job, or how to handle pressure – if I have to explain why X matters…then we’ll both be miserable.

    Know what you’re hiring for. Separate what the candidate must have from the “hey, you know it would be cool if they could also do Y.” Know your deal breakers.

    This is not a mistake I’ve made, but I’ve seen it so often I’m going to include it – be candid about the culture and environment. Unless utterly dysfunctional most companies and positions have good and bad. If the job will require being in constant communication, or long hours, or whatever else don’t dance around it. You want a good fit, not someone who will be constantly chaffing at expectations and the environment.

    That said, if your environment has ridiculous aspects to it which are causing high turnover and/or burn out amongst your staff then do some internal evaluation. You should be offering a healthy workplace to candidates – not luring them into a dungeon.

    As Alison mentioned in the post – be very aware of your own biases. We all have them so we need to make sure that our decisions are never influenced by the positive vibes we got from someone because of having an alma mater in common, or shared interests…or who just seem extra awesome because they remind us of ourselves. Pretending that it’s possible to not to be predisposed to like some people more than others based on perceived familiarity doesn’t help anyone. Knowing that we those biases are there and consciously filtering those factors out does.

  31. Sky*

    I wish I would have known that there is a big difference between accentuating and exaggerating in a resume.

    I was part of a committee that made a bad hire, we were all taken with the impressive list of qualifications -we failed to read between the lines and those qualifications were highly, highly exaggerated.

    1. Marcy*

      I’ve seen that, too. One guy had “graduate studies at Johns Hopkins” on his resume. The hiring manager was really impressed that he had a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins- until I pointed out that it did not say he graduated. It also didn’t say how many classes he took. For all we knew, he took two weeks of a class and then dropped out. People really try to get away with stretching the truth in their resumes.

  32. Zahra*

    That “Work hard, play hard” can mean so many things that you’re better off saying what you mean by that instead. I’ve heard it for companies that expect you to put in long hours but have fun perks such as a babyfoot table, to those that mean that work time is very work-focused, bordering on having too much work for the time you have.

    That a candidate who tells you that they need variety or they get bored really means it.

    That your initial screening should be done without having gender or race information, so hide that name (or ask someone to do it for you).

    Identify where the new candidate would be useful in your team. Are there gaps in skills? I’m terrific at getting to the bottom of how something works (and documenting it), but you may not want someone who can get trapped in searching “a more efficient way to do this” (or be willing to give them parameters on how much time they can devote to searching said more efficient way of doing stuff before giving up and doing it “the old way”).

    1. Elysian*

      I was glad when I googled ‘babyfoot table’ to find that it appears to be another name for foosball, and not what I was imagining – something like my dining room table lined with the feet of infants, or infant dolls, or something. I couldn’t imagine a way that could be work into “play hard.”

      1. Zahra*

        Somehow, in Quebec (and I’m guessing in France as well), it’s called “babyfoot”. It seems we couldn’t find a French name for it!

  33. Wendi*

    Don’t feel pressured to hire anyone. Just because you’ve had the job posting up for a month, the candidates who’ve applied are subpar, and the interviews were lousy – post the job again. Review the job posting – do you know what you’re looking for and is it clearly stated?

    It’s much easier to go through a second round of postings and interviews than to give someone a pink slip.

  34. Meg Murry*

    Your current employees can be one of your best recruiting tools – ask them if they know of anyone who would be a good fit for open positions, or even ask HR if they would consider starting a formal referral program with an incentive. A few years of working with someone at a previous job will give way more information about a candidate than any interview process ever could. Plus, since the current employee’s professional reputation is being risked, they are unlikely to make a referral to someone with a poor fit.

  35. Anon333*

    For organizations that involve several people in hiring – at the end, someone has to make a decision on who to hire, and if you’re working with him/her, it should be you. Your choice may not have unanimous consent, and that’s OK – you may see things in a particular candidate that higher-up’s don’t, because you know the role better.

  36. My 2 Cents*

    Before hiring for the first time, I wish someone would have told me how terrified I would be by the responses. People can’t spell, follow directions, write complete sentences, etc. and it’s truly terrifying how clueless some applicants are to their skills.

    That said, there will be some that stick out as great examples, so don’t lose all hope when it starts out and you get VERY weird batches of applicants.

    1. MR*

      With regard to people who can’t spell or write complete sentences, are you referring to the applicants or the hiring managers?

      I ask because I see job postings all of the time where there are a lot of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. A LOT! I find myself to be embarrassed for the HM, and it also provides a great insight into the HM before I even consider applying for that position.

      1. My 2 Cents*

        I am specifically referring to applicants, but I can see the ads posted badly too. At my employer we have some jobs (interns, for example) that we hire en masse and several times a year, so we recycle the same postings again and again, without ever reading them.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I always want to smack my head against a wall whenever I see a spelling mistake or grammatical error in a resume.

      I hire for copywriting positions.

      If you can’t get it right on what ought to be your most polished writing sample…you ain’t getting a job with me. Sorry.

  37. Vera*

    * Strongly consider your existing team’s weaknesses in interviewing new candidates. Typically you’ll want to strengthen your team by filling voids rather than adding to the strength of already strong skillsets.

    * Don’t allow yourself to be afraid of someone knowing more about a particular topic than you do.

    * Do your very best to create a comfortable environment during the interview that will put the candidate at ease. This will get you more honest answers and you will be able to evaluate the candidate in their “natural” state as opposed to “formal interview” state.

    * Candidates are always going to answer questions with what they think you want to hear, so it’s important to ask the right questions. Not everyone knows their own self that well. For example, some people THINK they thrive in a team environment when they are really much better independently. Or, they THINK they are okay with working under pressure towards deadlines but they really prefer less stressful environments. Remember that you are not just evaluating whether the person can do the job, but also if they are the right fit for the working environment you have.

  38. Sophia*

    Hire for tech skills! I’m not talking about crazy programming skills, but the basics like knowing how to Google a problem, do a mail merge, or sort and filter in Excel. Yes these skills can be trained, but it’s a big red flag if someone doesn’t have the basics. (And I’m constantly surprised at how many people don’t!)

    It’s very simple to include a 30 minute test as part of an interview. Ask the candidate to do some date entry and clean up a spreadsheet. Then ask them to do a mail merge. You’ll have the added bonus of seeing their attention to detail. If you’re concerned you’ll filter out good candidates, give them a general sense of what they’ll be tested on ahead of time. If they show the initiative to do some quick online refreshers, then you know they’ll be able to learn quickly in the office.

    This is also good for moral. No one wants to work with that co-worker who’s work always has to be reviewed for errors and doesn’t know how to Google the simplest of problems.

    Note: Not a hiring manager but have observed which departments function well and which ones don’t, usually as a result of hiring decisions.

    1. kkb*

      Darn!! You have the same idea as I do. When I interviewed at my current job, they had a test set up to test my skills; write up a sales quote and a word problem to be done in excel. It made me sweat perfusely as I was taking it, but after I started I got to see some other candidates results and boy was it scary. I will always, from now forward, think of a simple test for the basic needed skills for any job I had to hire for.

  39. Hello Vino*

    Ambition and drive are important, but it’s not everything. Almost two years ago, our team hired someone fresh out of college, who had majority, but not all the skills we were looking for. We agreed that she had a lot of ambition and was eager to learn, so we decided to take the risk.

    Along the way, she’s picked up a lot of the necessary skills, but is still not at the level we would like. The original plan was to hire a junior level employee to assist with many different things, but there’s a lot we still haven’t been able to pass over to her, and a lot of my time is spent correcting mistakes and proofreading basic things.

  40. Candy Floss*

    No matter how wonderful the resume, interview and references: Get work samples. Ideally, you can craft an exercise to get a sense of their process and see their results, but at a minimum, look at stuff they have done. I hired someone with a Masters in English who couldn’t write grammatically correct copy.

  41. Maddy*

    I think the most important part of interviewing is actually taking the time to craft a job description that accurately represents the responsibilities of the position and the background that you’re looking for. So many times I’ve seen job descriptions that were clearly slapped together in 15 minutes and really won’t attract the kind of candidates that the organization actually wants. Having great job descriptions is the first step to hiring great employees!

    1. Sharon*

      Or the opposite: job descriptions that have been genericized to cover a wide variety of roles so that they’re meaningless and don’t describe the job at all. (For examples, look up any software developer position for large, old corporations.)

  42. LBK*

    Whenever possible, hire for skills that can’t be taught over skills that can. Technical knowledge can’t always compensate for someone’s ability to learn quickly, to be self-motivated, to work collaboratively, etc. because you can’t really teach people how to do these things. You can teach someone rules, regulations, procedures, systems, and so on.

    1. GertieD*

      We have a shorthand in my org that I’ve developed — I’ve hired a lot of entry level positions and/or newly created positions in academia/technology. “Hire brains and personality, and let the rest of it sort itself out.” Given a number of qualified candidates, hire the one that can figure things out for herself/himself, and can work as part of the team, however the team works. I work with a lot of search committees, and likeability has to be assessed by the people that are actually going to work closely with that person, not people who will not have close contact (important with technology inside of academia in particular).

      I also, as the hiring manager, always leave the room during the Q&A with my staff and tell the candidate to ask my team what I’m like as a supervisor. It lets them assess what sort of environment they would be getting into, and whether they would thrive there. It also lets my team assess the same about the candidate. I’ve been told by various candidates (both those that I hired and those that didn’t accept an offer for one reason or another) that it is a very revealing exercise, in all kinds of ways.

  43. some1*

    If at all possible, have someone currently in the role (or as close to the role as you can get) participate in the hiring process if you are the Hiring Manager don’t know the role inside and out.

  44. Suzi*

    How candidates would read the application posting. I thought non-specific job skills would allow people to include their specific experience. In fact, it gave them license to include vagueness in their application.

  45. Artichoke*

    Don’t succumb to the urge to require more education than is actually needed for a role. If you’re hiring for an office manager, an MA in a field related to what your company does is less relevant to someone’s qualifications than whether they have actual experience running an office. (Spoken from sad experience, after my company hired the candidate with the most impressive educational background for a role that 99% of the time involved making copies and scheduling meetings, both of which she did badly.)

      1. Gene*

        As someone with 25+ years’ experience doing this job without a degree, I concur. I got into this field in its infancy and find myself in the position of not being qualified for entry-level jobs in the field because I don’t have a degree. I’m nationally known by name, have presented at regional and national conferences and know many of the people who would be the hiring manager; but my resume would never make it past the HR mail slot.

        If I were thinking of moving, and I’m not, I might be able to contact the manager of the program that is recruiting to let her know my application is in the pile, but with the bureaucratic hiring practices of local governments, that might not help.

  46. Mallorie, the recruiter*

    I hope someone didn’t already post this – if so, sorry!

    Don’t let fear make your hiring decisions. I worked with a lot of hiring managers who became paralyzed by bad hires, rampant turnover, increasing responsibilities — I would work really hard to just snap them out of it. Bad hires happen. Turnover happens. The job gets tough. You still need to hire people! Or, they let the fear of past employees close their minds to the people in front of them (“Oh, so and so worked there, not interested”, “Oh, so and so had that background, not interested”, “Oh, so and so had a 2nd job that conflicted with our schedule, not interested”). Being open minded and willing to take a chance on a good candidate, even knowing it might not work out in the end, is part of what hiring is all about. You have to let go of the fear or you’ll never get things done.

  47. Lizzie*

    Check references. Then check some more who weren’t on the list. Ask open-ended questions, and if you get a hesitant response, probe some more to find out why.

  48. Modis*

    A lot of great comments coming in!

    Our advice: understand that people pursue something much bigger than their careers. Each candidate represents more than just a list of skill sets and former job titles. They’re potential leaders, innovators and game-changers. They can be the future of your company, if you know what to ask when sitting face-to-face with them.

    1. Sharon*

      Wow, this is a great attitude, thank you! In an internet forum (not this one) discussion once, where I was asking if I should include my volunteer experience (board level, leadership) on my professional for-profit resume, one guy told me not to because he doesn’t want his software developers to have leadership experience. It really came off as a “shut up and do what I tell you” attitude. Glad I don’t work for him!

      1. Modis*

        Sharon, your volunteer experience and board participation are not only huge resume boosters, but also a great testament to the kind of person you are…any wise employer should be eager to learn about these things when interviewing you!

  49. The Other Dawn*

    Pay attention to your gut feeling. In my experience, the first impression is usually correct. Not always, but usually.

    We once interviewed for an office manager. While she waited in the reception area she shared her whole life story with the temp. All the gory details. She then rolled up her chewed gum in her hands. She came into my office, asked if I could throw it away for her and proceeded to try and hand it to me. Her delivery during the interview was very sales-y. My impression was that she would be too casual in dealing with the bank’s clients and that she didn’t really have “the goods.” I was overridden, but turned out I was right.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      As others have said, make sure you’re hiring for the right reasons (the person can do–or can learn–the work and will get along with the rest of the team/organization), not because of politics, or you need a warm body, or in the case I’m thinking of, because the person had previously worked in a different role as a volunteer for the department.

      Based on the candidate’s responses and demeanor, the office manager and I were in agreement that we did not want this person in a paid role in the organization; I was overruled by the director. This person was a terrible employee (drama, unreliability, poor work product) for the next two years until we could move her out.

  50. Two4OneFish*

    Hire for attitude, train for skill.

    If someone has a positive attitude and is intelligent we can train them for the skills they need to be successful. The other way around does not work.

  51. Katie*

    a couple of things that I’ve learned –
    1. going through a stack of resumes is wearing – make sure you’re not unfairly penalizing those that are farther down in the stack
    2. ask open ended questions in the interview process and WAIT for answers – allow the candidate to keep talking and volunteer more information, you learn more about their mindset that way.
    3. it’s never easy to write rejection letters/emails but the candidates deserve to hear a concrete answer

    1. fposte*

      “WAIT for answers”–oh, yes. That’s the main thing I explicitly tell my young co-interviewers, who are eager service professionals and want to help struggling interviewers. (And by “struggling,” I really just mean “pausing for a moment to think.”) Let the candidate work it out.

    2. Jamie*

      This gets my vote as best advice – yes, waiting for answers.

      Learning to be comfortable in an awkward silence while the other person comes up with their reply (and not filling the silence with assumptions or suggestions) is one of the most invaluable skills you can have in business.

      Ask then stop talking. So simple, so rare, and so effective.

      1. Loose Seal*

        If, as an interviewer, you have a hard time waiting in the silence, you can count to eight slowly to yourself. Most people cannot wait through eight seconds of conversational silence and will start to blabber something. After some practice, the silences will become a bit more natural.

  52. Just a Reader*

    Someone who is even slightly awkward in the interview process will likely be reeeeeealy awkward to work with.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I disagree. Interviews make a lot of people nervous, which in turn can make them act awkwardly.

  53. Elaine Harrison*

    It is important to use the most recent OS platform whether server or workstation when having an interviewee show their skills. I was asked to test out on a vista machine last year during an interview. Defiantly did not offer opportunity to showcase relevant skills

    1. Zahra*

      I disagree. Many organization are a version or two behind the latest and greatest. Skills tests should be done on an environment similar (to the point of identical for all aspects that matter) to the one they will be performing in.

      1. esra*

        I was going to say, if they’re using vista in the office, that’s what they should be testing on. It’d be nice if everyone was up-to-date with platforms and software, but that’s not very realistic.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, this is in line with giving people realistic truths about the job. It doesn’t do me any good if you’re a whiz with a system we don’t have, and if you can’t stand working on the old and outdated, it’s good for you to learn before you commit that that’s what we have.

  54. Mimmy*

    I’ve never hired, but here’s my advice from the job-seeker side:

    Please don’t discount a candidate just because they have more advanced degrees than the job requires. I applied for one job at my university’s school of social work last year I think? It required only a Bachelors degree but I have a Masters. I actually knew the hiring manager from a previous internship at a different agency, so I approached him when I spotted him while attending a workshop at the school. He actually told me that they didn’t consider Masters-level candidates. I get some of the concerns about that, but please consider that maybe masters-level candidates are applying for jobs below their degree level because they can’t find anything at their level (if that makes any sense). There is so much more to a person than their degree.

  55. Anda T*

    That candidates will shine a spotlight on all those flaws as a worker you’ve had over the years. (Similar to that time when you’re about 26, get stuck with a horrid roommate and you call your mom and apologize for being a bratty teenager.)

    By the time I was done interviewing candidates for a part time job, I realized that every bit of feedback I’d gotten over the years was valid. I finally saw it from the other side of the table and man, were they right. I wanted to call every boss I’d ever had and deeply apologize for being a crappy employee. In the end, I think going through a hiring process makes you a better employee.

  56. UK Anon*

    Remember the applications that made you laugh – you will get some dire applications and you’ll need a sense of humour to get you through. Don’t be afraid to toss away an application where they haven’t filled in the questions asked, and even where you have limited places, don’t be afraid to fill them with the first 3 applicants if those are a brilliant choice. Conversely, give every application a chance – if you find “the perfect fit”, keep looking, you might still find better.

    And keep a ready supply of chocolate biscuits throughout.

    1. Nutcase*

      Yes! I am always somewhat put off applying for jobs if I see that a lot of people have already applied (some places show you that information) because I worry that the hiring manager will have already found someone that will vaguely do, or they will have had too many applications already to want to look through mine.
      And +1 for the biscuits!

  57. Becca*

    Sometimes it IS okay to trust your instincts and go with your gut. Even if a person does not fit completely into the box sometimes they make the best employees.

  58. HRKitty*

    Don’t stop paying attention once the offer has been accepted and the person is sitting at their desk. Set a process that makes sense for your organization to train and review a new hire within a determined time line (90 days, 180 days). Have a time frame in mind of when a person can reasonably expect to be trained and performing the essentials of the job. Catching a bad hire in the first 6 months makes for an easier term process than after a year.

  59. Cole*

    Hiring a great person is just half the battle. You need to not only do a great job at on-boarding and managing that person, but, particularly so if you hired a rockstar, you’ll need to make sure that you allow that person to work and exceed expectations, without micromanaging them. Also – you have to give your employees the resources and tools to succeed — and, in that same vein, give candidates the opportunity to full showcase their skills and talents.

  60. PJ*

    Teach your hiring managers how to interview. Interviewing is a skill, and isn’t intuitive. Everyone thinks they know how to interview, and few actually do.

    Find out before hand what skills and attributes are necessary for the job, then carefully craft questions that highlight those areas. Agree on metrics, and devise interviews that will give you that data. Teach active listening skills, and use them. Many of the hiring mistakes that are made are because the interviewers are not skilled at interviewing or at interpreting interview results.

    If there is an interviewing team, make sure each member of the team agrees on the goals of the interview, and how to get there.

  61. Leah*

    If you’re really concerned with how well a person will write things that will probably not be edited on a day-to-day basis, have them do a quick writing exercise at the interview. You’ll get a true sense of their unedited work produced in a limited amount of time.

  62. RecruiterKaren*

    The two most valuable things I have learned (The hard way)are:

    1. That everyone is going to be on their best behavior for 30 minutes, 30 days or 30 years. All I can do is weed out the first two and there is just no way to know what that road to 30 years will look like. So the more time you spend getting to know someone is a wise investment.

    2. Everyone will make the choice that they feel is in their best interest. And most of the time we just don’t get to know why. When someone turns down an offer or turns in their notice, they had a reason. I may not agree with it. But I can’t make myself crazy over it.

  63. Caramel Sauce Boat*

    This isn’t really advice, and will probably not be surprising to most people, but rejecting people for a job really, really sucks. Most job postings will get several excellent candidates, and you can’t hire them all. People may be desperate to get back into the workforce, and pinning their hopes and their future on this job (especially if you’ve had several interviews), and crushing those dreams is not fun.

  64. Kate*

    This is directed toward managers who hate rejecting people…

    Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for a person is not hire them. There’s nothing kind about hiring someone for a role for which they’re not a fit. If you have any concerns at all about their ability to succeed in the position, don’t hire them. In the long term, you’re doing everyone a favor.

    1. cvmurrieta*

      Agreed! If you hire someone who you know cannot succeed at your company, you are not only firing them. You are also destroying their confidence.

  65. anontty*

    I think the biggest issue from the hiring side often comes pre-applications, pre-interview, and pre-selection: you need to actually know your office. So many managers create job postings and interview aspirationally–that is, based on what they think the job should be like, or how they hope their office environment is, rather than reality. Then they are shocked that the person who would be ideal in that ideal environment doesn’t actually work out in reality.

    Before you even post a job, you need to do some inventory on what real struggles your new employee is going to face–interpersonal, client based, bureaucracy, etc. Talk to other people in the office and get their opinions as well. Make candidates aware of the difficulties they will face before they accept an offer and then hire someone who you think is ready and equipped to deal with that environment.

  66. Rebecca*

    I like your first suggestion, to avoid always hiring people like yourself. I have definitely been guilty of this before!

    I would also say that it’s really important to avoid hiring a “warm body.” There have been times when I felt so desperate to hire someone (to avoid having the position open for long) that I have hired people who I knew deep down were not going to be a good fit. That’s not fair to you or to them.

  67. Robin*

    So many things….. but mostly, I wish I’d known I was going to just as nervous as the candidates I was interviewing.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      This is true for me too. I don’t know if it’s just being very empathetic or what, but I get nerves too when I interview!

  68. Andrea*

    Really know what you need from the position. Understand what holes you have in your current team and in addition to the job that’s open.

    In one position, I needed stability for the team. I passed up a person with more experience (who would move on in a year) for a person with potential who would be with the team 3+ years before moving on.

    You’re not just hiring for the job, you’re hiring for the team.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This. I took a job that I never would have tried, EXCEPT for the fact that the boss excelled at explaining what the job entailed. His explanation was brief yet he nailed the description. I could see so clearly what he needed that I was able to demonstrate similar experience. I would not have been able to do that if he had not spoken so clearly. By the end of the interview we both could see that we would do well working together.

  69. Zahra*

    On another note: be very, very upfront and honest about the benefits you offer. That goes from salary to PTO and insurance. Whether people can be expected to be able to take their PTO without any penalty or being asked to be “on call” during their vacation (emergencies are ok, but, for most jobs, you shouldn’t have more than one emergency per vacation break, if that).

    A few people mentioned the working conditions, but this can be as important.

    Also, whether the normal progression in this job is to stay put for 6 months or 5 years before getting a promotion. You’ll have people attracted to either end of the spectrum. Find the right one for your needs.

  70. Leslie*

    As a manager, the biggest lesson I have learned is the importance of hiring staff that complement your strengths (along the lines of what Alison said about not hiring people that remind you of yourself). If you are a visionary, hire someone practical that can get things done. If you are a details person, hire people with ideas. Always think about what piece of the puzzle is missing on your team and hire people with those gaps in mind.

  71. TheExchequer*

    – There is no such thing as a dream job, a dream boss, or a dream team. Everybody has moments where they hate what they do, who they work for, and who they work with.

    – The value of well written communication is vastly underrated, as is the skill of being able to comprehend and summarize information.

    – A degree does not an employee make. Just because a candidate doesn’t have an expensive piece of paper doesn’t mean they can’t do the job.

    – Value teachability. It’s a lot easier to train someone who is willing to learn than to have to untrain someone who is already rigid in the “right” way of doing something.

    – The vast majority of your employees do not live to work, they work to live. For most, if they won the lottery tomorrow, the office would not be their first stop (unless it was to pick up their final paycheck).

    – Your employees value things like common courtesy (saying please or thank you), public praise, food, and money. They do not value things like worthless certificates, team building, or useless points.

    1. TheExchequer*

      And always read the directions, including the one asking to leave an email in the box. :P

  72. holly*

    I’ve always thought that the most important skill is your ability to weather a storm. If a hiring manager could know and you could convey how you conduct yourself amidst seriously dysfunctional environments or in response to criticism, so much could be gleaned about your suitability.

    It’s one thing to have skills, dedication and team spirit, but responding with measured reserve, integrity and honesty while being lashed by a workplace storm is a skill not easily estimated by a resume or in an interview…

  73. Stryker*

    As a general rule of thumb, don’t make a degree–bachelors, masters, PhD, whatever–a “requirement” of the position. If you put your focus more on accomplishments and experience rather than the possession of a degree, you may find you get more creative, innovative, and dedicated applicants.

    Tl;dr: A piece of paper doesn’t mean as much as what someone can accomplish.

  74. Margot*

    What I’ve learned is that you never really know what you’re getting into when you hire someone. Sometimes, people present well and you’ll be disappointed by their performance. Sometimes people who seem quiet and calm turn out to be star performers.

  75. NotAnExpert*

    I started hiring when I was very young, and looking back the biggest issue I had was learning how to relax around a candidate. My first job where I participated in interviews and hiring had a sheet of questions that required answering and I was too afraid to go off the list and ask genuinely relevant questions about their skills.

    I’m now in charge of the hiring for that program and while we still use the sheets as a guideline I find it much more helpful when the interviewers take the time to get to know a candidate and do some digging into their experience and motivation. It’s so much more helpful if the person you’re interviewing feels at ease and as though you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying. If they relax they’re much more likely to give you better information.

  76. Jessica the Librarian*

    Before I started hiring people, I wish someone had told me how important it is to look at the bigger picture of what a candidate could bring to your organization instead of just trying to match the skills listed on their resume to the skills outlined in the job description. Some of my best hires have been people from *outside* the library industry. They did not seem like a great fit on paper, mostly because their work experience was in another field and they were not familiar with some of our specific software/programs/services. However, they were enthusiastic about the position and eager to learn, and that made all the difference. I know I missed out on hiring some great people very early in my career because I was so focused on making sure that all candidates had the “right” experience. Learn from my fail!

  77. Jackie*

    There are two big things I wish I’d known or thought about before I started hiring people:

    1. Some people are just really great in interviews. This doesn’t mean they’ll be really great employees. (I learned this from my own experience as someone who interviews well. I’ve been hired- more than once- for a position that I really didn’t fit because I came across super well. Those situations didn’t go well long term and both the employer and me, the employee, were pretty miserable.)

    2. You need to hire with your team in mind, not just that particular position. What strengths or skills does your TEAM need right now, not just that position. If you hire people with identical skill sets- which many companies do for the same job title- you make it super hard for a team or department to grow and take on new responsibilities. Thinking long term and big picture about openings- rather than focusing on immediate need- can be super helpful in creating a cohesive, talented, diverse team.

  78. Sally*

    I don’t think that there has to be a “bad cop” on the interview panel. Interrogating candidates, refusing to smile or even nod your head to their answers does not a good interview make. You want the candidate to be comfortable, to open up and show you who they are, clearly articulate what they have accomplished and also allow them a chance to ask questions and assess whether they think the position would be a good fit. Thick tension in the air will not facilitate this.

    1. Windchime*

      Yes, this. My goal when I’m sitting on a panel is to be friendly and open. This helps to put the candidate at ease and a little less nervous. It can also have the unintended side effect of having the candidate be so relaxed that they start revealing what they would be like to work with; one guy started dropping casual swear words. Oooops.

  79. Jill G.*

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of interviewing someone and being overly concerned with how well the manager will get along with the hire, and while that is important, it’s even more important that the hire get along with the rest of the staff since they are the ones who will potentially have more day-to-day interaction with the new person once they start.

    I rarely see my manager unless something big comes up, good or bad, but I see my co-workers every day and there are ones who might have done well in an interview or had a good looking resume but aren’t a good overall fit with the rest of us.

  80. MaryMary*

    Make sure your organization is in agreement regarding what kind of candidate you’re looking for BEFORE you start the recruiting and interview process. Is education more important than experience? Or would you be happy with an experienced candidate who doesn’t have a bachelors (or advanced) degree? Do you need candidates to have a certain skill set, or are you willing to train? Are you looking for someone with a certain personality? Do you want to hold out for the perfect candidate, or are you comfortable hiring someone who meets 75% of your criteria? These aren’t just things that the hiring manager should think through, but decisions everyone involved in the hiring process needs to agree on.

    I’ve been involved in hiring processes where a lower level person didn’t understand the kind of candidate we wanted (a recruiter who was confused by the term “administrator” in the job title and kept sending us administrative assistant candidates for an analytical role), and ones where senior leadership would veto candidates everyone else loved if the candidate didn’t tick a specific box. Starting your hiring process without making sure everyone has the same expectations only makes the process longer and more dysfunctional, and alienates good candidates.

    1. MaryMary*

      Oops. I entered my email into the website box. I think I did it correctly this time! :-)

  81. Phideaux*

    I wish I had known that when a candidate is recommended by a fellow manager or superior but everything about the person screams “No, don’t do it!”, then don’t do it. Even when said superior insists that this is the only person who could possibly do this job and you would certainly be wrong to not hire them, stand your ground!

    I have interviewed and hired quite a few people over the years, and have gotten quite adept at knowing what I want and who will be a good fit for the position and the company. A few years ago I was hiring and my boss gave me the resume of a personal friend of hers with the line “I don’t want to tell you who to hire, but…….” Then proceeded to tell me that I really needed to hire this person. I went against my better judgement and caved in. Between personality issues, lack of job knowledge, and not being able to do much about it because of the outside-of-work-friendship dynamic between her and my boss, my work life has been hellish the past few years.

    If I had it to do over again, I would have pushed back up to, and possibly eve to the point of getting fired over it. Looking for a new job would be less stressful.

    1. Bea W*

      ohgodyes! I’ve watched people do that while my gut and recommendation was screaming NONONONONO! It was nothing less than near disaster, mitigated by a couple people who saw it coming and quietly kept back-ups and documentation just in case we were right.

  82. E.R*

    For small companies – think a step ahead about how you are going to integrate the person into the job and company once you hire them, and key messages they have to have as soon as they get on board. The greatest hire can flounder and take longer to get up to speed if they are not the right page. It happens in my company every.time. and ive taken to dedicating many hours to helping new hires get up to speed with how things really work, to avoid watching painful train wrecks on repeat.

    Large companies tend to have these processes in place, which is why I’m excluding them for this.

  83. De Minimis*

    Your onboarding process really can make or break how well things are going to go. A poor process or a non-existent process where someone is just left to fend for themselves will most likely mean things won’t go well long term. Even when new hires figure it out and end up doing well in the job, they often will start out with a negative perception of their employer and many will leave at the first opportunity.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      How true. Nothing says “We hate you” like “Here’s your work area call me if you have problems.”

      A step up from that is where companies provide massive amounts of reading material to get up to speed and no time to read it.

  84. JT*

    Before I started hiring I wish someone would have taught me the value of receiving input from others who will be working with the new hire. If the position I’m hiring for is going to be working closely with a group of people it would be hugely beneficial to me to receive their input on the applicant. Even if it isn’t feasible to have them sit it in on the interview, I could ask for input based on my experience with the applicant. Even better, I could have the applicant meet the people he/she would be working with. Ultimately the hiring decision will fall to me, but having different perspectives offered from coworkers can be immensely helpful.

  85. Jessie*

    As someone with an HR background, I wish Hiring Managers new that we were their partners. Often, HR gets a bad rap for being cogs in the wheel, or the people that prevent them from making good hires – but we are there as guardians of the company. I can’t tell you how many times I recommended not hiring, only to have to support the manager through an expensive termination process within the employees first year.

  86. Bea W*

    1. Something I and I think other people struggle with in their heads – It’s really okay to not want to hire, not like, or “reject” a candidate. We’ve all been on the otherside of the table and know how much it sucks to not get the offer, but you survived it, and so will all those people you don’t extend offers to. I always hate that part even if one candidate is clearly the Most Awesome in the running.

    2. Don’t take everything a candidate says about their skills and experience as gospel truth. It’s not that people are lying, but they will be playing up what they think will get them an offer. Follow up with questions that require the candidate to provide examples or talk about how they would do X or approach Y. This is especially important when looking for people with a specific skill set. It’s not enough to ask “Can you design a teapot spout?” Get your candidate to expand on their answer and demonstrate their knowledge. “How do you determine the best size spout to be use when you get a new teapot design?” “How do you test your designs? Describe the process.” I can’t tell you how many times we get people in who look solid on paper, but can’t answer simple practical questions. This especially applies when looking for experienced, more seasoned people. Take the time to ask thoughtful questions to get at how much they really know and IF they have the ability to apply that knowledge in a real situation. Don’t be dazzled by the number of buzz words that fall out of a candidate’s mouth. Ask them “what do you mean by…” Then sit back and listen.

  87. Elysian*

    I think that the difficulty for hiring managers come in two parts: (1) knowing what you want or need from a candidate and (2) knowing how to test for those qualities. Some people in charge of hiring might be good at one or the other, but not at both. I think it takes both to find make a really good hire.

    Some places just don’t know the kind of person that they need, and its no surprise that they can’t find that person. Maybe Jane leaves, and they want someone to fill Jane’s job, but don’t fully understand how Jane did what she did. Or they have a generic position title – “Social Media Specialist” – and a vague job description, but don’t really know what it takes to succeed in that role. On the other hand, maybe they know they need someone to be a good assistant and they know what the person needs to do, but get caught up in academic credentials (which don’t really demonstrate any skills).

    I had a similar problem when I was a teacher – I might know what I wanted my students to learn, but had trouble isolating that skill in an exam (for example, math word problems test both reading and math skills, so its hard to know which one the student struggles with if they don’t succeed at the word problem). Or, I might be set with the evaluation (like a standardized test), but don’t really know what skills the students are supposed to learn (thus, I could be stuck ‘teaching to the test’).

    Before people hire, I wish they would give serious thought to each of these two things. What should the great candidate be able to do? How can I target the interview for those skills? I think it would save everyone a lot of grief.

  88. Mary*

    Hire employees who are smarter than you.

    I have to admit that this isn’t mine but advice I received from a family friend who is President of his insurance company’s IT Department. He explained that he always looks to hire those who know more about their job than he does himself. This is of course hand in hand with other characteristics but ultimately he wants his team to be problem solvers and be on top of breaking technology and news in their area. He likes to hand his team the outcomes they need, guide them through projects, but in the end he wants them to feel ownership of ideas and valued contributors to the company’s success. This comes out of when employees can suggest new practices or software and then see the implementation through.

  89. A Jane*

    #1 – Make sure you read askamanager.org ;)

    But seriously, folks, who here hasn’t recommended AAM for many workplace questions?

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Almost every question someone asks me, I find myself replying with: “Well, if AAM were here, this is what she’d say”. HAHA!!

    2. Nutcase*

      I have recommended AAM to many, many people over the past few years. I wish there was a way I could get the upper management where I work to read this blog though!

  90. Danielle*

    Hiring managers are difficult to work with! You’ll need to develop strong “sales” skills to point out the quality points of strong candidates to get HM’s to overlook some of their own biases and make sure they hire the right candidate.

  91. Except in California*

    I wish I’d known how to quantify my work and the interest, education, and experience that, when summed up, make a great hire. It’s the combination of all three that matter . Today, I start a hire by rewriting my own resume. It makes me think about what my team and I are doing here, now, and today. Then I can more quickly come up with a checklist of things we are looking for.

  92. GoodGirl*

    I’ve hired in the past – there is a host of things I would recommend for hiring managers but if I have to pick one, it would be to know and understand your workplace culture. When I was just starting out in the professional world, I would often hear people talk about how important culture is to a workplace, but honestly, I didn’t “get it” until I was in a hiring role. Some questions to ask yourself:

    -What’s the general feel of the office most of the time? Are people usually running around like chickens with their heads cut off, is it tranquil, or somewhere in between?

    -For the role you’re hiring, what’s the style of the team/manager? And how accurately does it reflect the overall culture of the office?

    -How is this role perceived in the company? Likewise, how is the team that the role is a part of perceived in the company?

    -Are there things about the interviewee’s personality that would mesh well with the current culture (i.e. maybe your office is goofy, and the interviewee enjoys wearing ducky ties)? On the other hand, are there things about the interviewee’s personality that could be difficult for them to fit in with the current group?

    -Is the office more social (i.e. likes to have celebrations, get-togethers, etc.) or does it shy away from anything that’s strickly non work- related? Do associates tend (or prefer) to keep to themselves?

    Over the years I’ve learned to pay much more attention to the company’s culture and the general “feel” of the office when I go in for interviews – it’s saved me a lot of heartache. Hiring managers – please, please, please be honest about your culture – show “warts and all.” ;)

  93. Human Resources Manager*

    What I tell managers who have not done a lot of hiring is that when you interview someone, you need to remember that this is the best they are ever going to be. If they didn’t dress appropriately for the interview you are going to always have issues in that area. If they were late for the interview you will end up having issues there. This is them on their best behavior, looking the best and behaving the best they can. So if they aren’t impressing you now, they certainly won’t impress you once they work for you.

  94. Theresa*

    Give the interviewee a chance to correct their errors. If you’re testing their skills, have them their work product back and ask them to mark and/or correct their errors before turning it in to you. Interviews are nerve-wracking and people are not perfect. An employee who knows what to look for and how to correct their own errors is very valuable.

    1. Bea W*

      I really like this. On the job people will make errors, and it is important to know how they will handle those errors.

  95. Joey*

    Ten things:

    1. The person that interviews with you may be very different from the person that actually shows up (or doesn’t) for work every day. So don’t settle for canned answers. Put the candidate at ease and keep asking questions to get passed the rehearsed answers.

    2. Gut alone isn’t reason to hire someone. You have to be able to articulate exactly why a specific person is the best person for this job.

    3. No matter how good someone looks in an interview past performance is the best indicator of future performance. Whenever you can be sure to speak to former supervisors about job performance before you make a job offer.

    4. People can often figure out how to answer a hypothetical question. But most people will probably perform differently in the moment, under pressure, especially when they’re dealing with real people with real emotions. So ask about real life situations.

    5. Hire the person the CEO would choose if he/she were in your shoes. You have to find out what the company values out of an employee in this position before you interview. You will frequently find that the skills, traits, and values you look for aren’t always the same or in the same order as the company.

    6. Hire people that are willing to disagree and bold enough to speak up. If continuous improvement is the goal you will need people who aren’t afraid to speak up when they see something that can be improved upon.

    7. Integrity and initiative are a lot harder to teach than a lot of job skills.

    8. No matter who you hire remember that most everyone will tell someone about their experience applying at your company. Treat everyone with the knowledge that besides hiring someone you are developing your company’s reputation.

    9. No matter how hard you try you will eventually hire someone that doesn’t work out. Sometimes you can look back and find something you could have done better, other times there’s just no possible way you could have predicted a bad outcome.

    10. And please, please talk to candidates about the real job and the actual salary they can expect. Not some vague job description written in corporate speak.

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      2. Gut alone isn’t reason to hire someone. You have to be able to articulate exactly why a specific person is the best person for this job.

      Agreed! I have seen a lot of “gut” talk here today. Our guts are often wrong! I’ve had a ton of managers say “Well I can’t put my finger on it but….” and I always urge them to find the words. If you can’t articulate the “gut” feeling, that was always kind of a red flag to me as a recruiter from the manager (both good and bad “gut” feelings).

      1. Liz T*

        Malcolm Gladwell says we should trust our guts more than our reasoning in areas where we have a lot of experience–so for people new to hiring, yes, it’s the other way around!

    2. PJ*

      Joey, if I were in charge of giving out the Amazon card, I’d be mailing it to you right now. This is awesome!

  96. Holly*

    I’ll have to bookmark this list to read through it later! What I’ve read so far is so fascinating. My top three:

    1. Don’t be desperate to hire. There were times when we had an opening that we had to fill urgently, but for whatever reason, none of the candidates were right for the role. We would always try to run another round of ads, reach out to contacts to see who they could recommend, etc. But there were a couple of times when we just got desperate and hired that person who we knew wasn’t right but who we thought was better than nothing. That person was never right for the role, of course. Better to wait a little longer and get it right.

    2. Trust your gut feeling. If someone doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, trust that. Do some online research about them, reach out to their references, etc. But don’t ignore that feeling that says that something isn’t quite right with the person. Often, there’s a reason. We once interviewed someone who on paper was perfect for the position, but something didn’t feel quite right. We started calling the companies that were on his CV, and he had never actually worked at half the places that were listed. His CV was almost completely fictitious. And, you should always check references anyway.

    3. If you’re running a startup, be very clear about this when interviewing people. Not everyone is right for a startup company, and you want to be 100% clear what that means and why, including the positives and negatives of working for a startup. Be sure they know what they’re getting themselves into, so they can opt out of the opportunity if it’s not right for them. This goes for any kind of company: be fully clear what your company culture is like so people can get a clear idea of whether or not they’ll fit in. Don’t try to gloss over the imperfections…they’ll figure them out if they get hired, anyway. You don’t want to trick anyone into accepting a role that’s not right for them.

  97. plain jane*

    If you’re going to hire someone for a team to help shore up a weak spot, make sure they aren’t so far over on the other side that the two groups can’t stand eachother or see the other’s perspective. E.g. if the team is chronically disorganized (but has good end results), hiring a hyper-organized (and somewhat inflexible) person will not help.

    Make sure at least one person who is going to be an immediate team member is present at the interview stage and given the opportunity to veto.

    Don’t say “well I don’t want to hire another person just like me” and thus go for the weaker candidate or ignore red flags.

  98. Steph*

    Make sure to ask follow-up questions in the interview. You may have to do some digging to get to the truth. Remember that candidates are presenting their best version of themselves in the interview and will want to talk about all of their great qualities. It’s more difficult to identify what their weaknesses might be as an employee, because they aren’t as inclined to share those with you in their sales pitch. But they aren’t going to just come out and tell you what their weaknesses are if you ask them, either! Make them feel comfortable, but don’t skip asking them specific behavioral questions in addition to the broad, general questions about their employment history and experience.

  99. A Teacher*

    Don’t overpromise with candidates. The worst is when you are told one thing and then the reality comes to bite you once you accept a position.

    Don’t compare the employer to “family.” Nothing makes me want to leave quicker than hearing that we are all “family” in fact, the term “we’re a team” is also off-putting to me, and I hate when my current boss emails all of us with Team as the opening line.

    1. A Teacher*

      Forgot the email, but I hate when employers talk about how everyone is family and an interviewer using that as an example is not good for me.

    2. Joey*

      What’s wrong with team as a salutation? Is it because you’ve never felt like you fit the definition?

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s very often used by people who treat others absolutely nothing like a good “teammate” would, and so it can become a red flag if you’ve had a lot of bad experiences.

      2. A Teacher*

        Actually, if you see this, no I don’t mind the concept of a team. I coach a high school team and we have to have teamwork as a staff. I don’t like when every single email I get starts with “Team” as the opener. I also dislike when people think that because you have a different perspective or opinion it makes you not a team player for lack of a better term. That’s the issue I’ve run into with a variety of managers over my career. I actually get rated highly on the components of teamwork and always have during evaluations because I like to get along with my colleagues.

        1. Liz T*

          I know a lot of people who begin emails, “Hi team,” because some people don’t like the gender implications of “Hi guys.” (Obviously this is in an informal culture,)

    3. MJ*

      While a work family is not the same as a home family, there certainly are some similarities that warrant the analogy. In a work family (in a truly caring work place), people look after each other, they stand in for each other when someone is out sick or caring for family, they celebrate each other’s accomplishments, they teach each other, they laugh together, they each have their own roles (both systemic and social)… Maybe you don’t like those words because you have never worked in a place that truly felt family-ish or team-like. Before you dismiss someone you don’t know who is using those words, you might consider that the environment being described is actually better that any you have experienced!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        A workplace is not a family. Families don’t fire other family members or lay them off. Thinking of workplaces as families leads to a lot of bad decision-making (by both employees and managers).

        I suppose you can say that you’re like a family if you don’t fire or lay off anyone, ever (which means that your employees are probably stuck working next to at least some people who don’t pull their weight), if you don’t reward based on merit, and if you won’t make financial decisions for your business based on profit but rather on what’s best for each member. But those things shouldn’t be true in most organizations.

        1. MJ*

          I work in nonprofit, and the employees here call this their “name-of-nonprofit family.” People who use the term certainly understand that a work family is different than a family-family, but what the word connotes is that we aspire to have a relationship with each other that may be different than some other workplaces. It is a relationship that is underpinned by genuine caring. “Family” is a word that understands that we spend more time with each other than most true family members do, and we want this workplace to operate in a way that looks after employees first, trusting the employees to look after the business.

          In our work-family, people are concerned about the welfare of others, they understand that everyone has different needs, skills, experiences, and that fairness sometimes is about getting individuals what they need rather than getting everybody the same thing. We try to meet people where they are at and to grow them as individuals. When someone’s plate is too full (whether by work or by life itself), we step up and help each other. When someone is out for an extended health leave, others will share their job and even donate sick time hours to make sure that person doesn’t have to worry about losing their job at the same time they are worried about other pressing needs. When my coworkers sent flowers after a death in my family, they would have been insulted by a thank you note to my “coworkers” – I addressed it to my “Name-of-nonprofit family.”

          In a family and a work-family, there is a certain hierarchy of responsibility, and with that responsibility sometimes comes hard tasks. Sometimes a person has to be fired – but that happens in family-families every time there is a divorce. If layoffs were to happen at my current place of employment, it would happen only after long discussions with employees about the best way to handle it.

          No, it’s not a perfect analogy, but I think that a workplace that aspires to family-like traits can actually be a rather nice place to work. “A Teacher” commented that nothing makes him or her want to leave faster than hearing that we are all family, and I thinks/he might consider that sometimes that word is not a word to run from.

          1. jmkenrick*

            I see your argument, but I still would argue for swapping in the word “team” instead of “family.”

            The problem with family is that it implies a permanence and loyalty. An employee/employer relationship is based on a give/take model, but family doesn’t have such clear bounds.

            My parents, for example, fed and clothed me for years with the knowledge that they’re not really guaranteed anything in return except my bratty tantrums about “how much they hate me”. Or take my friend’s parents, who spent years and savings taking care of ailing parents who barely remembered them.

            Families don’t make decisions based on efficiency or profitability, or even a cohesive goal that everyone is aiming toward (as business do, or should). I understand your argument about caring, but I don’t think that family should necessarily be the first analogy we latch onto just because you want to promote caring in the workplace.

            I think most people agree that owing an employer the same level of devotion and care (without the promise of anything concrete in return) that family members often offer each other is absurd. Especially if you’re talking to people who report to you, I think referring to your workplace as a family can definitely have implications that it sounds like you don’t mean to convey.

      2. A Teacher*

        My employer values family, in fact my childless, single boss pushes family more than any boss I’ve ever had. I think what many of us and it’s not just my dirty lens, it talking with others over the years, family like is often not used in the way we would see actual value. I think you and Joey took a lot of my short answers, I don’t dismiss people that use either terminology but I do look to see what they really mean in when they use those particular terms.

        1. cvmurrieta*

          Here, here! I also look to see what people really mean when they use particular terms related to “team” and “family”. I have worked with people who use these terms as euphemisms to squash individuality and polite disagreement in the workplace.

  100. NomNomCheese*

    You’re hired for what you can do, you’re fired for how you do it.

    Someone told me that once (can’t remember the source) and I keep it in mind when interviewing so I can focus on the logic process and how the candidates will think through problem solving and how to get results in a positive and constructive way.

    I’ve worked with brilliant people who alienate colleagues and flame out – never underestimate the soft skills!

  101. Gobrightbrand*

    This is probably obvious to most people, but it never occurred to me people would lie about what they were capable of at an interview because I would never misrepresent myself, the concept just didn’t cross my mind. I quickly learned the hard way that people do exaggerate what they know/can do.

  102. Sharon*

    I would go one step further than the person who said to make sure your hiring managers are trained in how to interview (which was a good idea): make sure you also have the right people interviewing your candidates. Here are mistakes I’ve seen in the past (as an interviewee):

    1. Hiring manager that was too busy to interview me, and foisted me off to a fellow manager at the last minute. The replacement manager was quite harried and cranky because he had to interrupt his equally-busy schedule, and it just set the entire interview up to fail.

    2. If you ask managers of other depts to interview because you value their insights/evaluation of the candidates (which is perfectly fair), make sure they understand that’s what they should look for. I’ve had interviewers admit that they didn’t know what to ask me, and weren’t sure why they were involved, because the job wasn’t in their department.

    3. Make sure your HR procedures aren’t accidentally blocking good candidates. I once had a phone interview with a hiring manager that I hit it off really well with to the point that he was enthusiastic about calling me back for a face to face, then HR apparently wrote me off because I wasn’t home the one time they called to schedule the interview. They wouldn’t reply to my followup emails, voicemail or answer the phone. To this day I wonder if the manager wonders why I disappeared.

    Another bizarre example is the company that required snail-mailing a paper resume for a business analyst position, which I did just to see what came of it, didn’t get any calls or emails, until two months later I got a snail-mail letter claiming that they had been unable to contact me and wanted to know if I was still interested in the position.

    1. Sharon*

      sorry, got interrupted. One more I would add is for HR to find a way to diplomatically let an unreasonable hiring manager know that he’s being unreasonable and it may be costing him good candidates. I’m thinking of the time a company wanted writing samples from previous work and I didn’t have any. I told them I didn’t have any but they called me in for an interview anyway. In the interview, the hiring manager asked me again for a writing sample, so I told him I didn’t have any. He said “well, that’s a problem, what should we do about it?” I offered to take a writing test and he replied “no, we can’t do that”. At an impasse, we just stared at each other for a minute before continuing with other questions that I politely answered, but at that point I wrote the job off because I thought he was obstinate. I didn’t tell the nice HR lady (who wasn’t in the room when this happened), but maybe I should have.

  103. Betsy*

    Think realistically about what you are offering when you consider what you’re asking for.

    Too many times, I’ve been part of a hiring process that pursued the best and brightest. We’d pass on average but unexciting candidates, going through dozens of possibles before extending an offer — which was invariably rejected. The issue? We were an average and unexciting company, with decent benefits, mediocre pay, and good job security.

    It’s fine to say “don’t settle”, but if your expectations are unrealistic, you’ll spend 12 months and 150 man-hours hiring a single employee who will probably leave for a better position within 2 years.

  104. Darth Admin*

    1) Believe what people show you.

    I’ve had candidates tell me they have great attention to detail … only to make typos and grammar mistakes in the writing test I give them. Candidates who assure me that they are succinct and excellent communicators … only to ramble on for 20 minutes on a single interview question without ever answering it. Candidates who accept interview times and express extreme enthusiasm … only to show up for the interview 15 minutes late. Candidates whose skills on paper looked unparalleled … only to utterly flunk the work product tests I gave them. Believe what people show you, and know that it will be magnified x100 if they get the job.

    2) Be honest.

    In describing the job to interviewees, I tell them not just the duties, but “all the rest.” I tell candidates a bit about my supervisory style and myself: e.g. I can be impatient, but I want to have staff who can step up and solve problems on their own. I tell them the salary range for the job (in fact, I tell them when I set up interviews, to avoid heartbreak on either side). I tell them our company culture has a lot of eccentric scientists and some days it’s like herding cats. The point is, be just as honest and forthright about the non-duties stuff, and you will find the right candidate for your position.

    3) Be open-minded.

    I look for people whose experience, skills and accomplishments indicate that they could do what I’m hiring for – not necessarily that they have already done it. Having done it already will only get you to the interview, and sometimes not even there if your cover letter is smug, typo-ridden, etc. I try to reserve at least one or two interview “slots” for candidates who are not perhaps the greatest fit on paper but who somehow spoke to me through their resume and cover letter.

    1. Mimmy*

      On your #2: That’s an interesting point. I remember years ago, I interviewed for a position at grocery store (for data entry I think), and the guy interviewing me–who happened to be a former classmate of my sisters’–admitted that he was not organized. I remember thinking, “Why are you telling me this??”, but in hindsight, he probably was looking for someone who WAS organized so that he could focus on the big-picture parts of his job.

  105. MP*

    On the topic of “flags” (red or pink or otherwise) — one of the most valuable things I’ve learned about hiring is how to better judge which ones are worth paying attention to, and which ones are just… red herrings, instead of red flags.

    The comment above about a candidate with a small hole in his sweater made me think about this: a hole in someone’s sweater isn’t a red flag in itself, not if everything else about the person’s resume/cover letter/interview manner/real-life experience/references are clearly demonstrating that they’re a great (put-together, organized, etc) candidate for the job. But if the hole in the sweater were accompanied by typos or other visible messiness, or if the person seemed distracted or bored or otherwise disengaged in the conversation, THEN I might read the hole as being more indicative of a personality trait rather than just, well, a wardrobe malfunction.

    Yes, notice the red flags and don’t disregard them, but don’t go out of your way to wave ones that aren’t really there.

  106. Katie*

    It’s worth it to probe references beyond their glowing reports. Usually, by the time I call a reference, I’m already pretty excited about a candidate. I don’t need someone to tell me how awesome they are. What I really need is advice on how this person works best, what kind of supervision leads to his/her success, and what sorts of behaviors to watch out for. Finding out that someone needs a little help in a few minor areas isn’t going to keep me from hiring them if I’ve already met them. Often, references keep valuable information like that close to the vest.

    On that vein, I’d appreciate any advice you have about getting references to give you the information you need.

  107. Anonymous Educator*

    I think someone else alluded to this but may not have said so explicitly—years of experience does not necessarily translate directly to being better at your job. If you see someone has 10 years’ experience doing something, that doesn’t mean she’s better than a candidate who’s had 2 years’ experience doing the same thing.

    You could do a mediocre job of something for 10 years. And you can also do an amazing job of the same thing for 2 years.

    1. Jamie*

      This. As the old saying goes, do you have 20 years experience or 1 year of experience repeated 20 times.

      Which is fine for some positions, but if you need someone who will grow with the job and the company you need to see that growth in increasing responsibility on their resume.

      Interestingly enough when I was helping people with whom I’d worked do their resumes this was one of the most common threads – people not showing their increasing responsibility so they were really underselling themselves.

      (Ages ago when a plant I worked at closed I probably helped 50 floor workers and a handful of managers get their resumes in shape. I really wish I’d known about AAM back then, I’d have done a better job.)

      1. Bea W*

        I’m seeing that more and more in my own field, especially as more people are forced into very focused temp contractor work where their job is to handle one (or maybe two) aspects of a project and they never get the chance to branch out or take on increasing responsibilities. So you can easily find someone with 5-10 years of job experience but still at really just a step above “entry level” caliber.

  108. JustRead200JobApplications*

    There are two major mistakes in hiring. (1) Hiring a bad fit and (2) Losing a great candidate who would have been a great fit.

    At least 90% of the attention is paid to (1), but hiring bad fits just happens sometimes. While trying to avoid bad hires, companies often cause drive away the very candidates they seek.

    Why does a talented employee come to work at your company? Some people assume that the right hires will appear simply because they want a job and you are a good company to work for. Actually, the right hire who is seeking a job may choose not to work for your good company, for one of the following reasons:

    a.) They might not hear about your job.
    b.) They saw your job posting and it did not impress them.
    c.) They might have other offers that are easier to apply for. If they are talented, why waste time on a posting with lots of up-front requirements that might not even be a real opening (the infamous ghost posting)? You can always ask for those things later, after you screen their resume and cover letter.
    d.) You expected them to be on their best behavior in the interview, but YOU weren’t. They didn’t want to work for you afterwards, or lacked enthusiasm during the interview because YOU didn’t seem to know what you were doing.
    e.) Overall, you didn’t give them a good reason to work for you–the pay, benefits and job description were not attractive to someone with multiple offers.

    The world is filled with tons of really talented people. Given that they are talented, a lot of those people don’t need your job. They might already have one, or have another offer. You might literally be the best place to work in world, but how do they know that? Most places claim to be a great place to work. Until they’re working for you, they are going to go by what they see. Too many companies arrogantly or mistakenly fail to put their best faces forward.

    Do you want to only hire people who have no other offers? Or, do you want to win over candidates that lots of employers want to hire? The answer seems obvious, but if the hiring process is bad, the talented candidates with other offers will not stick around. I wish I knew before I started how much the talent pool that our company has at our disposal is up to us!

    1. cvmurrieta*

      I think you have pointed out very well how some hiring managers at some companies can be as myopic as some job seekers.

  109. Anon*

    I was given this advice for hiring for software engineers but I think it can be applied to other fields where you need to be able to work on a team, not be a one man show. Ask the candidates to work through a problem with you on paper or on a whiteboard so a. you can see their thought process and b. you can see how they react if you challenge their way of solving the problem. Someone might be technically very skilled, but extremely uncomfortable with collaboration or might react really poorly if you say you would have taken a different approach. That will tell you a lot about what it will be like to work with them.

    1. Bea W*

      Totally – have seen this with both IT and software engineers, but it applies to any environment that involves collaboration and having to work with people who will all have different ideas and approaches to the work.

  110. Jessica*

    Phone screens are important. It’s a less time consuming process (15-20 minutes) than a full in-person interview, and you can get a good sense of the candidate regarding motivation, fit, and salary requirements. I like to talk about the money part right in the beginning (or at least provide a range), so as not to waste the candidate’s time or my own.

  111. RB*

    Checking references can be the biggest time sucker, but can give you the biggest payoff if you ask the right questions. Not the standard ones, either. Take the time to accurately describe the job you are looking to fill. This give their previous manager the ability to have a foundation for the reference they are about to give. Include the soft skills needed to be successful. More often than not, you will get great information. Not only to determine if this person is the right fit, but I have gleaned things that helped me successfully manage the person after I hired them and develop their talents for further professional growth. It, also, help me confirm what I felt in my gut during interviews about a potential bad hire.

  112. Interviewer*

    During an interview, there is a time for the interviewer to talk, and there is a time to stop talking and let the candidate do all of the talking. I can’t begin to tell you how awkward it felt at first, wanting to fill the silence with my own voice, but once I got into a rhythm with interviewing and recruiting, I realized I learned so much more by staying silent. I read between the lines on how they answer, too. Do they hold eye contact while they talk? Do they appear to have their thoughts organized, and present details in a logical order? What kind of nervous habits do they show – flipping hair, adjusting clothing, not making eye contact? Staying quiet and listening to the responses, rather than mentally creating my own response, I pick up on a lot more information about the candidate.

    1. Shortie*

      Very good advice to stop talking and let the candidate talk. I went to an interview once where the interviewer never let me say a word. He just went on and on about the company and stopped at the end of the hour and said it had been great talking with me. Believe, it or not, he later offered me the job. I said no because I had no idea how he knew I was the right candidate.

      The only caution I would give about looking at nervous habits, though, is that you don’t want the right person for the interview. You want the right person for the job. If the job requires poise and a lot of public-facing work, nervous habits are not good. If the job does not require contact with customers, then it may not really matter. Really depends on the position.

  113. toni*

    So many good comments have already been made about qualities to look for, and also making sure that the company is aware of the need to be an attractive place to work.
    I also really pay attention to and reflect upon the many clues that help understand the candidate’s innate style for the organization, the team, and the actual position: for example, are they easygoing, non-competitive, warm, and willing to be flexible–if that’s what the job needs, or high energy, outspoken, and competitive if the job would benefit from those characteristics; do they seem to genuinely want the job and like the organization and the department; are there signs that they could be too picky, prickly, critical, or easily dissatisfied; do they seem to want to succeed by contributing to the whole, or succeed only for themselves; do they have the right pace–not too fast and not too slow for the job; and do they seem proactive (thinking ahead about what needs to be responded to or explored, even in the interview process), but short of aggressive or pushy; and how’s the communication vibe–do we seem to be speaking the same language, or are we having parallel-universe conversations? Watching for all these clues is not just a process of sorting for what the organization needs, but to see if it’s a mutual fit–would the candidate be happy in the job, as well as would the organization be happy with them? A great variety of styles might fit–introverts and extroverts, various ages/stages of life, having all the skills or only part, being willing to stay a long time or not so long–but the innate style as it fits for the situation can’t really be fixed if it’s not right. I’ve seen this go both ways: one time, a manager I worked with hired a woman who was competitive for her boss’s job from the get-go (and she had sensed it in the interview and ignored the red flag), and I helped another department hire a woman who had such a positive, open, can-do attitude that they cheered her on with no hard feelings when she left only 9 months later.

  114. Katie*

    Experience is important, but not always a requisite. Often the greenest people will work the hardest and have the fastest learning curves. If you can see potential coupled with enthusiasm, pursue it!

  115. heyyoume*

    I wish I’d learnt the value of getting your top two candidates in for an informal coffee / chat to meet the boss before you make the job offer. It is amazing how much someone will relax when they think the position is theirs – and you get to meet the individual they really are in the workplace. Most of the time this confirms your good impression but every now and then you really dodge a bullet.

    1. cvmurrieta*

      OK, I will just play devil’s advocate: how would someone know he/she is getting the relaxed me vs. the interview me? I would still be on my best behavior and steer clear of topics and behaviors that could raise red flags.

  116. MJ*

    So hard to keep this short!

    • In addition to the usual information, make sure your job description describes the work environment: “Your desk is in the middle of a very busy public area. 600 people will pass through your space every day, and many will interrupt your work. Despite this, you will keep a calm and helpful demeanor and a tidy workspace.” To make a good match, the applicant must really understand what s/he is getting into.

    • Do phone interviews to review resume and experience.

    • Do live interviews to test for character traits – make a list of traits you are after and design questions to ferret out that information (there are loads of samples online).

    • 24 hours in advance of the live interview, send the candidate a piece of business literature to read (we send our strategic plan) and ask them to think about certain aspects (“What did you learn about our business?” ” How do you see your role fitting in with our vision?”). The interview needs to be a two-way conversation; you want to hire someone who really wants to work for you.

    • In addition, send them the interview questions 24 hours in advance. This gives them time to reflect on what is being asked and to come up with appropriate examples that demonstrate who they are and how they approach their work. It puts them more at ease for the interview. It gives you a chance to see how they prepare. (If they prepare by googling best answers, and then give you canned answers, you will know it.) We tell them it is okay to bring a few notes with them, but that it is not necessary.

    • In the interview look for preparedness, self-assessment, detail, time management, body language, and an enthusiasm for your mission and your customers. Listen for what they say that surprises you and what they don’t say that you were hoping to hear.

  117. Kimberley*

    Try not to get too hung up on the résumé. A résumé is a one-dimensional piece of paper and doesn’t tell the whole story. Oftentimes candidates with an amazing résumé are definitely not suited to a role, and candidates with a so-so résumé are. Try to see the person beyond the paper.

    1. cvmurrieta*

      So true! There are so many parts of my past that I am proud of that I have had to leave off my resume. My resume is put together the way it is because I have been told that is the way employers want to see me.

  118. Liz*

    Be very wary of candidates who are loved unanimously by everyone who has interviewed them. Sometimes when a group decides preemptively that someone is The Best, no one thinks to probe deeper into areas of possible weakness or shortcoming. Then after the person is hired they quickly prove to be unsuitable for the job in ways you didn’t even imagine because you were too busy riding the feel-good wave of excitement upon finding a candidate everyone loved.

  119. Bea W*

    Don’t be so inflexible you reject a candidate who otherwise really like on paper without even at least phone screening them. Case in point – there was a company who really liked my qualifications and experience, but I had only worked for company type A and not company type B. They actually contacted the recruiter to ask if I had inadvertently left anything off my resume. I hadn’t. It was true I had never worked for company type B.

    Based on that alone, they declined. :( The truth is the jobs are pretty much the same whether you work for company type A or B, and the skill set needed is exactly the same. It also happened that my company was truly type A, and the work I did there was closer to the typical types of interactions in a company type B environment. Same thing with company sub-type Bc. If you worked only for type A, you’re probably rejected, thought maybe not if you worked for type A on subtype c projects (Ac), and you’ll probably be rejected if you worked in type B but without the subtype C area experience.

    Many company type B and Bc types in my field will outright refuse candidates without company type B (or Bc) experience, and they are shooting themselves in the foot. When you get into the level of skills some of these companies are looking for, the pool of highly experienced candidates with specialized skills in my field gets even narrower than it already is.

    Don’t write people off sight unseen if they have all of the other skills and qualifications you are looking for on account of that experience being in one type of company vs. another, especially when it takes the same exact skills and experience to do the job no matter where you are employed. If they look that good, go to the phone screen. You can always reject them if the phone screen doesn’t pan out as you hoped.

    (I have worked both types now, and IMHO the transition from A to B is easier then B to A.)

    1. Bea W*

      It also happened that my company was truly type A…

      was *not* truly – my previous company was not truly a type A (They always made that claim, but I found that out for certain when I moved to a true Type A!)

  120. Timon*

    Only hire people smarter than you because all too often managers are worried about their employees showing them up, when in reality, stellar employees reflect your ability to place them into excellent situations.

  121. MJ*

    Recently I had 4 candidates that looked good on resume, but had cover letters that lacked personality. So I asked them to rewrite their cover letters. Two came back much improved, two came back so incoherent that I can only assume they had a lot of help with their original (more professional but colorless) cover letter. Interesting exercise!

      1. MJ*

        The text of the email was almost this:

        Hi, Name-of-person!

        You sent in an application for an XYZ position at our organization. We have an amazingly huge pile of applications, many quite strong. What I could really use from you to help in my assessment of your application is a further sample of your writing.

        Your cover letter was great so far as pointing out your skills and experience, but I would have loved it if you had taken a little more personal approach. I don’t feel like I learned anything about who you are from your letter. This may seem weird, but I would love for you to write a new cover letter for the position. Aim for something that gives us a mixture of facts and story. I’ve appended the original ad in case you no longer have access to it.

        Ideally, you would have this back to me by end of day Friday (that’s tomorrow!), but at the latest Saturday noon. We hope to make progress in selecting applicants for phone interviews on Saturday.

        Thank you for your interest in our organization!

        Then after I got the new cover letter, I sent an email back saying something like:

        Thank you, Name-of-person! Your initial cover letter was fine, but when your packet lands in a pile with others that have a more personable cover letter, I think it should have an equal chance.

  122. JW*

    Do not rush. You may be covering several roles, unable to perform your own duties, barely treading water. Do NOT rush the process. As eager as job candidates are to get started, slow down, sleep on your decisions, and inform the candidates of the ACCURATE timeline for making a decision.

  123. Michael C*

    Having now worked in a variety of roles that involve hiring people, I wish someone had told me to approach the interview as a conversation with a candidate. When I started out, I had lists of questions that I wanted/needed answers to and would go down a list. Now I understand better how to get the information I need about their experience but am also better able to see if I would actually get along with this person and work well with them. I don’t want to overstate fit and comfort with the candidate, but this is someone you are going to see nearly every day, for potentially hours on end, for years to come.

  124. Tracy*

    Hiring is a gamble.

    You get as much information as you can on the person. You get input from other people you trust that interview the person. You check references, and then you check your intuition. Sometimes you have time to find the perfect person. Sometimes you have to hire the best candidate you can find, who is not a perfect fit. You have lots of constraints but you make the best decision you can.

    But ultimately, you are rolling the dice on a human being, and there is no guarantee that it will work out. I wish I had known better not to expect to hire perfectly every time, and to learn from each experience and to move on.

    1. PJ*

      Interviewing need not be a gamble, if you know what you’re looking for and how to find out if your candidate has it. While you can’t totally remove the risk, you can certainly mitigate it considerably. Learn Behavioral Interviewing (the whole program, not just the “trick” of how to phrase the questions) and you’ll make better decisions, based on real info.

  125. Aravind*

    Team players make a big difference everywhere. Their readiness (ability & willingness combined) to context switch between being a individual contributor and work as part of a team would be the skill I would be looking for.

  126. Lily*

    Be flexible on your requirements. Instead of writing “10 years marketing experience required” or “must have a graduate degree”, consider using preferred instead. Why not give yourself some leeway to hire a truly superlative candidate who may have 9 years of stellar experience? Or a candidate with only a BA who has some truly unique and valuable work experience?

  127. Jen*

    Train everyone on your team on the importance of selling – people often forget interviewing is a 2-way street.

    Hiring is hard, and it sucks when the person you decided you want ends up declining. From day 1 to offer, everyone involved on the team should take hiring seriously and put their best face forward, no matter the outcome.

  128. ITperson*

    Experience, good interview answers, and advanced degrees don’t always mean a person can do a job well. You need to test people on the work they will actually be doing. Just because a candidate says they can do something or that they’ve done it in the past, does not mean they can do it now.

    We’ve gone through 3 senior or advanced DBAs in about 16 months that have trouble setting up nightly backups and doing simple SELECT or INSERT statements, while the junior DBA with hardly any experience does all that, plus creating SSIS packages and more.

  129. nyxalinth*

    Unless the position you’re hiring for has certain skills which really do require a degree, requiring an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree really isn’t necessary, and you’re scaring off great employees in the process.

  130. Kimberly*

    The interviewer should use every skill they possess to make the interviewee feel as comfortable as possible. This is a real talent.

    Most people are extremely nervous during an interview but try to appear calm. This can make them act out of character, e.g., extroverted when they are naturally introverted, stumble over their own thoughts when answering or asking questions, or just end up sabotaging their chances of a “win” by not acting within their own personality traits.

  131. Amanda*

    It’s not as scientific as you think it should be. Sometimes another person’s hunch will prevail over your arguments in favor of the candidate’s experience doing X, and sometimes you’ll inexplicably like or dislike a candidate. The trick is not to keep going around in circles to try and make it come out logically; it’s to balance everything together and make the best choice you can with the information you have available.

  132. Ellen*

    Don’t treat the reference part of the interview process as just a formality. I like to ask for more than three references and make sure that there is at least one supervisor in the mix. Really talk to a candidates references, give them an idea of the position the applicant is being considered for, ask them about past performance (with specific stories) and ask for their honest feedback. I know many companies won’t let managers give real references for their formal employees but the references that will talk to you are gold.

  133. Windchime*

    The most important part of hiring, in my opinion, is to look at who the person is. Yes, skills are important and as the job gets more technical, it’s more vital that the candidate have those hard skills. But personality and fit is so, so important and should be the deciding factor when hiring. By “fit” I mean–is this person even likable? I used to work with someone who was amazingly gifted; a natural programmer. And much of the time he was a good guy. But he would get moody and nasty and divisive; he would pit people against each other and publicly denigrate their work.

    Someone like this is so very destructive. So if it were me, I would rather have the person with less experience, but who has the ability to work cooperatively with others. To communicate and be kind when offering constructive criticism.

    When I’m on a panel, yes, I’m looking for those hard skills. I need you to be able to put together a SQL query. But I also need you to be a reasonably kind person, someone who can fit in without arrogance or a mean-spirited attitude. Because who you are is at least as important as what you can do.

  134. Burnt Once*

    Don’t ignore a candidates lack of a response to the question what would you consider your weakness? The candidate had a completely blank expression on their face, I thought it was due to nerves so I offered up an example of my own. Without missing a beat their response was “I can’t think of one”

    Eventually the candidate was interviewed by three other people and offered the job and I kept this nagging feeling to myself as it seemed like such a trivial thing. A few months later we noted the employee didn’t take constructive criticism well, became defensive when their work under review, and never developed enough self awareness to see how their contribution to team goals was much less than others, yet still demonstrated great frustration because they did not get the highest performance rating. I learned the hard way if a candidate can not openly answer this question with something reasonable then he or she may truly be blind to their limitations and unable to grow from mistakes or listen to guidance, because in their eyes they may view themselves as perfect.

  135. Lesson learned*

    As tough and painful as it may be, I wish I knew to wait a bit longer for the right candidate to appear when short staffed than to hire out of desperation someone who had the qualifications on paper but in reality I somehow doubted would fit. (Especially difficult when who I thought was the best suited candidate in a very specialized field turned down the offer and I was covering my old role and learning how to be a new manager).

  136. Sharm*

    I have two experiences, and I’ll post them separately for length.

    The first lesson: Don’t Hire Out of Desperation

    Some organizations have a tendency to freak out when positions are unfilled, especially if it’s during a period of high turnover or a major position left open. I think that’s understandable, but rushing to fill the position is a bad idea. My organization made the mistake of hiring someone that we were even warned of by a rival organization for her lies and exaggerations in her cover letter and resume. She had some great skills, and this is why she ultimately stayed with us for years, but she was a huge, huge problem the whole time. I’m talking tears, drama, yelling. She is the reason several team members left (and since went on to well-respected companies, so we lost some amazing talent because of her).

    I am convinced had we just given it a little more time, we could have hired someone with a similar skill set AND better fit for our culture. In our haste to have someone in, no matter the cost, we paid a heavy price for years.

  137. Sharm*

    Another lesson: Do Quality Reference Checks

    I generally rely on my gut, but it’s better to assess the facts AND consult your gut, not just blindly follow a feeling.

    I hired someone who I thought had a good background and more importantly, was a good fit for our organization. In my defense, I think this person has slightly sociopathic tendencies that I just could not have predicted, but probing into her reference checks would have illuminated the picture. The candidate was great in the interview, but when I called her references, I expected glowing remarks. Instead, one person was very short with me, and refused to answer any questions about the candidate, and basically hung up on me. I thought the problem was the reference, not the candidate. I was wrong. It turns out the reference’s hesitance to talk was because of severe clashes with the candidate, and that same problem reared its head with us. Once I hired her, her true colors came out — manipulation, talking back, inappropriate office behavior, and an inability to follow instructions. She was basically a brilliant jerk. I so wish I had listened harder to the reference check. It could have saved so much drama.

  138. uses of enchantment*

    Finding out the parameters of a prospective or new employee’s previous work schedule and productivity methodologies can be quite revealing and should be taken into account with respect to the immediate or long-term needs of the hiring manager’s department.

    For example, Rosalind R. and Monty C. are the top two candidates for a marketing coordinator position at a real estate firm. Rosalind has five years of inventory and merchandising experience at a high-end fashion retailer where she set the majority of her hours (as long as it didn’t exceed X number of hours per pay period and she was able to come in at least Y hours during the holidays). Monty C. has spent the last eight years as a product manager in ecommerce, working two days a week from home and being available during the weekends to address emergency site malfunctions. Both candidates interviewed well, demonstrated a thorough understanding of the responsibilities of the marketing coordinator position, and could start as soon as possible.

    If the hiring manager needed a fast learner who could work during a very specific set of hours from day one, perhaps there ought to be a third candidate whose past work environment was philosophically and operationally very similar to the real estate firm’s. If, however, the person who is to fill the marketing coordinator position could have up to two months to ease into a different work schedule and mentality, then either Rosalind or Monty should be a good hire.

    It takes a lot longer to unlearn productivity habits than it is to learn new software and systems.

  139. Kat*

    It’s often better to leave a position unfilled than hire someone that isn’t right. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling, sometimes they are missing key skills that you need. Being close enough isn’t always good enough, and it can be a bigger deal to rehire than to just leave the position unfilled for longer.

    That said, someone with the right attitude and less experience can often be better than a person with a less good attitude and a perfect checklist of experience. It’s not an exact science!

  140. S*

    I wish hiring managers knew:
    -to ask the top 2 candidates to take computer software skills tests
    -that it’s a really good idea to have current department staff interview and meet the top 2 candidates

  141. Rosie the Marketer*

    I realized the hard way that you can’t always find exactly who you need for a job, and that sometimes the job needs to be tailored to fit the person instead of trying to fit the person in a box. This is only true of somewhat specialized jobs, of course.

  142. Rev.*

    Never underestimate the power of your gut. If something’s bothering you about a candidate, investigate it.

    Never overestimate the power of your gut. There are no perfect candidates, so quit looking for one.

  143. local gov't worker*

    Don’t rush.

    This seems to be simple, but it’s a failing in my organization. Rushing to set up the job postings, to set the questions, to schedule the interviews, and to get the candidates out the door. But when we have had to slow down for other reasons, we have gotten better applicants and hires. Allowing for more time than we think it would take would help.

  144. Aaron Baxter*

    I’ve interviewed a few people in my career. The one thing that stood out for me was one potential employee said to me, “You are luck you got me out of bed before noon”. Now, I’m no HR expert, nor did I have the final authority, but seriously?

    My biggest issue with hiring managers is, especially the older ones, are in the mindset, need a degree or you know nothing. I can’t even get in the door of many positions I know I would excel in because of this very fact. I understand the need to “weed out the trash”, however you miss great employees using scanning systems or the “toss all non-degree” methods. Luckily, I was hired in to my current position as a day-to-day operations and have proven myself and become one of the most valuable members of my team.

  145. Kuangning*

    From the perspective of someone currently searching, I wish they knew to be clear and honest about what they’re hiring for. For example, if I had a penny for every ad that said “customer service” and only later did I realise they wanted a *salesperson*, I wouldn’t need a job. Those two things are not the same — and, in fact, in a lot of cases, they’re diametrically opposed. Likewise, if what is needed is a nurse, asking for a phlebotomist and tacking on the nursing credentials as an afterthought is a waste of everyone’s time. I think they believe they’re widening the pool of applicants by emphasising the less restrictive or less objectionable aspects first, but it feels very bait and switch, and it loses them any goodwill the company name might have elicited.

  146. Cyndi Richards*

    Unless it’s a technical field, you shouldn’t place that much importance on direct experience, whether it be on the job or from school. When I had this realization, and drilled down on it, I realized that what I really needed for my operations roles were excellent communicators. It just so happened that I had a couple of communications majors lined up to interview. They had no direct experience in my industry, but were personable, articulate, and able to clearly communicate their skills and abilities. They were hands down the best hires I’ve ever made. I’ve long since moved out of state, and left that company, but these individuals are still there, and by all accounts, are still star performers. Direct experience certainly isn’t as important as some people would have you beleive.

  147. Steven C*

    Even it’s a technical field, you shouldn’t place that much importance on direct experience, whether it be on the job or from school.

  148. Rachel*

    While first impressions are often misleading, my advice is to do your research before the person walks in (references, social media, etc). and go with your gut!

  149. Karen T*

    That not wanting to be the vice president in the next five years means that you won’t do a bang up job. Ambition can make you a bad employee, not a good employee.

    1. cvmurrieta*

      Or that not knowing the path (eg the different levels of jobs within your function) to become a VP of whatever in the company doesn’t mean you lack both clarity and ambition. Some companies use terminology that is different from what the rest of the industry uses.

  150. A hiring manager*

    I wish I had known earlier how to help people be better interviewees. There are people who can be excellent in a job but who, for whatever reason, don’t do well in interview situations. They may not ask the right questions, or they may not click with one of the people interviewing them, or something. Whatever it is, it is something that reflects on the artificial constraints of an interview process, not the value that person can bring as an employee.

    1. cvmurrieta*

      I have problems with coming up with in-depth questions for MBA-level jobs especially if I am unfamiliar with the industry that the company is in. Researching companies can only get you so far.

  151. Steve*

    I wish they didn’t waste the time of job seekers. I was told to prepare a presentation and a projector would be provided. I had the suite dry cleaned and spent days preparing. When I arrived, I was told that no presentation was necessary and they didn’t have a projector anyway. Then they answered email the whole interview and gave me a 10 minute interview. They clearly had another candidate already selected before the interview. Didn’t even give me a chance to change their mind. Didn’t even pay attention to me. Very unprofessional.

    1. MJ*

      Wow – that is really terrible. You dodged a bullet, though – can you imagine what a terrible place to work that must be?

  152. Marsh*

    Here’s what I’d wish I’d known about hiring when I started my HR career:

    First, know going in that you’re not perfect and that hiring is always a gamble. The more you do it and learn about the culture of each department you’re hiring for, the better you get. What you’re truly looking for is good character whose value system “fits” the company culture/value system. I agree with the others who’ve said that often the best interviews are duds when hired, and vice versa!!

    Secondly, I wish I knew earlier to conduct “job shadows”. When finding several candidates I like, I tell them that the next step is to schedule some time that works best for them (and us) to come and visit the department. They can spend as little as an hour, or a half/full day. The length of time to spend with us tells me something – such as how badly they want the job. I tell them that this is truly optional and while it won’t tell them what a year would be like working with us, it would certainly give them a “porthole” view of what we’re about and more importantly, IF they could do the job. I started this when an applicant I hired over sold herself. She was drowning in basic tasks and while I don’t have time to test people on skills, they’d better be able to back-up what they represent. So, the applicants come and experience who they’d work with, and what they’d do all day. I’ve done this with Vice Presidents, truck drivers, customer service reps., etc. I do not do this with potential sales reps and other positions that would involve sharing any trade secret or client information. I also tell the applicant that IF hired, I will gladly pay them for any/all time spent while on their shadow with us. After they have spent their time with us, I interview them on their experience. If they seem bored, not enthusiastic, etc., well – that too, tells me something. I really listen to any feedback and comments they have. Next, I call in (individually) those who worked with them on the shadow. My employees know that this is not a “menu” at a restaurant where they can order the “cute guy”, etc. They know that I will hire who I think will best suit their department, but I allow them to speak freely and give me their opinions and I listen carefully to their feedback. I really look for best “fit”. For example, if I have a department such as accounting where the culture tends to be overly introverted and quiet, it’s great to mix it up with a more extroverted candidate– IF you’re confident that this applicant would mesh well with your group. While you can’t always win at hiring, and it’s always a gamble, you’ve done your homework. This method may take an extra day to schedule candidates coming in to partake in the shadows, but I’ve implemented this for almost 10 years now and it has truly paid off.

    Another thing – when someone is too lazy to complete your company application and only submits a resume (which are generally embellished) that tells you something. You really want the application vs. a resume because it gives you so many more details on pay, why they left, etc. Saves you a ton of time in the weeding out process. Lastly, don’t drag out hiring if possible. We are all busy, but when you post an ad, jump on the resumes and get it done. When you let them sit, applicants forget, they become disinterested and I find it takes much longer and it may cost you more $$$ to repost the ad.

  153. Michele*

    As a CRR I would love for hiring managers to know if a person was computer savy and knew if he/she was organized. Organization is huge when people are supposed to enter hours they work. It seems to be an issue as well that people do not understand how to register to log their hours. It is amazing how many people forget to log their hours or do not understand how to complete a registration.

  154. Darcie*

    #1 thing: A balance of introverts and extroverts on the team is so important. But interviews are a weird, unnatural thing, and the process by design dismisses introverted, quieter people. I really advocate for them, however, because as long as they aren’t paralysed by shyness, I’ve been happy with them as staff members. You need them to balance out the super friendly, chatty extroverts that might get distracted by each other and forget that they’re supposed to be working.

    I also generally haven’t been happy with staff who were more confident in their interview. It might just be that I have hired mostly young people, but it ended up indicating a lack of taking the position seriously. At least, that’s my theory.

    Not that I don’t like extroverts, but as I’m building a team, I keep in mind that you need to balance them out. What AAM said about homogeneous staff is so true; you have to keep diversity in mind as you hire because you’ll have a better team in the end.

  155. Jason Kolasinski*

    I wish hiring manager knew that some people get more anxiety and nervous at interviews. This does not mean that they cannot be an excellent worker. It should be less based on the first impression and more on experience and proven work ethic.

  156. CarDen*

    No matter how strict your HR polices may seem regarding cookie cutter interviews: follow up on your gut!. No sane HR department is going to ding you for asking legally allowable follow-up questions! If something feels off, ask until you understand why (esp during reference checks). If something the applicant said leads you to believe they may fit for reasons you didn’t anticipate, dig deeper until you understand what they can offer you. If you have a feeling they don’t understand something about your company or the job, explain and ask more questions. Ask follow-ups until you know the answers to your “nagging” questions.

    I hate when fellow interviewers say, “Something bothered me, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.” And use that as their excuse to pass over an applicant, when they didn’t ask any follow up questions. While you should trust your gut, you should follow up on it so it becomes less about what your gut is saying and more about concrete reasons.

  157. Chris*

    That you need to make sure that the candidate is keeping up on the latest technologies. If they aren’t, then they will try to keep your company doing everything the same way they know how to do and there will be no growth in either them or in your company’s infrastructure.

  158. TrishMiller*

    That I would need to constantly remind myself to let others own their careers, be responsible for their actions and choices. I often am surprised by some stories shared and feel compelled to advise yet I remind myself that we are in the interview for hiring for a specific position not necessarily for offering career advice.

  159. Amy B*

    Maybe do a tour first so you can put the interviewee at ease. Nerves are crazy high during an interview for some people.

    1. Sharm*

      I love this idea because it also gives the candidate a picture of the working environment. It wouldn’t be the main reason to turn down a job, but if you have a wide-open, Silicon Valley-type of office plan and the person would much rather prefer quiet cubicles, it’s better to have that knowledge ahead of time to assess.

  160. Kait*

    If something feels off, it probably is. Don’t ignore it – ask follow-up probing questions and diligently check references and past employment / education. Don’t be afraid to ask directly about something that just doesn’t seem to hold water – or make sense like their answer to an interview question doesn’t match with their resume, or why if they’re that fabulous did they make such a counter-intuitive next step?. Often you can quickly get to the root of the issue and/or find out something valuable that strengthens their candidacy they didn’t properly highlight in their skill set. Don’t go on a witch hunt, but don’t ignore that nagging feeling you have about how they responded to a specific question even if the answer was spot on. Often your subconscious catches nonverbal red flags that your conscious mind ignores.

    All too often, someone who looked great on paper, interviewed flawlessly (but something just didn’t seem right) ended up with awful references (that the candidate provided us) who told us not only would they not rehire and why, but that they TOLD the candidate not to use them as a reference. In one case we interviewed a very polished, highly educated sex offender who not only cleverly disguised their time behind bars on their resume but were extremely comfortable discussing the offense that landed them there, only after being pressed for the specific conviction. While their initial answers were “correct” something told us that wasn’t the whole story. The offender was interviewing for an educator position where they’d be working with kids so it was definitely a knock-out issue.

  161. Jack Clegg*

    I’d like managers at my job to understand that human employees are not computerized robots with no feelings. Don’t act like you care to our face and once our backs are turned you take the knife out. I’m sure your superiors you have to answer to do the same thing to you, so you should be more sympathetic to how we feel.

  162. Tara T.*

    I like what MJ (4/14/14) wrote: “In the interview look for preparedness, self-assessment, detail, time management, body language, and an enthusiasm for your mission and your customers. Listen for what they say that surprises you and what they don’t say that you were hoping to hear.” As a candidate, I always go to interviews well-prepared, especially for general questions like the “tell me about yourself,” or any similar question in which I can talk about what I did in each previous job. Also, the “what is your biggest weakness” question, which Sharm (4/14/14) wrote about, is a question most candidates should be ready for with more than a blank stare, since it is a well-known difficult interview question by this time. It is all part of being prepared for the interview. Also, as CarDen wrote (4/15/14), if the interview has a “gut feeling,” the interviewer should probe for concrete answers – the gut feeling could be wrong. Or, of course, the candidate’s answers might confirm the gut feeling.

  163. Will G*

    That first impressions aren’t everything. Some people may know their facts, but because they are nervous they don’t come off as sounding like they would be good for the job.

  164. Kris C*

    From my experience the requirements posted for a job position are taken too seriously. If manager said it is nice to have knowledge of JAVA for a peoplesoft position. Recruiters look for how many times JAVA is found on resume and they often insist to add more lines having keywords posted on Req. I have been in lot of cases where a specified skill mattered most when sorting resumes but when i did the job it was never used! Look for experience, not for how many of keywords in job posting are found in resume.

  165. Prague*

    I wish I’d known that hiring really is a two way street. A good or even ideal candidate will decline the job or leave if the organization isn’t their ideal as well. That goes hand in hand with not feeling obligated to consider unqualified candidates just because their spouse, a coworker, or someone else thinks they’d be a great fit.

  166. EJ*

    I’ve got one from my perspective hiring and one from being a job candidate:

    1. When hiring, do not feel pressured to settle on a candidate that you have misgivings about. Either attempt to address those misgivings in the interview through your line of questioning or, if you are not satisfied, do not hire the individual. Trust me, it’s better to reject all candidates and tough it out for a few extra weeks than make one bad hire who will cause you an unduly amount of stress or work for years to come.
    2. From an interviewee’s perspective, the kindest thing an interviewer that ultimately rejected me has ever done is call me and tell me exactly why I didn’t get the job. Obviously, this is not always possible or desirable, but if you really connected with a candidate and do want them to consider your company again in the future, this is a sure-fire way to do so. The call was probably less than two minutes and very direct, but I walked away feeling positive about the experience and would gladly recommend that company to another job candidate or even apply again if there was an opportunity.

  167. Pandora Amora*

    I like to find out what motivates people; and what they’ve learned about themselves. My current question for unearthing this answer is: “So you’ve been at Cocoa Mugs since 2012. I bet you had a few places you were looking at back then; can you tell me what it is about Cocoa Cups that made you really excited to start there?”

    This casts people in a favorable light (that they had options, and chose to go to their current job rather than only having a single option); and invites them to remember something exciting about their current job.

    I’ll follow their answer with a few follow-up questions; and then I’ll pull back up and ask, “So what’s changed recently? Why are you here talking to me today?”

    People open up; they talk about the new challenges in their current role; the new manager that has been over promoted; the fact they can’t grow to Senior Teapot Analyst; etc.

    The difference between “why were you excited” and “how come you’re bored” is a wealth of information.

  168. Anonymous*

    I wish I had known to look at their shoes! You can tell so much about a person from their footwear! After I learned this, I tried to talk a co-worker out of hiring a temp who was wearing cowboy boots–nothing against them per se or even for the job we were hiring for, it was just the boots plus other elements of his not-real-cowboy demeanor that were flashing red lights and trouble signs. He was a problem employee. ‘Nuff said.

  169. LisaD*

    I’m not hiring for the first time, but I am building a team for the first time, so this is a timely post for me! Here’s my list so far:

    I wish I knew before I started hiring how many people simply don’t know how to showcase their talents in a resume. When picking through 100+ for a single, early to mid-level position, it’s easy to just choose the people who best presented their expertise in a resume. But, unless the job is “resume writer,” this might just select for people who’ve gotten the best resume advice — not the best fits for the job. Sometimes people who are highly qualified have a very simple or, conversely, an overdesigned resume, and this just signifies “I took bad advice,” not, “I’m not the right fit.”

    I wish I knew before I started hiring that phone screens don’t need to be a bonding experience. I do my own phone screens (no HR department, and I prefer it). I tend to spend too much time on them. My new mantra: We can bond when I’ve decided that I want to interview you in person. The phone screen is to make sure that we’re close enough to the same page that I might want to.

    I wish I knew before I started hiring to really, seriously make sure that the candidate is interested in the position exactly as it is, before interviewing them in person. Sometimes the candidate with the coolest experience and most interesting cover letter is applying for a lot of jobs and sure won’t turn down an interview, but they’re not really excited about what they’d do with your company.

    I wish I knew before I started hiring never to interview my favorite candidate first if other people will be interviewing them, too! The mental block “can’t hire the first person we meet” is a powerful force.

    I wish I knew before I started hiring that the best candidates are highly marketable and may well accept other positions if you’re slow to bring them in or slow to move to an offer.

    I wish I knew before I started hiring that being a super-fan of the company and knowing everything we’ve ever done is often a reason NOT to hire someone — every job is a job, and building the organization up into a dream world means it’ll be a let-down when it turns out to still be work.

    I wish I knew before I started hiring that, just like in dating, shit happens that shouldn’t be taken personally. Candidates miss phone calls, forget interviews, change their mind about applying, get hurt feelings if you don’t give them a yes/no in a certain time frame after an interview (I’m talking measured in hours, not measured in weeks — and yes this happened, a candidate, who was fully aware that other candidates were also still in the running told me he expected a yes or no within 72 hours max!) and all of this is more about them than about the hiring manager. They didn’t miss the interview because they don’t like you as a person… they missed it because they had a flat tire or a bad day or whatever and shit just happened.

    I wish I knew before I started hiring that you can read as much as you want about hiring and it will never, ever fully prepare you for the worry, pressure, and responsibility that descend on you when you literally have someone’s next career move in your hands, not to mention the company’s culture and the team’s cohesion.

    And despite all this… I love it and I think I’m doing pretty all right :)

  170. John*

    I’m not a hiring manager but I’ll share my perspectives on this issue.

    The number one thing I wish candidates understood before accepting a job (at any level, in a business office setting or otherwise), is that the list of responsibilities enumerated in a job posting are meant to serve as a guideline only. There is absolutely no way to encompass an exhaustive list of people’s responsibilities because job responsibilities change according to the demands of the business and the person’s position. This is also true if other employees or staff are unable to make it to work that day (e.g. vacation, sick time, etc.) and you have to shoulder some of their work.

    Allow me to clarify that I am not referring to responsibilities that would be outside of a reasonable range of expected responsibility. I’m not talking about, say, for instance a store clerk being expected to manage a store’s entire customer service department. Rather, I mean that there will be some duties that will be placed upon employees that they may feel is beneath them or not expected of them. When you accept a job, you have to understand that you will be asked to handle tasks (however menial or cumbersome they maybe) and see to it that they’re done properly and on time.

    Failure to do so means that you’re not accepting full responsibility for the job you have. You’re not making valuable use of the employer’s time and for that matter your own time as well. Time in this economy is a valuable commodity that cannot afford to be wasted.

  171. Rochelle*

    I have learnt that some managers are naturally good interviews and others aren’t. I think you can develop your own skills over time but it certainly suits some managers more than others. Not being a good interviews does not make you a bad manager.

    I have also learnt that practical tests or practical based questions tell you a lot. “How good are you with excel?” Is never going to tell you what you need to know.

  172. SubwayFan*

    Don’t confuse naive enthusiasm for work ethic. Lots of people will tell you how excited they are about the work, to learn something new, get their feet wet, etc. Not all of them are actually ready for really learning and doing the work. Make sure you ask this kind of candidate about experiences they’ve had in the past doing something new and how they learned and applied new skill sets.

  173. C average*

    One more.

    I would try to keep in mind that, statistically speaking, each person who enters the workforce or a new field for the first time (whether as a new graduate or a previously stay-at-home parent or someone changing fields entirely after more education or a change in the industry) has to have some hiring authority willing to take a chance on him or her based on limited information in order to ever get a job. Getting to hire and manage someone in a first job or a first new role in a field is a privilege and a responsibility; you’re shaping his or her work style, impression of what work even is, sense of what is and isn’t important in the workplace, and trajectory for professional growth. This can be an exciting and empowering thing. It’s really wonderful to witness someone’s professional growth and to be able to guide that person in good directions.

    If you’re in a position to take a chance on a promising but inexperienced person and you’re hesitant solely because they’re new, try not to make your decision on newness alone. Someone has to take a chance on the new grad or the person returning to work after a long absence. If everything else about this person weighs in his or her favor, don’t let the newness alone tip the scales in the other direction.

  174. mike*

    favor candidate who shows promotions within a company. Achieving a promotion indicates that 1. that person adapted and assimilated into the company’s culture. 2. Was dependable and trustworthy 3. Worked well with others. 3. Is a good learner. 4 Has motivation to succeed. 5. demonstrated loyalty. Note that persons lacking any of these qualities will not usually be promotable.

  175. Lauren*

    I wish I had known that some people give good interview. And some people are terrible at it but are good workers.

  176. Abby*

    If your staff don’t think the person is a good fit, listen. Forcing fit, especially at a small organization, just leads to frustration, unhappy employees, and unhappy endings. Sometimes you do need to tell people just how to get along, but forcing fit rarely works in my experience.

  177. Kelsey*

    I wish hiring managers appreciated/looked for honesty, rather than “the right answer.” Plain and simple. Yes, there is advice out there on how you should respond to certain interview questions because a lot of hiring managers are looking for a specific answer, but if it’s not authentic or true… it’s not helping anyone.

  178. Karl Sakas*

    70% of the candidates are mediocre. 20% are terrible. 10% are terrific. The hard part is combing through to find that top 10% without wasting time on the bottom 90% (while being sure to send swift rejections to those you aren’t hiring to let them move on).

  179. Books*

    Paper and person are not the same. If someone was recommended to you, but their resume is less impressive then you’d hoped for, don’t entirely rule them out (especially if they are relatively entry level). We had two excellent hires whose resumes didn’t do them justice.

    Part 2 – Enjoy the hiring process. It can be a heck of a lot of fun!

  180. Denise*

    My team has learned this lesson several times over, the hard way:

    Arrogant people usually interview well and leave a good impression. When you’re meeting with a lot of people that are essentially strangers, the confident ones usually stick out in your mind. Sometimes a person’s confidence is warranted, and for others it’s a manufactured confidence that comes from a puffed-up ego.

    I’m not sure what my manager could have done different in the hiring process. I do know he’s something of a gullible type and I’ve seen him fall for snake-oil salesmen in other situations. I think checking references would have helped, in at least one hire I can think of, to verify the claims made during their interview. I’ve also thought about forwarding articles to my manager I find in my internet wanderings about techniques con-men use to get what they want. He’s such the opposite of a con-man himself, and needs to learn when he’s being played.

  181. Nate*

    I wish hiring managers knew that a person doesn’t have to fit a perfect cookie cutter mold to be excellent at a position.

  182. Beth Elder*

    Wish I had a Lie detector so I would know if and (what about) people who I interview lied.

  183. Kendra W.*

    If someone seems like almost a perfect fit but they might be nervous during the interview, give them another shot. Sometimes people have “off” days during an interview so don’t hold it against them!

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