Even Excellent Leaders Hire Poorly at Times: Why?

By Bill J. Bonnstetter, Target Training International

No leader wants to hire someone who underperforms. Having a team filled with bright, extraordinarily talented individuals only makes a leader stronger, better and more powerful. Yet leaders and hiring managers are still challenged when hiring and make bad hires at one time or another. Why is that the case?

TTI took a deeper look at the phenomenon of poor hiring recently and published a white paper with our findings. We describe seven key barriers to great hiring and address each one. Here’s a sampling of our findings.

Most people can formulate a first impression on a person in 30 seconds or less. This impression springs from biases stored in our subconscious, meaning we can like or dislike a potential employee even before the interview starts. Without understanding our biases, many people are hired because the interviewer simply liked them, which is more like a personality contest than a hiring process.

These biases most often stem from a place we aren’t conscious of. We may not be aware the bias exists, yet it rears its head while interviewing and creates an invisible barrier that prevents us from selecting the diamond candidate among the cubic zirconium counterparts.

Fortunately, laws keep biases related to gender, age and nationality from affecting our hiring. But what controls the dozens of other biases that exist in every human being? For example, we may have biases about where candidates went to school, how quickly they moved up in their prior positions, and what industries they’ve worked in.

Several other factors that keep leaders from hiring well and retaining good people include the strength of a brand, mismanagement and a misunderstanding of the job you are hiring for.

The prominence and reputation of a strong brand can carry a poor hiring decision for a very long time. Clients are conditioned to buy or ally with the best brands, so even a poor performer may have success when the brand is big enough to carry them.

Mismanagement is often a superhighway to losing a high-potential employee and must be carefully assessed. Most people have been mismanaged, and they will you not only did their performance suffer, but it prompted them to look for other work.

Finally, if you do not begin the process to hire an amazing employee with a fresh look at what the job actually entails, the entire process is likely doomed from the start. Creating a job benchmark before hiring is not a corner to cut: it’s vital to the success of the hire.

So how do leaders avoid falling victim to these pitfalls? First, become more aware. Take time to reflect on what behaviors and motivators your ideal candidate would come in with—then consider if this belief has had an impact on hiring decisions in the past. If it has, you’ve just identified a bias.

Finally, we recommend using a reliable, validated and well-researched hiring process that infuses objectivity into the hiring process.

Bill J. Bonnstetter is chairman of Airpark-based Target Training International Ltd. and TTI Success Insights North America. More: ttiresearch.com, www.ttisuccessinsights.com; www.facebook.com/TTIresearch.