3 Hiring Mistakes to Avoid Like the Plague

“Finding the wrong candidate is worse than finding none at all,” says Recruiterbox.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the cost of a bad hiring decision can be as much as 30% of an employee’s annual salary (a staggering $7500 in lost expenses for a $25,000 position).

You may feel pressure fill a position because coworkers are taking up the slack and they’ve reached their breaking point, but choosing a candidate too hastily could mean having to start all over again in a few months.

“While there are many issues you’re likely to be consciously aware of when you’re hiring—like the specific skills the new person will need, and the tasks you want them to perform—each of us also has a subconscious mind at work,” says Harvard Business Review. “Before making your final choice about whom to hire, bring your subconscious and emotional motivations to the surface for examination as well.”

Prepare to hire the right person by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How am I hoping to “feel better” as a result of a new hire?
  • What pain points do I expect to remedy?

“If you onboard someone who can do the functional job you need done, but can’t do the emotional job, no matter what they do, you will not be satisfied,” argues Harvard Business Review.

Here are three hiring mistakes to avoid like the plague so you can get the right fit the first time around:

1. Don’t Hire Another You

According to Lauren Rivera, a researcher from Northwestern, what most managers are looking for is a copy of themselves. Rivera’s studies revealed that “interviewers who lacked systematic measures of what their company was looking for tended to fall back on themselves and defining merit in their own image.”

In other words, the hiring managers believed the most qualified interviewees were those who best resembled themselves. While it may seem like a good idea to make this kind of hire, your candidate would end up bored and frustrated because there’d be no room for them to grow and advance.

As Harvard Business Review points out, “You already have you and don’t need another you.”

Hiring another you hinders your ability to consider the new employee’s learning curve. You’re just thinking of bringing on someone to “share your learning curve.” But new employees need distinct roles, as well as a path for development that’s suited to their individual growth.

“Hiring a new person is an opportunity to do something differently than before—to innovate,” says Harvard Business Review. “Before you hire someone solely as a way to shrink your own task-list, ask if you may be better served by delegating some tasks to other team members, offering them new mountains to climb.”

Another solution might be the better application of technological tools, rather than more people. If it turns out you really do need to hire someone new, onboard someone who brings something new to the team.

2. Don’t Hire Someone Just to Do the “Dirty Work”

While understandable, this impulse is more dangerous than hiring a “mini-me.” Yes, it’s awfully tempting to avoid tedious and challenging responsibilities. But you’re going to have trouble attracting talented people to do a job that mainly consists of boring work.

“If you want to off-load everything that you detest doing, mostly junk work, it’s likely you’ll disrespect the person you’ve hired to be your dumping ground (a sentiment they will be inclined to return),” says Harvard Business Review.

Worse still is when you want to bring on someone to tackle not just the boring work, but the “dirty work.” You may not necessarily be conscious of wanting to hire a “scapegoat,” you simply want to be liked. Unfortunately, that means the person you bring on will have to do the unpleasant tasks of cutting costs, firing employees, or enforcing policies—a huge waste of talent and experience.

“This isn’t leadership. You will have retention problems forever if you think this way when hiring. Just as looking for a clone may mean you need to delegate more, looking for a henchman means you need to delegate less and willingly assume more of the disagreeable work yourself.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

3. Don’t Hire Just to Fill Your Own Expertise Gap

If you have tasks that demand attention but you don’t personally have the skills to complete them, you may be tempted to hire someone based solely on their ability to fill your own expertise gap.

This manner of thinking is not without pitfalls. For example, it might spawn feelings of envy because you feel threatened by the new hire who has talents you lack. Or you may place your new “guru” or “ninja” on a pedestal. The danger here is that you risk overpaying financially and emotionally, suggests Harvard Business Review.

Plus, if you don’t understand the work your new hire is doing, you won’t get a clear sense of the path this person needs to be on to refine their talent and enhance their productivity.

So how should you solve a knowledge gap?

Go ahead and hire people to add the invaluable assets you need. After all, if you want to move your business forward, you’ll need people with varied skill sets. You definitely need to bring on people who aren’t like you, who challenge your way of thinking and who will tell you what you don’t know.

But remember, “If you are lacking mastery over parts of the domain you manage, part of your own development path is to learn.”

When it comes to job candidates and the managers that hire them, the question isn’t whether they have the right skills, points out Fast Company, it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.


“No one wants to hire the wrong person,” says Harvard Business Review. The recruitment, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding process of even one new employee is a time-intensive process, and our subconscious and emotional motivations for hiring—beyond skill set and the tasks to be performed—don’t often enter into the equation.

But it’s crucial to consider the 3 subconscious emotional motivations mentioned above prior to interviewing your job candidates. Why?

Here’s how  Harvard Business Review puts it:

“By investigating the emotional “job-to-be-done” of a new hire, as well as the actual job we need them to do, we become less likely to hire the wrong person for the wrong role, and more likely to hire a great person for a great role.”

Also published on Medium.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.