Hiring Mistakes

7 Hiring Mistakes Startups Can Easily Avoid

Hiring mistakes happen all the time, but especially at startups. Why? Startups have a tougher gig.

You’re trying to build a stellar team, potentially be on the lookout for funding opportunities, manage your current employees, and actually do whatever your company does. Unlike established companies that have a dedicated recruitment and HR team, startup employees find themselves wearing multiple hats to keep everything afloat.

This means startup hiring teams make a lot of very basic, very easy to avoid hiring mistakes that have a real consequence on how your business is run and the likelihood of long-term success.

The good news is because these hiring mistakes are so classic, they’re easy to spot and avoid if you know what you’re doing. If you’re a startup company, this list of seven hiring mistakes to avoid will help you understand how to hire the best candidate.

1. Don’t rely on your network to find talent.

It’s tempting to rely on referrals, or to hire your sister’s husband’s cousin’s nephew because they’ve been vouched for. You might think it’ll save you time, it’ll save you money, it’ll help your culture. However, this is a recipe for an unqualified candidate that may cause harm to your business down the road.

Hiring Friends

While you can ask employees if they know anyone qualified, make sure you put any candidates through the proper vetting procedure to ensure you end up with an employee who can do the work and is a good fit for your company.

The best way to avoid this mistake is to ensure you have an excellent grasp of what you’re looking for in a candidate. If the most attractive quality about a candidate is that someone on your team already knows them, then you know they aren’t a good fit for you.

2. Don’t neglect to set the right expectations for timelines.

Many startups are overwhelmed when they start the hiring process, which can cause delays in communication. This creates a bad candidate experience, and might even make them choose a competitor over you.

Hiring Timeline

You can avoid this outcome by being up front with your candidates. If they’re going to have to wait a week to hear back between interview rounds, you should tell them that.

Take the time to set out hiring guidelines before you even start hiring. How many rounds are you going to need? How long will each of those interviews take? What is the expected length of time start to finish for any candidate? Is there anything they should need to prepare ahead of time?

This preparation ensures you get the best out of candidates and candidates have a great experience with you whether they got the job or not.

3. Don’t rely on a Google Sheets to track candidates.

Google Docs and Sheets are free and easy to use, but they’re not an ideal fit when it comes to tracking candidates for your job opportunity. If you’re relying on a Google doc, things (AKA potentially perfect candidates) are bound to slip through the cracks.

Hiring Using Google Sheet or Excel

This hiring mistake is so common for startups because startups are already strapped for time and resources. It can feel like just another obstacle to spend the energy looking for a good applicant tracking system and implementing it.

But in the long run, what costs more? A couple hours identifying the perfect ATS? Or wasting days trying to sort out your Google sheet so it shows everyone’s feedback properly? Or even worse – hiring the wrong candidate because you can’t keep straight how your Google sheet works?

Rather than an expense, see it for what it is: an investment. Find a system that works well for you, and watch as your small business starts to find hiring easier.

You’re reading this on the Goodmind blog, so it makes sense we’d recommend our own product. If you want to avoid this hiring mistake, give Goodmind ATS a try. Our ATS has a friendly interface, it’s fast, and we’ve made every effort to keep it more affordable than our competitors, which we know matters a lot to startups. Try it for free for 30 days to see if it’s the right fit for you.

4. Don’t forget to give a great candidate experience.

For every position you fill, there will be multiple candidates who didn’t get the job. Rejection always hurts. For smaller businesses, you may be tempted to focus on finding the right candidate rather than creating a smooth application process. But that’s a huge hiring mistake.

Candidates who don’t get the job can give you a bad rap that spreads through word-of-mouth. You’ll already be fighting against the more established companies that offer better benefits to attract the talent your company needs to thrive. Don’t let a bad reputation keep even more candidates from your pipeline.

Great Candidate Experience

Instead of forgetting about the candidate experience, turn it into an asset. Aim to create a candidate experience that’s so positive that even rejected candidates will sing your praises and send more potential great hires your way.

You can do this by setting expectations, as mentioned in Section 2, providing feedback at every step where possible, and ensuring you’re actively listening to your candidates. You can provide a candidate feedback survey to see where you’re messing up and identify areas to improve.

The better candidate experience you create, the better candidates you’ll get.

5. Don’t confuse culture fit with charisma.

Startups are small, so culture fit is especially important. If someone is going to be employee 4 or 5, they’ll have a huge influence on the direction of the company. Culture fit may just sound like another buzzword at this point, but it really does matter.

But it’s also a potential hiring mistake to rely on it too much. Many candidates are overflowing with charisma, making them seem like a perfect fit for your team. Then you hire them, and you realize they’re not qualified, or they’re taking your team in a direction you don’t like.

Hiring Employees With Charisma

Culture fit matters tremendously, but it’s important not to confuse that with a winning personality. To avoid this hiring mistake, take the time to define what “culture fit” means to you and your team. If you make the term less nebulous, you’ll be better prepared to recognize it in a candidate or even ask for examples.

For instance, are you looking for good communication skills? Do hobbies matter? What does work-life balance mean to that candidate? Nail down your “culture fit” to avoid being dazzled by charisma.

6. Don’t be unclear on what you really want.

Like the point above, another classic hiring mistake for startups is being unclear about what a perfect candidate looks like.

Hiring Right Person

Running a successful startup can feel like you’re putting out fires constantly, so unless you’re crystal clear on who your candidate should be, you end up hiring the person who can put out that day’s specific fire.

That’s definitely useful and can help your company in the short-term. But if you want your company to thrive, it’s more important to understand what your long term vision is. That means that if you truly want someone who’s a full-stack developer, you won’t accidentally hire a cloud expert just because today you’ve got a load-balancing problem.

To avoid this hiring mistake, talk with your team to create a picture of the hole in your company. Who would be the best person to fit that gap? What skills and experience do they have?

While other problems can and will come up in the meantime, this enables you to focus on long-term vision rather than short-term issues.

7. Don’t hire for a single skill.

Bigger, more established companies have the luxury of hiring a candidate to do one highly specific thing at their company. For startups, it’s far more important to hire someone who not only is good at multiple things, but has potential to take on other roles as they come up.

Wear Multiple Hats

Many startups hyperfixate on a single skill as a silver bullet for their company, especially the ones that have a lot of buzz generated around them. (A current example of this is a cybersecurity expert.) But that ignores the reality that to be a good fit for a startup, candidates need multiple skills. And when one of the aforementioned fires crops up, it’s faster and more efficient if it turns out one of your employees actually has the ability to cope with that, rather than spending time and money hiring someone for that express problem.

Mistakes recruiters make mean that you can easily end up with someone capable of doing a single job, but not much else. It’s obviously hard to hire for a problem you might not have yet, so the best way to avoid hiring for a specific skill is simply by hiring based on past experience and potential to learn.

To avoid these bad recruitment practices, ask candidates about previous experience beyond the job you’re hiring them for, and determine their willingness to deal with new issues as they come up.

These seven hiring mistakes employers make can impact your bottom line.

Startups are trying to do everything. Because there are so few employees, each new addition has a huge impact on your team. That’s why it’s so important to make the best hire possible – unlike bigger companies, you don’t have much wiggle room for mistakes.

Most of these mistakes boil down to a few key elements: lack of clarity around what your company wants, an inability to focus on your long-term vision, and having to do a lot on limited resources. To avoid these hiring mistakes, the best solution is to spend time creating a plan on who you’re going to hire, what for, what their experience will look like, and how you’ll decide on who is the perfect fit. That way, you can make the best hire for your company.


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