The Top 10 Shipwrecks of Hiring Mistakes

Jul 1, 2014

No one launches a business or accepts an executive position with the goal of incurring unnecessary expenses. Yet, time and again, shipwreck hires cost organizations three-to-five times the hire’s salary. My book The Hiring Compass points out these top 10 hiring mistakes to avoid:

My Biases Made Me Hire

Employees generally have a better chance of success and job fulfillment within a comfortable culture; however, all too often conscious and unconscious biases wrongly influence decision makers. A bias isn’t limited to the illegal prejudices due to race, gender, age or protected class. It can also be a natural leaning toward a given attribute, competency, school, geographic pedigree, former company experience, or sports team allegiances.

Self-mirroring Mirage

Self-mirroring refers to an influential person in the hiring decision who feels the best person for the job is someone just like them. A high ego rationalizes, “I’m good in my job; I’m good for this business. Naturally, the best thing I can do for this business is hire people just like me.” Inexperienced and untrained interviewers often “default” to self-mirroring simply because they don’t know a better way.

Rushing the Slot

This deadly mistake can be the most costly, and it is the most avoidable. There are many reasons for rushing to fill the slot(s) including unexpected turnover, high rate of growth, and staffing up for seasonal volume. Often times, objectivity and established policies and processes are set aside, and the risk of a bad hire goes up exponentially.

Poor at Interviewing, Poor at Hiring

Putting the untrained into the interviewing mix presents risk. First, the chances are great the untrained interviewer will fall prey to one of the other hiring mistakes. Next, compound the cost of the hiring mistake when the untrained interviewer says the wrong thing, causing a prime candidate to walk away, or even worse, land an organization in court or mediation.

Flawed Interviewing Processes

Some hiring managers fall into the “more is better” mindset and make the interviewing process more time consuming and laborious than necessary. Good candidates often opt out of consideration for positions because they deemed the process excessive.

The Favorite Son (or daughter, nephew … )

Many relatives can successfully work in the business and add great value. A common mistake that begins with good intentions occurs when a family member is brought in and told to learn the business. Often times the result is either not much learning taking place, or the junior family member begins bossing people around, changing long standing policies in ignorance, and severely damaging culture.


Groupthink is a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics. Groupthink can be driven by a larger-than-life company leader who dominates his/her management team to the point of no dissension.

Rite of Passage Promotion

The second costliest hiring mistake after the Favorite Son is the Rite of Passage tragedy. This refers to the lack of discipline or tenacity in the hiring process, allowing an organization to promote an internal candidate beyond their level of capability. Too many organizations still make the assumption high performance in one position automatically correlates to high performance in another.

Weak Candidate Pool

If an organization hires from a small pool of candidates, their choices are limited. In today’s market and with the current technology, there is no excuse for an organization not to develop strong pools of candidates for positions that require frequent hires due to growth, seasonality, and other reasons.

Getting Romanced or Sold

Sometimes hiring decisions are wrongfully made on subjective information. Even when the candidate is widely liked, a hiring manager should check the facts and follow an objective selection process. To avoid being romanced or sold, one must remember to insist on objectivity.

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