Top 5 Recruiting Mistakes Most Startups Make

Be patient, the cost of a bad hire can be far greater than waiting for the right person.

Photo: Mike Scotney, Director and IT Recruitment Specialist at Applause IT; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Mike Scotney, Director and IT Recruitment Specialist at Applause IT; Source: Courtesy Photo

Most entrepreneurs are excited about recruiting new hires because it means business is growing. But before you make more hires, ask yourself:

Are you proactively looking forward to finding the perfect candidate or are you filled with dread at the thought of sifting through piles of resumes and CV’s?

Hopefully it is the former, but quite honestly for many startups it is the latter. Many founders dread the recruiting and hiring process because often you’re recruiting for a role you don’t perhaps understand.

Consider IT for example, you know you need a developer, but you don’t know what skills to look for or what qualifications are best.

Here’s a look at the top mistakes startups make when it comes to recruiting new hires (and how to avoid them).


Mistake #1: Role and title mix up.

This happens frequently when you’re not sure which skills and qualities a particular role requires. We’ve found that some people search job boards and copy and paste something that sounds similar to what they think they need.

Another stumbling block is creating a role and title that is too broad with numerous skill sets. The rationale is this: if they can hire a generalist to wear several hats, instead of a specialist to solve and manage specific problems.

If your approach is, “Your role is to get things done. It might not be your job title and it might not be what any business card you carry says,” then make sure this is known. Whichever the case, be clear and open with candidates about what the title and role entails.


Recruiting Solution

Make the job title and job description clear and precise. Try not to use impressive job titles just to attract candidates; it needs to reflect the actual role on offer. There is little value in advertising for a ‘Head of IT’ if the reality is they’ll be the only IT person in the office.

You will need to list the qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience needed to perform the role effectively. Bullet points work well since they allow candidates to scan and easily see if they are a good fit.


Mistake #2: Scattered job advertising and listings.

It’s understandable to think that advertising job listings in as many places as possible will result in a greater number of candidates, however, this can be counterproductive. Recruitment advertising is like any other form of marketing, it is all about your target audience.

Quantity does not equal quality. You can create a real problem for yourself if you have to sift through hundreds of irrelevant CVs from people who do not have the skills or experience you need.


Recruiting Solution

Think about your target audience in detail. Where are they likely to look? There are literally hundreds of job board websites out there, but look for the ones that are right for your vacancy (i.e. industry specific job boards).


Photo: © Boggy, YFS Magazine
Photo: © Boggy, YFS Magazine

You can also use social media by posting job listings on your company’s official accounts. Consider using Google Communities to reach passive job seekers in your sector. You can also look for industry forums and reach out to industry bloggers with an active and relevant audience.


Mistake #3: Not checking references.

Both, startups and established business make this common mistake. It is tempting if someone to assume a candidate is perfect for the job, especially if they interview well. So, you may decide to skip checking with previous employers to validate their claims. It can be a very costly mistake. Surveys show as many as a third of candidates lie on their CV so it really is worth making the extra effort.


Recruiting Solution

During the interview process ensure someone knows as much as they claim. Accomplish this by adding competency measures into your interview process based on the tasks specific to the role. Also, check at least two references and where appropriate order a basic disclosure check or background check. It’s always better to be overly cautious and ensure you’re not putting your business at risk.


Mistake #4: Striving for employee perfection.

If you expect to find a perfect candidate there is a high chance you will be disappointed. If you try to find someone who ticks all the boxes on the job description it could be a very long and drawn out process. If you only focus on skills and qualifications, then you can miss out on a key recruitment element, the candidate’s personality and company culture fit.


Recruiting Solution

Personality is an important trait to look for in job candidates. It’s important that the right employee has the necessary soft skills to work well with your broader team. By nature, startups often have a small team, so it’s paramount everybody shares a common goal.

Ask candidates questions about your business, a candidate who has done their homework will be able to answer with enthusiasm and conviction. In short, a team player is a must.


Mistake #5: Rushing the recruitment process.

If you need somebody “yesterday” you are likely to choose the best from a bad bunch rather than spending time to find someone a good fit for the role and your company.


Recruiting Solution

Start with a recruitment strategy before you even start to recruit. Think ahead. What kind of roles will you need in the future? Plan a staffing road map. Research where and how you can attract job candidates for new roles. The key is not to panic. If you don’t find the right person immediately look at your job adverts, amend where
necessary, expand your search and re-post.


Be patient, the cost of a bad hire can be far greater than waiting for the right person.


This article has been edited and

Mike Scotney is a director with IT recruitment specialists Applause IT with over 15 years experience in delivering successful recruitment strategies to start-ups and SMEs. Connect with @applauseit on Twitter.


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