One of the most challenging aspects of building a business is finding the right people to join your team. A mistake I often see people make, and I’ve fallen victim to this myself, is hiring people based on liking them.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring people we like. Don’t get me wrong. Team members need to fit with one another too.
When Hiring People We Like Becomes a Problem
What is a problem is when we allow our personal feelings about an individual to become a deciding criteria too early in the hiring game. When we like someone, it becomes easier for us to ignore flaws. We do things like ignore that they may not have the skills or even the aptitude to do the job. We let slide personal idiosyncrasies that are not healthy for your business, your team, or you.
Bad hiring decisions can be incredibly costly. You invest time and money into recruiting and training new hires. Team morale can be impacted if someone doesn’t perform up to standard and then what happens if you need to terminate someone that your team likes? It can result in bottlenecks in your business growth.
Then there is the cost for the individual. It’s not their fault you made a bad hiring decision. But now they are stuck. They may have quit another job to work for you. They may have relocated. They may find themselves ineligible for unemployment insurance and in a downward financial spiral. Plus, there’s the emotional repercussions when a job doesn’t work out. It can be traumatizing to think you’ve found a dream job with a dream employer only to find out that it’s not going to work out.
A Painful Personal Example
Late last year, I made an exceptionally wrong hiring decision because of liking someone.
The person sent a killer cover email ticking off all of the checkboxes on what I wanted to see a dream applicant do. I literally ignored her weak résumé and did no testing. Instead, I jumped on a call almost immediately. I didn’t follow my normal interview process and had, what I felt was, an awesome one-hour call. I backtracked and got her to do a Kolbe test. Her result was a mirror of mine. In some cases, that might have been a good thing but not for this specific position.
What evolved was a nightmare. She didn’t meet up to the expectations I had in my head. She didn’t have the skills or aptitude for the work.
We also had another issue materialize: our company is virtual, she wasn’t used to working remotely, and she had serious issues with the physical isolation. I completely overlooked this during the hiring process because, well, I liked her.
All of us really liked her so in spite of her not working out with the initial position, we went through redefining her role within the company a total of 3 times over the next 5 weeks.
What made the situation even worse is that we’d wanted to hire her for a trial part-time period but she went and quit her previous full-time job. Because I liked her, we brought her on full-time right away.
Ultimately, she had to be let go and was baffled at why.
How This Happens
How exactly does hiring people we like become a problem? Well, if you look at the personal example I shared, it’s readily apparent that, as business owners, we need to separate testing for skills and aptitude from more personal contact. This has to come before we start to see the person as a person. If I’d had her just do the Kolbe test and nothing else, I’d have clearly seen that she was not a good fit for the position. I’d not have gotten on the phone with her. I’d not have become prematurely attached to her as an individual. I’d not have liked her and let that interfere with my judgment.
Hiring Friends and Family
I’ve seen a lot of debate about the pros and cons of hiring friends and family. The “liking someone” issue is part of the reason that these situations are so tricky. We need to be able to separate our feelings from the individual to see if they can actually perform the work.
How to Avoid This Mistake
When you are going to start recruiting for a new position, take some time to map out a flow for what you’ll be doing with applicants. What tests will they be given? At what point will they be interviewed? Who will be handling the filtering of applicants, testing and interviews? What constitutes a pass/fail at any stage? Will they have test projects before you hire them? Will there be a trial period?
Once you’re mapped out the hiring process, then it becomes easier to make a hiring decision. Yes, during the interview stage, you can factor in whether or not you like the person and if they will be a good fit with your company from a cultural perspective. But it’s important to separate feelings from business here.
Also, make sure to clearly communicate what your hiring process is with applicants. You’ll be able to save some headaches on both sides by having expectations clearly laid out.
In the situation I described, we did have a hiring process mapped out. I just went off course in every way imaginable.
What have your experiences been with hiring people you like? How do you handle the recruiting workflow? Let me know in the comments below!