The Biggest Mistakes Executives Make When Hiring Talent


Hiring the right person to do the job is even harder than it sounds. While many companies use their human resources department to hire new employees, for higher-level positions, or in smaller companies, the hiring decision is often made by executives. But sometimes even executives hire the wrong person for the job.


We recently asked our successful leaders what they think is the biggest mistake executives make when hiring talent.

Here are their responses…

John Schembari, Senior Education Executive

When hiring educators, particularly in this time of shortage, districts have been taking almost anyone. However, it is in a district’s best interest to hire candidates that understand their community. This is the number one mistake districts make—forgoing this check. References inform a district about work ethic but they might not indicate if the teaching candidate can support the needs of their specific students.

In addition to reviewing references, schools should have EXTERNAL teaching candidates review non-identifiable student scholarship data and indicate how they will address this within their classroom. Further, have candidates conduct a “demo lesson” with actual students. Afterwards, ask students about the experience. Lastly, involve current educators in the hiring process. Have current staff use checklists/rubrics to rate the quality of incoming resumes and determine who will be interviewed. Internally, consider “grow your own” programs to elevate paraprofessionals to teaching roles. GYO programs also help promote equity particularly in urban schools.

John Schembari is a current K-12 teacher/school leader academic improvement coach and former school building and district administrator. He loves to draw, travel, swing dance, and read nonfiction.

Ana Smith, Talent Architect & Global Learning Strategist

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If you’re human, you’re biased. Every last one of us makes judgments and decisions based on the collective influence of our upbringing, our experiences, our education, and our societies. That “gut feeling” you have about anything from how your food looks to the impression you get when meeting someone new? That’s nothing more than a collection of biases manifesting themselves.

This can be potentially valuable in social interactions. Where bias can truly become disastrous is in hiring!

As a hiring manager or executive in charge of making hiring decisions, you are not free from bias. It’s truly 100% impossible to be completely free of bias. The best you can do is to take steps to minimize the effect bias has on your decision making and be aware of what you cannot eliminate to mitigate it. This requires self-awareness.

Examining your hiring process and your decision making to see if any of these are present and taking action to adjust for them is key.

Ana Smith helps people & organizations achieve their full talent potential by developing and co-creating people strategies and customized solutions, and turning them into impactful outcomes and collaborative relationships, using coaching as the “red thread.”

Carla Biasi, Personal Stylist

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I believe the biggest mistake is focusing strictly on qualifications. Of course, skills and talents are needed in any role. But the focus should be on the whole individual. Other considerations when hiring the right candidate should be personality, attitude, disposition, and emotional intelligence.

Companies have certain cultures that represent the aesthetics of their workforce. Within those organizations are teams/departments that must work well together for the company to succeed. Goals are established, roles defined, and tasks given. The goal is a well-oiled machine with high productivity, but if there is discourse on the team, it’s disruptive.

I recommend meeting the team you will be working with during the interview process. If you are in a role, talk to management about team-building exercises to help create a strong team.

Remember that an individual is made up of many different skills and attributes. Discover all the wonderful things a candidate has to offer and match it to the job responsibilities and goals of the team for everyone’s success.

Carla Biasi is a personal stylist living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She currently has her own business and works part-time at an upscale women’s boutique and as a virtual and kit stylist for a women’s specialty brand.

Andrea Markowski, Marketing Executive

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The number one hiring mistake is to bring in someone who can fully execute the role.

Sounds crazy, right?

Instead, hire someone who can fulfill most of the job basics, but who is also willing to grow into the position.

A manager once told me during a review to not feel bad when I expressed frustration at not exceeding every expectation.

“If you’re 100% successful, you have nowhere to grow. You’d be overqualified and unhappy,” he said. “As long as there’s space to develop and you’re willing to learn, you’re on the right track.”

His message really resonated years later when I was at a different company. In this new case, I was, indeed, overqualified.

I was hired because I could do everything in the job description, and more. However, it was a bad fit—for precisely that same reason. I didn’t stay long because I wasn’t challenged.

I’d caution against hiring someone fully qualified, especially if they express no interest in expanding their skills. You’re better off with the candidate who’s intrinsically motivated to learn what they don’t yet know.

Andrea Markowski is a marketing director with specializations in strategy development, digital tactics, design thinking, and creative direction. She has superpowers in presentations and public speaking.

Jim Black, Engineering & Technical Executive

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Number one mistake in hiring… hiring for a resume and not for behaviors.

Never hire someone who has a perfect resume and gives you pause in their behavior. The person’s skills may be a perfect match for your needs, and yet, something feels off.

In my past, I have hired for perfect skills, and I have paid for it each time. On paper, the person is great! In day-to-day life, they do not fit.

I will always hire based on a person’s behaviors. I can teach technical skills if the person is grounded in good behaviors: willingness to learn, hungry for answers, improvement oriented, and enthusiastic to work with the team. These attributes create great employees who can develop the necessary technical skills needed to succeed.

Hiring for the “perfect” skill set has costs me much more in the long run.

Jim Black is an engineering professional focused on the development of technical professionals. He is also a professional bass player.

Lisa Perry, Global Marketing Executive

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We’ve seen more changes in the remote workplace in the last two years. The Great Resignation of 2021 is now turning into the Great Uncertainty, with layoffs affecting the tech sector, cryptocurrency, and Wall Street.

Selecting a new employee is a critical decision. Time and again, people are hired who are either not qualified or are not a culture fit for the company. The number one mistake executives make when hiring talent in this new work environment is not taking a look at their team and the broader organization first. There’s great opportunity in leveraging underutilized talent to fill open positions. You may find that individuals can take on new responsibilities to expand their role or someone is ready to be promoted into an open position. Your employees are also your best recruiters. Utilize them to promote job opportunities to including them in your marketing assets.

Lisa Perry helps companies build leadership brands, driving loyal customers & delivering profitability. She does this through a process that builds brands consumers love. Her goal is to help companies develop, monetize, and grow their brands.

What do you think is the biggest mistake executives make when hiring talent? Join the conversation inside Work It Daily’s Executive Program.

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