3 Ways To Avoid Hiring Nightmares

I hate hiring for myself. The kissing multiple frogs aspect before finding my prince/princess is tough. Rarely am I talking to someone where there’s not something I like or appreciate about them. It frankly sucks to spend time with someone you genuinely like, only to have to say “you’re not the one.”

I also hate hiring because I’ve set the bar high. I’ve said to my team, “Everyone we hire at hrQ needs to raise our average.”

This is a kick-ass statement in theory. In practice, it’s really tough because we already have a freak’n awesome team. So it takes a lot for someone to raise our average.

Foundationally, I’ve found there are essentially 3 buckets to check-off to ensure your hire doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare. I ask about and truly listen to the dialogue between myself and candidates regarding these 3 areas.

Above Average Requirements.  Our “requirements” section is called “What we’re looking for” and speaks to the typical years of experience, degrees, key past results, etc. But it also outlines things like:

– Possess attributes of self-motivation, self-direction, can-do attitude, strong decision making, detail orientation, credible, acts with a sense of urgency, will always do the right thing and a good sense of humor.

So when I hear the story of someone taking on a marathon, experiencing unexpected and extreme pain and difficult conditions—but not quitting because of commitments made—I take notice.  This knocks out at least 6 of the attributes I’m looking for even though it isn’t directly related to “job duties.”

Does The Candidate Really Want The Job?  This becomes apparent fairly quickly for most stellar hires. It may not surface in the initial conversation and that’s okay. I want candidates to digest the first conversation and come back to me with thoughts/questions. Those that quickly follow-up and with a depth and purpose to their communication are the the ones I want to continue with.

The kiss of death follow-up…”This job intrigues me.”

Nah. You’re either really pumped and want to learn more, or the timing/finances/career track just doesn’t make sense. “Intrigued” is way too much on the fence and sounds like you’re evaluating a book.

Do I Really Want To Work With This Person? I had a client who would always do first interviews at a bar. Didn’t matter if the candidate drank or not—and that wasn’t part of the interview. The hiring manager wanted to see if she felt comfortable with the candidate and vice versa. Was this someone she wanted to have a drink with?

I talk about hiring for intentional fit for our culture. That ultimately boils down to a simple series of questions centered around: Do I want to work with this person for a long time? Are we going to have fun? Are we going to mentally challenge and engage each other? Is this someone who will work well with the rest of the team? Does this person share the same values as I do/we do as an organization? Can I tell this person they talk too much and it exhausts me—and they won’t get pissy about the feedback?

And yes, it would be a bonus if this is someone who I wanted to have a drink with.

Hiring is tricky. And every company has a different nuance or need that requires a thoughtful process. That said, these 3 areas are ultimately what every organization needs to evaluate. When you over-complicate or overthink the hiring process you get dizzy… and those less than dreamy candidates get hired!

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. imhr says:

    Good article. I particularly like that you’ve come from the angle of the employee as well as the all important perspective of the organisation.

  2. V says:

    Did you mention you like candidates talking about Marathon? So, a disable candidate or people that do not like running and won’t talk about Marathon, will you just not find them interesting and not short list them?
    Sorry but that sounds discrimination to me and that uou’re looking for guys who run.
    I would not want to work with recruiting agency that focuses on those things.
    Gour goal should be to find right skills without looking into these things and be fair.

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