Why smart managers hire the wrong people: 5 myths

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Every new hire changes an organization. If the new employee is better than half of the existing staff, your organization has just gotten better. If not, unfortunately, your organization just got worse. Too many organizations repeatedly hire people who are in the bottom 50% of performance the minute they walk in the door. Here are five common myths that impede your ability to hire the best:

1. “The best applicants make the best employees.”

The opposite is more often the case. People who interview the best are often people who have been interviewed the most. They’ve honed their answers over time. They know how to tell you what you want to hear. To change that, develop a system that doesn’t focus on the packaging, but on the product inside.

2. “I can tell if somebody is lying.”

The truth is, you can’t tell. The average person can lie to his mother and not get caught. The key to great hiring is not to catch people lying to you, but to develop a hiring process that positions people to tell you the truth, even when they don’t want to.

3. “You can’t get references anymore.”

You can, it’s just not easy, and you may have to change the way you get them.

One tool that makes a major difference: A reference verification form, which asks applicants how they think each former employer will rate them in several specific areas, such as dependability and job skills. You’ll be amazed how many times references will confirm or contradict things they wouldn’t tell you otherwise.

4. “If you make it too hard to get the job, the good applicants will drop out.”

The truth is, you should be making it hard to get the job. If you place no value on the job, the applicant won’t place any value on it either. Great companies like Microsoft, Southwest, Disney and the Ritz-Carlton make it hard to get a job. People want to work for the best.

5. “I can just tell if someone is going to be good or bad.”

If your gut says the applicant will be a bad hire, trust it. But if your gut say it’s a good hire, do everything possible to prove yourself wrong.

A University of Chicago report says we make a decision whether we like someone or not in 14 seconds or less. If you like an applicant, there’s a good chance you won’t ask the hard questions. Interviewers must put their gut feelings aside and dig deep. The questions need to get tougher.

Mel Kleiman is the founder of Humetrics, a popular speaker, the author of seven books (including Hire Tough, Manage Easy) and a onetime owner of three different businesses.