Bad Habits

If we’re being truthful, every one of us has fallen into that trap of thinking that we’re amazing at hiring.  We trust our gut, or hang onto our personal approach to vetting candidates - and then wonder why a few months later its all not worked out.  We suffer in silence, saying “they’ll come good in the end”, or have to go back to the drawing board to recruit all over again.  

I got scientific with my approach to recruitment several years ago when a colleague introduced me to Geoff Smart and Randy Street’s Who, a brilliant approach to hiring A-Players for your team.  Very quickly I realised that I’d fallen into a tonne of bad habits over the years, and when I searched my soul, I knew that I’d made some pretty big mistakes.  Yeah, I had some luck along the way, and had some wonderful people join my team, but I also made some hires that I shouldn't have, and watched everyone around me pay the price.  

Lets look at some of those bad habits…

The Art Critic

My personal favourite.  “I knew within the first thirty seconds I'd hire them.”  You meet the candidate and you stand back, dutifully observing how they handle themselves in those first few moments.  And your decision is made.  But this is overconfidence in your ability to assess someone.  It's just one factor, and we absolutely need to learn more.  Do we fall in love with our partners at first glance?  No!  Its strong attraction, and everything that follows tells us they are the one for the long-term. 

The Suitor

Ever found yourself talking to the candidate about the company, the role, culture and a gazillion other things, desperately selling in the position, before realising that you’ve only got ten minutes left to ask them about their experience and understand if its what you really need to fuel your business?  Then you gamble on those ten minutes because they are ‘likeable’ and you ran out of time?  Sorry if this sounds familiar…

The Chatterbox

What do we have in common?  Do we share any interests?  Oh wow, they like cricket too and you were both at the Ashes in the summer?  And then thirty minutes drift by…  This is all wonderful but you are here to learn about your candidate’s ability to smash the job out of the park, not get nostalgic about Ben Stokes’ century on that great summer Sunday.    

So, have you spotted a common theme in all of these?  I’m guilty as charged on all counts in the past, and when I looked back at a some of the hires I’d made, I knew I had to change my approach.  If you’ve ever had to defend a bad hire’s intolerable behaviour with the rest of your department, or seen that someone was clearly out of their depth and shell shocked into resigning, you only have one place to look - and that’s yourself.  

With brands working overtime to accelerate their recovery out of the pandemic, and the rumour mill in overdrive about the great resignation, we’re already seeing quick-fire hiring at scale.  But I’d urge caution - as a candidate, be weary if you’re getting a lucrative job offer over a coffee and a chat.  This should be a warning sign that you’re walking to into a sea of disorganisation.  And, as a hiring manager, don’t fall into the tired approach of trusting your gut and giving into the pressure of getting your team reinforced yesterday.  Smart and Street suggest the average hiring mistake costs a company c. $1.5m.  When you start to break it all down with time spent on hiring, training, lost productivity, management overhead and rehiring, you can see how that figure is hit pretty quickly.  And I’d rather keep it in my company’s turnover thank you very much.  

I’m passionate about helping hiring managers get past these pitfalls, and thats why I spend a lot of my time at IRIS working with brands to design a recruitment approach that bins off these habits, and make sure you find the one person that’s going to deliver on the mission at hand - and that they feel just as sure about you.  

If this strikes a chord with you, and you’re concerned about making more hiring mistakes, check out our Recruitment Coaching Programme or give me a shout at  We can talk through how you do things today with a quick health check, and set you on the right path from there.   

What’s inspired me recently...

I often used to struggle when I had to give someone critical feedback at work.  I’d put it off, or water it down because I was scared of hurting their feelings.  Reading Kim Scott’s wonderful book Radical Candor helped me realise that I’m only trying to help someone be better at what they do.  It was a great mindset change for me, one I’ve put into practice extensively down the years.  I was talking to a member of my team a few days ago who was struggling with the same issue, and I shared this talk from Kim to help them.  Its well worth a watch if you find giving feedback difficult as well.

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Glen Duncan

25th March