Whether using a recruiter or going it alone, an overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs and small business owners say their biggest challenge is hiring and keeping good talent. I’ve made my share of hiring mistakes over the years. And I’ve learned some valuable lessons in the process.

Here are a few mistakes to avoid before scheduling your next interview.

1. Calling off the other candidates before your new hire starts

I had a dream candidate recently who fit all my criteria. She worked for a big company and oversaw a lot of employees. I was kind of surprised I was able to hire her away from them. But hey, their loss!

Then two days before she was supposed to come on board…BAM! I got the call.

The employer she was leaving suddenly realized who they were losing, and more than likely hadn’t found a replacement. They offered to double her salary, give her more responsibility and an esteemed title to go with it. Dog gonnit!

So what’s the silver lining?

Fortunately for me, I learned from past experience not to tell the other candidates that the position had been filled. Once I got the signed offer from the person I was bringing on board, I contacted the other candidates to tell them I was postponing the interview process for a couple of weeks. This bought me time, and I was able to avoid the awkwardness of having to call candidates back twice: once to tell them they weren’t chosen, and a second time to tell them the first person didn’t work out.

Face saved.

[Recommended Reading] 6 Secrets For Recruiting And Retaining Young Agents

2. Not asking the right interview questions

So many small business owners find themselves in situations where they’re desperate to hire someone just to keep things going. As a result, they get a thrill when they hear that the person in front of them has a heartbeat and only a dash of experience.

“Tell me about your experience doing…blah blah blah.”

Yeah. You could ask that. And it might be good to get things going during the interview. But don’t tune out once you’ve heard what you want to hear.

To find out if a candidate really has what it takes to help your business grow, ask thought provoking questions. Your candidate’s answers will give you a deeper understanding of who’s really sitting in front of you.

Some of my favorite interview questions are:

  • Describe your ideal boss. (This gets to the heart of how they like to be managed and whether it fits your style or their future manager’s style.)
  • Of all the (fill in the blank) companies you could have approached, why did you choose us? (Gives you an idea of whether they’ve done their homework or whether they’re just as desperate as you are. If the candidate can prove they took the time to research your company, their answer to this question will give you insight into what they value about your organization and perhaps what motivates them.)
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? (I’ve had several people look me in the eyes and actually say, “I’d like to own my own company by then.” Well that’s just dandy! Maybe a good follow up question to that would be, “So how many months can I expect to have you on board before you start trying to steal my clients and branch out on your own?)
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone you didn’t get along with or that you didn’t like. (Just lean back and listen. ‘Nuff said.)

3. Trying to oversell your business (rainbows and unicorns)

I see this all the time in the small business arena. Owners and hiring managers are too busy bragging about themselves and their company during the interview that they never learn enough about their candidate’s personality and relevant capabilities.

A candidate can be EXACTLY what you’re looking for, but if you never give them a chance to talk, you’ll never know.

Another problem with puffing up your chest is that you might be setting up unrealistic work environment expectations. When your new hire starts showing up late to work, it might just be due to that “ultra chill office environment” you sold them on just to get them in the door.

It’s okay to give candidates a feel for your company values and culture. Just don’t turn it into an epic movie trailer.


Making good hiring decisions is a large source of stress for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I hope you’ll avoid these classic mistakes the next time you start recruiting.

So what hiring mistakes have you made? What have you learned from those mistakes? Let me know in the comments section below.

[popdom id=’23’]