Six Challenges to Hiring the Right Person


Having been directly involved in thousands of hiring decisions, most organizations do only a mediocre job. This is despite hiring mistakes being one of the biggest costs to business.

The most important task of any manager is to hire the right people. Your career success depends on it.

You can expect to meet some common problems that everyone faces.

1. Starting with the wrong question

People naturally focus on how to fill a vacancy. Instead, the most powerful question to start with is “What are the costs if we pick the wrong person?” This question is designed to focus the minds of those doing the selection.

The visible costs are easy to calculate. The invisible costs hold the greatest risks. These include damage to your reputation as a business, losing customers; lowering staff morale; increased legal risks and a host of others.

Perhaps the biggest risk is the damage to your reputation as a manager when you hire someone who brings all of these problems.

2. Lack of a Structured Selection System

It’s rare for a company to have a standardized approach to selecting staff. More commonly, each person (or each department) makes it up as they go along.

A structured system is designed to help solve this problem.

It means knowing in advance what step comes first and then what comes next — all the way through to making the final decision.

The interview questions are all carefully thought out. They are tailored for the particular vacancy to be filled. All applicants, without exception, are expected to complete each step of the process.

Ideally, the best staff are kept involved in hiring for at least several years. Appropriate training is provided at the outset. Strict criteria are set for what a new team member must do before being allowed to interview applicants.

Once decided on, the process becomes “the way we hire”.

3. Lack of Techniques to Probe Beneath the Surface

The candidate is there to get the job. They are expected to sell themselves. They will emphasize their strengths and will be reluctant to reveal any past problems. Books on how to “pass” the job interview abound. Applicants will have studied up on how answer the standard questions.

People get hired for what they know. Then they get fired for who they are.

For a meaningful interview we must have questions that help us learn who this person really is. Discovering the real character of the applicant is the most challenging part of selection. A structured system will have proven methods to get beyond the resume and discover the underlying character of the applicant.

4. Lack of Training in How to Make Hiring Decisions

No one is born knowing how to make good hiring decisions. Most people learn on the job. They start of by improvising. This is a very inefficient (and expensive) way to learn.

If you’re really serious about being successful in business, learn the best ways to hire the right people. There are several good books around. Study them. Take a course. Make learning the art of hiring a top priority for your professional development

5. Little Feedback on Hiring Accuracy

Imagine learning to hit a golf ball. Would you want to know where each practice shot landed? Sure you would. Now imagine hiring staff and never having a really clear idea of who was a good choice and who wasn’t.

After making a decision, save all of your notes. Mark your calendar for a follow-up three months and six months after each person starts. Have a chat with their line manager. If there are problems, go back to your original notes to look for clues that might have been missed. Mistakes are a great learning opportunity, but only if you take it up.

6. Rushing the Decision

People want the job filled. Other staff have to put in extra effort. The work of selection gets squeezed into an already busy day. The job application is given a cursory glance rather than a careful study. Interview questions get made up on the spot.

Time pressure is the enemy of good hiring decisions.

Hiring someone becomes just another task on the to-do list, located somewhere between “Finish that important memo” and “Collect the dry cleaning”. The interviewer wants to hire someone quickly. Then they can get on with their “real job”.

The reality is that selecting the right people takes time. And if anything is your real job, this is it.


These six problems are universal. Whether you work in a large multinational or a firm of five staff, you can expect to encounter at least one — and usually more.

You may need to change the mind of the decision maker about how they want selection to be done. Hiring poorly suited people is easy. There’s no shortage. Hiring the right person takes time, patience, perseverance and skill.

Dr. Byrne’s newest book is Seeing Behind The Job Applicant’s Mask Before Hiring: Secrets of a Corporate Psychologist. (Amazon) Try it. Read it. If it saves you just one hiring mistake, what would that be worth?