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  • Intelligent Shift

Leadership Series: The Biggest Mistake People Make Hiring

When I helped run the family businesses, I never had full responsibility for hiring. By the time I got to Lockheed, I desperately wanted to hire my team and worked hard to get it right. As with everything in my twenties, I just knew I could build it a better way. I spent hours writing interview questions, building role playing scenarios for perspective candidates, and studying alternative ways to select the right person. I iterated on my ideas like a comedian testing out jokes before a TV special. Little did I know, I was headed for the trap which snares everyone.

When you don’t know the candidate conducting a good interview is critical. Early in my career I really didn’t know many people so the majority of candidates were strangers. (The trap is set.) The tendency is to wait till a job comes open and then start hiring. (The trap is sprung.) That’s way too late. With this process, your absolute best outcome is a good candidate you took too long to find. I tell all my manager’s “always be staffing”. People are the life blood of a business. The moment you think “Well, I have a full team and everything is stable” is the moment your best employee comes in ready to resign for a great new position. And then starts the hiring scramble.

Step 1: Dust off those perfect questions.

Step 2: find some strangers and/or people you haven’t seen in 2 years.

When you don’t have an obvious job opening, it’s hard to imagine taking lunches, calling old acquaintances, and sorting through resumes to meet people you probably won’t hire. Yet this is what the best do. They keep a bench of hires ready. They mix getting to know referrals, keeping up with their network, succession planning, and exploring ways to generate new staffing pipelines with a focus on building diversity beyond their network. They understand that a little constant investment avoids the scramble and gets the best candidates. They have much better candidates than spending two weeks looking at whomever a recruiter can find at that time. Beyond that it’s a strategic investment in yourself. This is YOUR network you’re building!

I still remember the first time I used that first set of perfect questions. No one nailed the interview, but I was out of time. I had to make a choice. Six months later my new employee got the lowest rating I’ve ever given. Both of us a victim of the scramble.

This is why Alissa, Mike and I all take lunches, breakfasts and coffees with several people a week. Many of them are people that cold call us or email In fact just today, I met two old friends and tomorrow, I am meeting a referral who is a stranger. It’s not an interview - just the start of a potential relationship.

Do yourself a favor- set a goal for meet ups this month. Meet someone new in the industry. Get out in front of the trap and expand your network. I bet hiring gets a lot easier.

This expands beyond hiring. You don’t want to start engaging your network when you’re sick of your current job and looking for a new one. That’s too late. Reach out to your network constantly and always be shaping your next role. Time spent now will pay off repeatedly throughout your career.

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