Don’t make these common mistakes when hiring staff for your small business.

Maybe you’ve already hired your first team member. Or you’re still going solo and completely fried from burning the midnight oil—all day, every day—and trying to wear all the hats in your business.

I’ve been there, done that, even though I should have known better as a positive leadership expert. And so have many of my clients. Most take solace in knowing that they aren’t alone.

If you’re in that spot, you’re probably booked and busy. That’s why you need to work so much, right? You have a growth vision for your company, but it’s hard to scale on your own. Hiring the right staff is the best way to get there without complete burnout.

It can be daunting, whether it’s your first (or next or re-do hire). But it doesn’t have to be!

After working with 300+ aspiring, new, and expanding leaders just like you, I’ve seen quite a few common mistakes made. We can learn lessons from each of these, though.

So here’s 10 common hiring mistakes to help you confidently hire staff for your small business.

10 common hiring mistakes to avoid (and what to do instead):

  1. Waiting too long. 
  • Avoid: Waiting until you’re overwhelmed to start hiring (you’ll have no time to find a great person or train them). Then you’ll make snap decisions because you need help fast.
  • Do this instead: Hire before you’re ready. If you hire well (and you know how to delegate!), you’ll make it work. But remember, this can take time, and you aren’t making a hasty choice. 
  1. Hiring too soon. 
  • Avoid: Hiring too soon—yes, I did just say the opposite! 
  • Do this instead: You need a plan of what you want your new team member to achieve and what they’ll be responsible for BEFORE you hire. So create a job description first. And remember that you can tweak the details depending on who you hire and the specific skills they bring to the team.
  1. Hiring a contractor (again). 
  • Avoid: Bringing on another contractor because you’re scared of commitment or don’t know how to hire.
  • Do this instead: Feel confident in your hiring and leadership skills and get any missing training you need. Know that you can make good choices and have hard conversations if you need to. Remember—you get to design your team and business!
  1. Hiring a younger version of yourself. 
  • Avoid: Recruiting a more junior version of yourself. We have a natural bias to bring on people with similar skills, but you don’t need to clone yourself.
  • Do this instead: Add people to your team who have complementary skills and will challenge your assumptions—people who can do things better than you—who can teach the organization new skills and broaden the team’s capabilities.  
  1. Asking yes/no interview questions.
  • Avoid: Closed-ended questions that don’t ask for scenario examples.
  • Do this instead: Although the interview shouldn’t be a cracker of a grilling session, you want to understand the candidate’s work philosophy and decision-making process. 
  • Try asking them ‘how’ questions or ‘can you tell me about a time when you experienced X…’ instead of ‘can you do this X task?’ You want to know how they handle difficult situations, interpersonal working relationships, and how they can make a solid contribution to your team.
  1. Not checking references.
  • Avoid: Being too busy to dive deeper into relevant experience, skills, and references. 
  • Do this instead: Look for evidence of needed skills, knowledge, and passion for the industry or field. Ask for relevant work examples and always check multiple references, asking if they would hire that candidate again.
  1. Ignoring company culture and personality alignment.
  • Avoid: Hiring anyone you aren’t excited about working with day after day.
  • Do this instead: You need smart people who have the necessary skills and will be an asset to your organization. But more than that, you want to hire people you respect and enjoy working with.  You want team members who get excited about your company’s philosophy and mission. Being a good fit with other staff members or clients is also critical for long-term success. 
  1. Choosing skills over passion and fit.
  • Avoid: Evaluating someone on their expertise only.
  • Do this instead: Yes, it’s critical to hire people that have the expert skills to do a job that you can’t (or don’t want to) do. But the most skillful people aren’t always the right ones for the job. You can teach people skills, but you can’t teach them passion, collaboration, attitude, and a good work ethic. 
  1. Not budgeting for onboarding and training time.
  • Avoid: Jumping into a new working relationship without ramp-up time.
  • Do this instead: Create onboarding SOPs and invest time and resources into training employees. Factor in a 3-month salary buffer when hiring: 1 month to train, 1 month to mentor, and 1 month to see a return on your investment. 
  1. Reluctance to fire quickly.
  • Avoid: Keeping an employee despite early red flag warnings. Many small business owners don’t fire fast enough in hopes they can turn the situation around themselves (or just avoiding the situation until it’s too late to fix it). 
  • Do this instead: When you see some red flags, talk to them about it, explain your expectations, and see if they can meet them. This is the conversation that people avoid. If they can’t meet your expectations, then it’s time to part ways. As unpleasant as firing someone is, it’s better to do it quickly to avoid more chaos and team disruption later. Once you know the hire is wrong, promptly terminating the relationship is better for both concerned. (following your local laws, of course). 

Hiring the right staff helps your small business grow and scale.

Hiring staff is one of your most important duties as a business owner. However, finding talented employees who are also a good complement to your company’s culture and values can be difficult. 

The time and effort you put into finding the right person will pay off in the long run. So, don’t rush into making a decision because you’re in a hurry or feel completely stressed. 

Remember that hiring someone new means bringing them into an existing environment—whether it’s just you right now or a small team. And you want that new team member to be the ideal fit.

If you’d like more coaching on hiring staff for your small business, check out my free masterclass, Time to Hire, so you can pause the overwhelm and learn exactly what you need to know before hiring your first (or next) team member. 

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