15 Tips to Hire the Right Candidate

Although hiring the right people for your team at the right time is extremely important for the success of your company, the process at too many companies is still underdeveloped. Hiring the wrong person is costly in terms of time and cash. It is a huge risk to the stability of your existing team.

If you avoid these 15 pitfalls your chances of hiring the right person will increase significantly:

1. Don’t hire all by yourself

You, as the hiring manager, are going to be biased and under pressure in multiple ways. To avoid this always conduct the interviews together with multiple colleagues (peers, future team mates, …). If any one of the interviewers raises an “I’m unsure” or even a clear “No”, you should reject that candidate. Hierarchies shouldn’t matter.

2. Don’t focus on what the person has previously done

Don’t focus on past activities although they are interesting. Rather find out about past accomplishments. Look for signs that the candidate has successfully mastered unforeseen events and has an ability to learn quickly.

3. Don’t focus on formal education

Formal education is just another data point amongst many. It can show determination and the ability to get things done, but it’s not the main indicator of this person’s future professional performance. The more professional experience the person has, the less relevant college education is.

4. Don’t skip the coding interview

For engineering jobs coding should always be part of the interviewing process.

Whiteboard Coding: Don’t use brain teasers, use increasingly difficult “real world” problems. Don’t focus on language and syntax, focus on the persons problem solving abilities, logical thinking, communication skills (let them explain) and of course coding skills.

Pair Programming: This usually feels more comfortably to the candidate as the situation is closer to the work situation they know. Make sure the engineer pairing with the candidate knows the correct questions to ask and the optimal way to steer that session.

5. Don’t just run through a checklist of predefined questions

It still happens far too often. It is fine to have a few standard questions you always ask, but don’t just run through them. Use each question as an opening to start a conversation with the candidate. Pretend she is a friend with whom you are discussing one of your favorite professional topics and both of you want to learn from each other.

6. Don’t neglect mindset and social fit

The mindset and social fit are two of the most important things. Things you are very unlikely to change and therefore you should be certain of a fit.

One possible question to test her agile mindset could be:

Imagine you are free to change the process the way you want at your current employer — how would you change it and why?

7. Ask what kind of job the person is looking for

Don’t hire someone who has different expectations of the job than what you are able to offer. One of the most effective ways to find out if expectations align is to ask the following question:

Imagine you can build yourself the perfect job from scratch: what would it look like?

8. Leave equal room for the candidates questions

The candidates questions to you are equally important as your own. Don’t forget that the top candidates are looking at various opportunities, just as you are looking at various candidates. It’s a bit like dating and then going straight to marriage — both of you want to make sure it’s the right fit.

9. Tell them what your vision for the company is

Top candidates usually don’t want to work for money alone. They want to make a difference with their contribution to your company and it’s vision. Inspire them!

10. Don’t pretend to be something you are not

Be honest about what you can offer and how things work at your company. Don’t promise something you won’t be able to deliver.

11. Don’t hire subpar people

If you do this, this will seriously hurt you and your business. Usually nobody wants to hire subpar people, but then at some point feels the pressure to “just find someone quickly”. This is never a good idea.

You risk the trust of your existing team members as well as increasing the risk of loosing your “A-players” as generally they don’t want to play with “C-players”.

12. Don’t hire someone because she is nice

If you connect with a candidate on a personal level, this is fine. Just make sure that all objective criteria are met.

13. Don’t hire people who put themselves first

Drive and ambition are good — to a certain extend. Make sure that the success of the team/company is more important to them than their own career advancement.

14. Don’t hire people who can’t communicate

In an increasingly complex world it is extremely important to communicate within your team and across team boundaries. The best solutions to todays problems are usually not created by a single person.

15. Hire someone who knows more than you do

If you and your organization want to learn, improve and literally grow the team, aim to hire people that are better than you at whatever role you are hiring them for. If you can learn something (ideally a lot) from them, you are on the right track.


Most of this might seem like common sense, but at least in my experience and talking with others in our industry, this is still a big problem. Every small step in the right direction will help.

Keep in mind that even if you have the best hiring process in the world, you will still occasionally hire the wrong person for your team. The sooner both you and the person realize and act on this (i.e. end the professional relationship), the better for both of you. Wrong is never personal — it always a result of the context.

What are your thoughts on this? What would you add to the list?

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