Make Better Hiring Decisions

Great hiring decisions are the bedrock of good management. It is one of the most important decisions first-time managers make. You cannot un-hire someone. Once hired, they are no longer a candidate you can simply turn down, instead they are an employee, a part of the team, and your management responsibility. The costs of a poor hiring decision are significant; it impacts team performance, it monopolizes your time, it creates administrative work, and it can even create legal issues. Not to mention the opportunity costs when considering alternative candidates. Hiring decisions are like the irreversible reactions of the chemistry world or the measure-twice-cut-once mentality of carpenters, you want to get it right. The reality is that hiring will cause some of your greatest regrets and your greatest rewards throughout your management career. It is an ongoing learning process and here are few thoughts as you begin the journey.


As an interviewer it is tempting to simply show up, resume in hand, and ask a few generic questions. This is a mistake. You have very little time with the candidate and, as mentioned above, it is an important part of the job. Take time to prepare in advance so you maximize your time with the candidate and improve the quality of the interview. Preparation includes three items: (1) the resume, (2) the questions and (3) the notes. Start with questions. If your firm or department has a standard list of questions, use it. If not, come up with your own. Even if they do have one, supplement it with your own questions. You can never have too many, plus you’ll be prepared for candidates who provide strictly one-word answers. Next, make sure you have a system or plan for note taking. Interviews move quickly, requiring you to balance being in the moment and capturing data for review later. Personally, I used a hard-copy template that included questions and served as an agenda of sorts for the interview. Hand written notes on the resume work equally as well. Finally, look at the resume, highlight anything that sticks out and make a note to follow up in the interview. Same goes for a cover letter if the position required one. Also, if you are unsure of name pronunciation feel free to ask a colleague or two, but confirm with the candidate as part of your greeting.

No Stone Unturned

It always bothered me when fellow interviewers said, “ahh I wish I would have asked about XYZ”, immediately following an interview. What?! You were there. You could have asked the question! Don’t make this same mistake. Never leave an interview with outstanding questions about a candidate. As the interviewer, you are in the driver’s seat. Take advantage of this and make sure you gather all the information you need to make a quality decision. Through the course of an interview, candidates will provide answers that require follow-up. Ask them! If you hold back, you are doing a disservice to the candidate by not allowing them to address a possible concern. Now, you should be warned, this may lead to an interview style that is viewed as challenging or confrontational. I’ve received this feedback numerous times over the years from employees who thought they bombed their interview. Obviously they didn’t!


It is still the best policy, especially when it comes to interviewing. It’s important to recognize that interviews are a two-way street. Commonly we think about them as one-sided, company interviewing candidate, but it is also candidate interviewing company. As the interviewer you need to do your part, which means honestly describing the firm, culture and role. Now this doesn’t mean you have to share trade secrets with them, but you want to be fair. If they ask about your least favorite part of the job, tell them. I have full confidence that you can do this respectfully and professionally, so don’t worry about a negative perception. If anything, it creates a positive perception with the candidate and starts to build trust. Any candidate worth their salt will ask questions, so you’ll have the opportunity to share. (Side-note, no questions = red flag in my book.) Even if they don’t ask, I recommend spending time during the interview to share details about the company and role.

No Shoulder Shrugs

This refers to the decision process and not the actual interview — specifically, your reaction when asked about the candidate. It’s simple, if you are unsure about a candidate or on the fence and shrugging your shoulders about it, don’t hire them. You want to hire big, bold, YES candidates. You want people that excite and energize you. Big, bold, YES candidates will perform at a higher level in the job and increase both your performance and the team’s. During interview debriefs, you may feel lost trying to articulate why you are unsure about a candidate, and that’s OK. It is most likely just a reflection of your note taking or lack of experience in debriefs, not your decision-making. Peers in the debrief may try to convince you to move a “maybe” candidate into the “yes” pile. Hold firm and trust your instincts. Realize that when you are unsure, it’s your instincts telling you something. This can be especially challenging in certain situations where you are tempted to lower the bar, for example, a staffing shortage. When the work is piling up and the team is stretched thin, it’s easy to stop the bleeding and hire someone simply to get a body in the building. Don’t do it. Stay disciplined with your hiring decisions. You can pull other levers and exercise some creative problem-solving to get through it.

Own It

You are hiring for your team. Not someone else’s. And while, as a new manager, your style and leadership personality are developing, you still have a sense for those with whom you work best. It’s important to elevate this in your decision-making. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about finding friends or drinking buddies. I’m talking about professionals that will excel under your leadership. Throughout the interview, you should keep at the top of your mind, “Can I manage them well?” “Will they thrive under my leadership?” “Will they respond negatively to my style?”. You should incorporate questions around this into your interview. Always at the top of my mind was “Can I teach them? Will they learn from me?”. Learning and teaching is part of my management style, so I always asked candidates to teach me three things on a topic of their choice, or about the last thing they learned. It helped me start to visualize how they may respond to my management style. The truth is, it’s good to be a little selfish when it comes to hiring. Take the popular saying “people leave bosses, not companies,” and flip it… “people go to work for bosses, not companies.” Always keep this in mind when hiring. It may feel like a big responsibility, and it should. Because, remember, it’s one of the most important decisions managers make.

Happy Hiring!

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Kevin Guy

Kevin is an Organizational Consultant and Coach to millennial leaders.