Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

10 Ways To Kill A Growing Business With Bad Hires

Every startup with any traction quickly reaches a point where they need to hire employees to grow the business. Unfortunately, this always happens when pressures are the highest, and business processes are ill-defined. At this point you need superstars and versatile future executives, yet your in-house hiring processes and focus are at their weakest.

The result is a host of hiring mistakes that sink many young companies, or take years to fix. The solution is to never forget that hiring is a top priority task for the CEO, which should never be delegated, and which often has to supersede the urgent crises of the day.

A key success element is to start by avoiding the known list of interviewing and hiring mistakes that have been documented many times by human resources professionals. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek summary of ten big ones to jog your recollection:

  1. “I’m not quite sure what we need, but this guy sounds like a miracle worker.” The message here is that if you don’t know exactly what help you need, you probably won’t get it. Do your homework on a proper job description, and make sure the applicant credentials on the resume are a fit before you proceed to interview.
  2. “He’s not quite what I’m looking for, but I think he is trainable.” This is the inverse of the first problem – you know what you want, but you are trying to force fit the candidate into the position. Maybe you are desperate to fill the position, or he’s related to the boss.
  3. “I’m confident this candidate can learn a lot from me.” This is the arrogant position that you know more than anyone you could hire, so all you need is a helper, not help. Helpers are expensive, since it often takes longer to jointly do a job than it would take one qualified person to do it alone.
  4. “I didn’t have time to read the resume, but he has great answers.” Some people talk a good story, but can’t produce results. Resumes won’t give you the positive conclusion, but they can highlight negatives, like job gaps, bad writing, and minimal experience.
  5. “He couldn’t keep up with me on results, but we have to start somewhere.” It’s always a mistake to judge a candidate by using yourself as the bar. You should assume that you are looking for someone who has skills you don’t have.
  6. “This one is such a good fit that I don’t need to waste time on a second interview.” No matter how good you are, we can all miss things the first time around. Never hire someone without a second interview, and without having a second interviewer verify your assessment. Everyone you hire has to fit effectively with many others on the team.
  7. “After my sales pitch, he was so excited I knew he could do the job.” Some hiring managers spend the interview selling the company under some mistaken impression that the level of candidate excitement they can generate is indicative of future performance.
  8. “He’s not perfect, but our only alternative is to let the work stack up even more.” This is pure desperation, guaranteed to have bad results. If you hire someone who can’t do the job, the work backs up more, and your work doubles to get them replaced.
  9. “His experience is light, but he seems like a good guy.” Avoid evaluating just personality in lieu of job skills. All the statistical research shows that there is very little correlation between a good personality and any specific job. Look for job knowledge first.
  10. “Based on the glowing terms I heard from my friend, I’ll just skip the reference check.” There are lots of factors that can’t be assessed in an interview, or by listening only to an advocate. In this litigious society, reference checks are more productive if you also listen to what is not said.

Another element is admitting that there are things you don’t know, and identifying what they are. Too many executives let their ego stand in the way, either in admitting that there might be things they don’t do well, or in identifying and communicating specific job requirements.

Take a lesson from an old Business Week article by entrepreneur Andy Dunn, aptly named “To Recruit the Best, Admit Weaknesses” where he admitted to the best applicants “I am not good at what you do, I need your help.” In my view, if every CEO and hiring manager followed this advice, as well as good hiring practices, their business would scale a lot faster with a lot less headaches.

Written by Martin Zwilling

user Martin Zwilling Founder and CEO,
Startup Professionals

Martin is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. He is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners.

prev next

You might also be interested in

The UrbanTech Movement is Transforming Cities

Urbanization is a defining process of modern life.

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and the number of urban citizens around the world is projected to rise to 66% by 2050.

In the US, over 80% of the population lives in urban areas with 1 in 7 Americans living in New York, Los

Read more >

Angel Investors Spotlight: An Inside Look at Hudson Valley Startup Fund’s Investment Process & Advice for Founders

Hudson Valley Startup Fund brings together a network of the region’s successful business and community leaders to give back, supporting the launch of the next Hudson Valley visionaries. We sat down with fund managers Chad Gomes, Johnny LeHane and Paul Hakim as they shared insights into their investment process, what they look for in both group members and startups, and

Read more >

The Right Startup Advisors Are As Valuable As Money

If you are a new entrepreneur, or entering a new business area, it’s always worth your time to assemble an Advisory Board of two or three executives who have travelled that road before. You need them before you need funding, and if you select the wrong people, or use them incorrectly, no amount of money will likely save your startup.

Read more >

How do I get in touch with investors/funds with just an idea and no product?

There are many wonderful ideas, and they are not necessarily easy to come up with. So congratulations on having thought of one!

However…

“Having value” and “Being fundable” are two completely different things. What the more experienced responders here are saying is completely accurate: while a good idea is usually a necessary ingredient for the formation of a good company, it is

Read more >

Is there an incubator for aspiring Angel Investors or VCs?

No, but there are several sets of courses on angel investing that can provide a good base from which to start. The most comprehensive and best known is the Power of Angel Investing seminar series developed by the Angel Resource Institute (formerly known as the Angel Capital Education Foundation, and prior to that part of the Angel Capital Association). It

Read more >