A bad hire can be more than just a bad experience. We, along with plenty of other employers, know that bad hires can drive down productivity, put a strain on morale, and hurt client relationships. A recent survey even states that 27% of U.S. employers reported a single bad hire cost their company more than $50,000. Why do bad hires happen, and how can you avoid them?

We’ve been wondering the same question lately, so we polled our hiring managers and recruiters for help. Together, we were able to come up with three common mistakes to avoid:


The job description was too vague.

Everyone is guilty of taking a shortcut to get something done quickly. Our recruiters shared that they often see the same job description – likely a template available online – passed around from company to company.

A template isn’t a bad starting point, but it is a bad end-point. Here’s what we’ve found can make a template your own:

  • Being explicit with job requirements. For example, instead of writing, “professional accounting experience”, write “Experience analyzing large data sets and creating reports”.
  • Clarifying expectations. For example, do your employees work 40-hour weeks, or more? What does a successful hire look like to you?

We’ve found that the more specific the job description, the better quality of the potential hire. It’s beneficial to spend the time up front customizing the posting instead of wasting time interviewing the wrong candidates.

We were looking for a unicorn, not a human.

The flipside of the too-vague mistake is the too-specific mistake. Here’s an exercise that helped us refine our job descriptions:

Create a wish list for the new hire. How long is the list? Can you picture the person that fits your description?

We did this exercise with our hiring managers and saw two results:

  • If they couldn’t picture a person, they were picturing a unicorn (i.e. something that doesn’t exist).
  • If they could picture a person, more often than not, that person was over-qualified for the role.

A job description should be realistic, not aspirational. One recruiter put it this way: “Your job description should only contain foundational skills, not those you can train.”

We didn’t tell candidates why they should care about us or the role.

What does the “right” candidate look for in a job? Your right candidate will probably be looking for a company that shares their values, and can advance their career. 

Like a product or a service, your company is often something you need to pitch to a potential hire. We try to ask ourselves:

  • What are our values?
  • How will this new hire impact our company?
  • Why should a hire say yes to us, and no to another offer?

We’ve discovered that clearly explaining the value we bring to a hire is a sure way to interest the right people. Describing the role as an opportunity, not just a position, makes it easier for a recruiter to sell the role to potential hires, too.

Are you looking for help finding the right candidates?

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