Finding your next capable janitor isn’t easy. Did you ever think you’d hired an eagle, only to have the person turn out to be a total turkey on the job? At one of my recent speaking engagements, one participant brought down the house when she said: “I interviewed the good twin; then the evil twin showed up for work.”

The reasons apparent eagles turn out to be turkeys can most often be attributed to one of these four common hiring mistakes:

1. Not Knowing What You’re Looking For: You can’t hit the target when you don’t know what it looks like. Hone in on exactly what you need by writing a job analysis that spells out the mental (IQ) and physical (strength) capacities, attitudes, personality traits and skill sets you need. Whenever you have a choice, hire for attitude and train for skills.

2. Hiring The Best Applicant Instead Of The Best Employee: Don’t let yourself be fooled by a winning personality or the people who tell you exactly what you want to hear. You want to hire someone who will be a great employee, not someone who is only great at making a positive first impression. Often, people with lesser presentation skills turn out to be the best employees.

3. Never Mind the Applicant, How Competent Is the Interviewer? Have you ever noticed how many “how-to-find-a-job” books are on the market? Now, compare those to the one there might be on how to conduct an effective interview. This is because the applicants are buying the books and studying; the interviewers aren’t. Interviewing is a skill and interviewers need to be trained.

4. Talking Too Much: I have audited far too many interviews where the applicant sits smiling and nodding his head while the interviewer goes on and on about the company, the job and the department. Many tell the applicant exactly what it is they want to hear by saying things like: “We need someone with great customer service skills who we can count on to show up on time every day.” Whether the interviewer tips his or her hand in this way or not, how can the person who’s doing all the talking learn anything? As a rule of thumb, the applicant should do at least 80 percent of the talking.

When you focus on your hiring process and avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll make better hiring decisions. And those better hiring decisions will improve the performance and profitability across the board.  

Mel Kleiman is a certified speaking professional, writer, pragmatic business owner and consultant on frontline employee recruiting, selection, and retention best practices. He serves as president of Humetrics, is a member of a number human resource-related boards and organizations. He is also a longstanding member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Speakers Association.

Mel is the author of five books, including the bestselling “Hire Tough, Manage Easy - How to Find and Hire the Best Hourly Employees,” as well as hundreds of articles for numerous magazines and trade journals worldwide.