8 Hiring Mistakes to Avoid, According to Sales Managers

As the cheesy saying goes, there is no “I” in team. However, there are a few in “hiring mistake.”

Hire well and you’re more likely to have a high performing and happy team. Hire just one wrong person, commonly known as a “hiring mistake,” and you’ll spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to fix your team.

In fact, one of the most expensive mistakes you can make is hiring the wrong rep. When factoring in salary, hiring costs, resources spent training, termination expenses, and productivity losses, a single bad hire can cost an organization over $380,000. In other words, as a hiring manager you want to do everything you can to bring the right candidates on your team.

To hire well, you need to have an effective process full of checks and balances in place. We asked HubSpot sales managers for their tips for avoiding costly hiring mistakes. Here’s what they had to say.

Hiring Mistakes to Avoid

1. Writing unclear or ineffective job descriptions.

Many hiring managers approach the hiring process feeling like they’ll know the right candidate when they meet them. That mindset can lead to terrible inefficiencies, and leaves room for bias to impact hiring decisions. Interviews are time consuming; you’ll waste a lot of time talking to the wrong people if you don’t take a first step of putting a thorough and accurate job description down on paper.

The job description serves a couple of important purposes. First, it tells the candidate what the job will be like and who you are looking for. Second, it forces you to be thoughtful about the attributes someone must have or be willing to develop to be successful in this role.

The exercise of writing a solid job description will help you envision what this person will be doing day-to-day and what skills and experiences are required to do the job well. Be sure to include two sections:

  1. A list of the job responsibilities with descriptions of each.
  2. The set of skills, experiences and personal characteristics that the ideal candidate will possess (or are willing to learn).

2. Taking a passive approach to sourcing.

Even if you have a recruiter supporting your hiring efforts (lucky you!) or a steady stream of inbound resumes, you should be doing some of your own sourcing. Here’s why: Performing outbound engagement can help you connect with a diverse pool of applicants who are a good fit for the role, but who may not have found your listing.

Need help reaching out to potential candidates? Start on LinkedIn and use the platform’s filters and search functions to help you comb through profiles efficiently. When you’re ready to reach out, send a very personalized message to those who meet the qualifications of the role.

Keep in mind that candidates tend to be more receptive to hiring managers than recruiters — and even if they don’t bite, their response will help give you a pulse on the market. If you come across a few strong candidates, encourage them to apply.

Once you’re done combing through online profiles, get your network involved. Employee referrals are ideal for a few reasons. According to research conducted by ERIN, companies are able to save $7,500 per hire in productivity and sourcing costs. Additionally, candidates hired through employee referrals are more likely to stay in their role longer, with 45% of referral hires staying for longer than four years.

3. Solely basing hiring decisions on the candidate’s work history.

Yes, previous experience is an important consideration when making good hiring decisions, however that shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.

According HubSpot Sales Manager Pratik ‘Tiki’ Biswal, this is a trap many managers fall into. He says:

“A common mistake made during the hiring process is assuming that a candidate will be successful at your company simply because they were successful at a company that sells a similar product.

For example, when I first got into management and started recruiting LinkedIn, I quickly decided to target candidates from other SaaS companies. I assumed that because these reps had SaaS experience, they would be able to plug right into HubSpot and have an immediate impact — that wasn’t always the case.

The learning lesson here is to not make assumptions that a candidate will be a great fit just because they have a similar role today. Do the proper due diligence during the interview process — ask for a detailed explanation of their sales process, sales attainment and funnel metrics, and don’t forget to utilize references.”

When recruiting and interviewing candidates for a position, look beyond what’s listed on their resumé to gain insight on their communication style, thought process, and potential to add value to your team.

Biswal adds in some instances, experiences in other industries can be beneficial. From his experience, “Sometimes the best hires come from a totally different industry or background. Be open-minded and seek candidates with diverse experiences to build a well-rounded team.”

4. Lacking structure during screening meetings.

You will probably have to talk to dozens of candidates, so be strict about keeping the first phone screen or meeting to just 30 minutes. The goal is to use those 30 minutes wisely. If you’re not prepared, you might end up hanging up the phone not knowing whether or not you should move forward with the candidate.

To avoid this, create an outline of questions you plan to ask the candidate. Aim to include a mix of questions that explore behavior, skills, and critical thinking. Have a set of questions that you’ll ask everyone so that you have some good points for comparison, as well as a set of customized questions for each candidate based on their application and experience. The personalized questions should provide clarity for areas you were uncertain about after reviewing their initial application.

Once you’re on the call, don’t fire off the questions like an interrogation. Instead, use your outline to help guide a natural conversation. If you need to get to a new topic, or find a candidate rambling, use a transition such as “You’ve given me a great understanding of (topic x), so now I’d like to shift gears and talk about (topic y).”

After the conversation, write down your observations as soon as you can to avoid forgetting pertinent information. Use these initial conversations as a checkpoint in determining if a candidate should continue moving through the process.

5. Bringing in the wrong interview panel.

If the candidate makes it through the initial screening and any assessments (if that’s part of your hiring process), it’s time to bring them in for a round of interviews. As the candidate makes their rounds through the interview process, you’ll want to give them a chance to connect with you, the hiring manager, your superior, and one of your team members. It is important to include the main stakeholders this person must work with well to be successful.

When assembling your interview team, it is also critical you have a diverse group of people participate. According to Cisco, interview panels that have gender and ethnic diversity improve the likelihood of hiring a Black candidate by 70%, and Latino and women candidates by 50%.

Work with the members of your interview panel to ensure they are prepared and feel comfortable with their role in the process.

6. Failing to adequately prepare for the interview.

Like with the initial phone screening, hiring managers and panelists should adequately prepare to conduct a thoughtful interview. According to HubSpot Sales Manager Mike Fradette, it is common for candidates to speak to successes they’ve achieved at a surface level, however, by adequately preparing for the interview managers can be ready to dig deeper into the conversation.

He says:

“If you notice a candidate is not addressing a key topic during an interview, a good way to inquire about a specific experience is through preparation.

Managers should thoroughly review the candidate’s resumé to identify the competencies and achievements that candidate decided to showcase. Write them down and ensure you have focused discussion during the interview about these topics.”

By showing up to the interview prepared to speak to each individual candidate, managers and other members of the hiring team are in a better position to ask pointed, thoughtful follow-up questions, potentially identifying the best candidate.

7. Coming up with interview questions on the spot.

Though asking follow-up questions throughout the course of the conversation can be appropriate, both the interviewer and interviewee can benefit from having structured questions throughout the interview to keep the conversation on track. That’s why preparing a set of questions ahead of time is an important part of the interview process.

According to Niaya Love-Kirksey, a recruiter for HubSpot’s sales team, many candidates can ramble in their interview questions without providing a solid answer.

She recommends candidates follow the STAR method to answer interview questions by sharing the situation, what the task was, what action the candidate took, and the result. As you prepare questions for your candidates, keep this method in mind. If a candidate wouldn’t be able to answer the question using the STAR method, you may want to consider rephrasing it.

8. Not leaving time for questions at the end of the interview.

Do your best to allow at least five minutes for the candidate to ask you questions at the end of the interview. Their level of preparation and thoughtfulness behind their questions will give you a lot of insight into how they approach problems.

It will also give you an idea of how comfortable and effective they are being in the driver’s seat now that you’ve handed them the wheel.

The ability to make strong hires is a key competency for sales mangers. Check out our Sales Management Training to learn how to onboard and develop your reps.