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by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR 

Making Poor Selection Decisions

Especially if you have not done a good job of gathering information about candidates, it’s easy to rely on one of these misleading factors:

  • Halo. This means being swayed by one factor that’s great while ignoring other important factors that are poor.
  • Recency. This means being swayed by one recent triumph while ignoring past failures.
  • Extraneous. This means being swayed by an unimportant factor like successes in areas not related to the job.
  • Glibness. This happens when you have an inspiring and enjoyable chat but fail to get around to talking about business.
  • Background. This means being swayed by an impressive degree or a list of impressive people and companies with whom the person has worked, while ignoring the fact that there is no evidence the person can do the job.

Failing to “Test” Key KSAs 

If there is a key knowledge, skill, or ability that you can test, don’t rely on the interview.

For example, if hiring a writer, have the person write something in your style. (By the way, such testing tends to reduce the importance of the interview—if the person can write, you want him or her, and if the person can’t write, you don’t, even if the person is entertaining, knowledgeable, bright, and sociable.)

Failure to Do a Reasonable Background Check

There are turkeys and eagles and you want to hire eagles. Unfortunately, many turkeys are skilled at looking like eagles during the interview. And that’s where the background check comes in.

Talk to former bosses, verify education and certification, and do other checks as appropriate. Make the attempt to talk to former employers even if they won’t tell you much; it’s important to show that you did what you could in case there is ever a claim of negligent hiring (“You should have known that this person had a history of violence.”).

Overeager on Social Media Research

Should you do a social media check? The pros are that you may obtain a seemingly truer look at the candidate. Unfortunately, there’s a tradeoff, and that is, you’re likely to find out information you don’t want, like race, disability, etc. As they say, you can’t unring that bell, and it opens you up to future charges of discrimination that wouldn’t have held water if you hadn’t done the check.

Overeager hiring managers are likely to fall into this trap without training. To avoid this if you are doing social media background checks, most experts recommend the following:

  • Delay the check until late in the hiring process when you probably know most of the protected information.
  • Have a third party (could be HR or an outside agency) and report only appropriate information.
  • Avoid any deception in accessing sites.
  • If you find something negative and deny employment on that basis, print the page out to document what you found.