The 3 Hiring Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

I blew it. The voice in the back of my head was arguing with itself. On the one hand it was saying, “Don’t hire ‘Jim’. There’s something wrong with him.”

On the other hand, the voice was saying, “Brett, you need help in this area. You should hire Jim. He’s got a wealth of experience. The whole board has interviewed him and loves him. Two board members have worked with him previously. He’ll help close funding. Just do it, Brett! Hire Jim.”

The first said, “Brett, he’s all of those things, but he’s just a little off. Are you really sure about this?”

I responded, “Yes, I’m sure about this. I am going to make an offer to Jim.”

And then we hired him.

Months later, as we were in the process of closing funding, Jim told me he had consulted a few years ago for another venture-backed company. I didn’t remember seeing it on Jim’s C.V. The chairman of venture-backed company was a personal friend, so I called him and asked about Jim. Here’s what I heard:

  • Jim was an employee, not a consultant
  • Jim was fired after 6 months on the job

It seems Jim lied to me.

Jim had to leave the company.

More important, the voice in my head was right.

Ignoring the voice in your head, especially regarding personnel decisions, can be catastrophic. Having a senior person leave during fund raising can potentially cost you the funds, so we could have lost everything. Fortunately, it didn’t.

Obviously, I should have listened to the voice in my head. There are three other things I should have done:

  1. Reference checks. I figured I didn’t need to do them because two board members were personally vouching for Jim. Hey, if they have worked with Jim before, and they say Jim is the best, and the other board members like Jim, well, what am I worrying about? I already have the reference checks done, right? Wrong! Dumb, dumb, and dumber! You should always do reference checks.
  2. Backdoor checks. It is a connected world, and everyone knows everyone. I could have easily done backdoor checks on Jim. You have to take in context what you are hearing, but checking with mutual contacts about a candidate is essential. Why are backdoor checks so important? You tend to get more candid answers then you do from references the candidate suggests.
  3. Wait until the facts match your instincts. You need to keep to your disciplines. I was under a lot of pressure to hire someone, and I let the pressure to hire make me move more quickly than I should have. The Board really liking Jim didn’t match my gut that something is wrong. I should have kept digging until the facts and my instincts matched up. I didn’t, and it nearly cost us our funding.

I’m smarter than that. I suspect you are too. I should have been disciplined. When you’re hiring, you should too.

Oh, and those voices in my head? They’re still at it.

The voices tell me that that’s all for now,


Photo: Fotolia