Selecting the right people is a critical leadership lever that drives growth. Employee selection is the ultimate pay-me-now or pay-me-later leadership proposition. Do it effectively now and reap the benefits of a high-performing team later. Do it fast and cheap now, and pay the price later of increased turnover, underperforming teams, a diluted culture and drain on managerial time.

The cost of turnover averages 40% of annual salary in hard costs only (i.e., does not include ripple costs). Although there are many things managers can do to reduce turnover, making the right selection decision is where you get your bang for your buck.

Reduce your turnover by just 10 employees with a $40,000 average salary, and you have just returned $160,000 back to your bottom line. To help you reduce your turnover and improve your bottom line, below are solutions to the top 10 employee selection mistakes.

To help you reduce your turnover and improve your bottom line, below are solutions to the top 10 employee selection mistakes.

#1 – Use only “gut feel” approach.

I have found no relationship between years of experience hiring people and effective selection, so the experienced manager is no more effective than the rookie manager. Experienced managers tend to rely more on gut feel and stray from validated practices for effective selection.

Experience and intuition are important but so are more reliable and valid ways to collect data such as testing, simulations and work samples. No one aspect of the selection process should be relied on exclusively; rather, they should be weighted based on the company’s values and the job requirements.

Design and train on a selection process that contains various forms of data collection (qualitative and quantitative). Design your process and weight each selection component based on your company’s values.

 #2 – Don’t know what you are looking for.

It is hard to find “it” when you do not know what you are looking for.

Like most decision-making, employee selection is fundamentally emotional. Therefore, it is important to define and prioritize the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for the job in advance. This enables clear thinking to establish a specific position profile. Yes, it takes time, but it is an effective use of time versus “shooting in the dark”.

#3 – Screen in vs. screen out.

Most interviewers inherently look for characteristics that match the company culture and job requirements. They want to find a winning match. This perspective subtly but significantly makes us filter in good attributes and rationalize why negative attributes will not be a problem if we hire this person. For example, I have heard, “Even though he was a bit awkward, I think once he gets comfortable with our products he could make a good sales presentation.”

View your job as an investigator who is looking for any little clue- any reason – why this candidate will not be successful.

#4 – Talk 80% and listen 20%.

The reverse should be true. If you are talking too much, then you are selling the job (see #4 below) instead of screening the candidate.

The interviewer should listen 80% of the time.

#5 – Take candidates at their word.

Do not settle for vague general responses to be polite.

You are on a data collection mission. Probe for specific examples and situations where the candidate has demonstrated the success factors you are looking for. Let the candidate know at the beginning of the interview that your goal is to fully and specifically understand his/her capabilities.

#6 – Give in to work and market pressures.

The vast majority of managers hire too quickly and fire too slowly. In a tight labor market, it is not uncommon for a hiring manger to meet the candidate only once then make an offer. When candidate supply is plentiful, managers tend to miss the opportunity to sift through lots of candidates to find the very best fit due to “lack of time”. It is interesting that these same mangers can find the time to deal with performance issues resulting from poor selection. Again, it’s a pay-me-now or pay-me-later proposition.

Use the 3x3x3 Rule: 3 employees interview 3 candidates 3 different times. You are thinking, “All that time for one hire?” I can guarantee you that you will spend much more time than that if you make the wrong hire.

#7 – Selling the job.

This is another mistake that can be exacerbated in a tight labor market. Managers want to sell the candidate on their company because they know that the candidate likely has an offer on the table from a competing company.

The effective, long-term objective is to look for a good “fit” for the job and the company, regardless of the labor market conditions. Southwest Airlines approach is to “hire for attitude and train for skill”. The financial and workforce records for Employers of Choice, such as Southwest, speak for themselves.

#8 – Oblivious to the legal Do’s and Don’ts.

This may not prevent you from making the right selection decision, but it sure will increase your company’s liabilities.

Ignorance is no excuse. Know, train, and enforce the law in your selection processes.

#9 – Go with the Flow.

This comes down to lack of preparation and relying on those “favorite questions” and gut feel. Most interviewers do not take control of the interview.

Once you have identified the success factors and prioritized them, prepare questions (and appropriate follow-up questions/probes) that will extract the necessary information from the candidate. We provide our clients 15 pages of sample questions, by topic, to help them add purpose and power to their interview questions. Remember, it is your interview. You set the process, timing, roles, pace and questioning — not the candidate. This requires thoughtful preparation.

#10 – Listen only to candidate’s words.

90+% of all communication is nonverbal, so being attuned to the multitude of nonverbal cues provides an interviewer with much richer information about the candidate.

Don’t stop at the traditional cues: eye contact, posture, facial expressions and gestures. Consider intonation, pacing of speech, energy level, self-confidence. How did you feel after the interview? Enthused, tired, impressed? Perhaps those who work with the candidate will feel the same way.

So, there you have it.  Select well today, prosper tomorrow.