Hiring is one of the toughest processes to get right. It’s never an exact science, even for insurance agencies with vast resources. In a previous blog, “Culture Club…” we discussed how a hiring mistake can be extremely costly to your insurance agency. It’s not just the hard cost of wages and salary, but soft costs which can be much more damaging to an agency.
However, agencies large and small often make critical hiring mistakes that can be avoided. The first step is to be aware of these common mistakes. Below is a list of the 13 fatal hiring mistakes agencies commonly make. These mistakes are made across the spectrum of all agency sizes, and hiring manager experience. Do some of these look familiar to you?
1. “I love that guy, he was so outgoing. Definitely will be a great salesperson.”
The “gift of gab” is not an indicator for success.
Personality is often the reason an employee is hired, especially for customer facing positions. Unfortunately, outward personality is one of the lowest indicators of future employee success. Just because a candidate is outgoing or friendly, it does not mean this person has all of the other required success traits for the position.
Don’t get me wrong, a person should absolutely be likeable, a good communicator, and represent the company in a professional manner, but these should not be the primary factors for selection.
2. “She’s a slam dunk. Did you see who she worked for?”
Hiring a candidate based on his/her previous employer is another common mistake. Some agencies make a practice of hiring only from competitors, while others are simply impressed by the company name. Just because a candidate worked for a notable agency/company or a direct competitor, it does not mean he or she will be successful for you.
Remember your agency is different and unique, with its own culture and identity. The candidate must be a fit for your organization in order to thrive.
3. “He reminds me so much of me…”
Hiring in your own image is a common mistake. It’s not so much an ego issue as it is a human issue when hiring managers make the mistake of hiring someone just like them. We are all naturally drawn to people that are like us, or share similar backgrounds and stories. Unfortunately, just because someone is like you, it does not mean he/she is you. More importantly, is “someone like you” the best fit for the open position?
4. “She didn’t have any questions. She knew the job. She’s done this for 20 years.”
Prior experience is often the primary factor many agencies utilize for sourcing, let alone selecting a candidate for a position. However, prior experience has to be weighed carefully in consideration. Too often agencies place a heavier emphasis on experience vs. other traits such as: prior performance, decision making, future potential, motivation, work ethic, and other critical factors.
Experience also brings habits both good and bad, and a “way of doing things.” Do those habits and processes fit your agency? These issues must be flushed out during the interview process.
Sometimes, a candidate that is “hired up” will produce better results than a veteran that has performed the same tasks for years. How many technology companies would gladly hire Mark Zuckerberg today to be the CEO of their companies? Yet, he never ran a company until Facebook was founded.
5. “Anyone is better than no one. We just need to hire someone fast.”
Hiring out of desperation or just for the sake of hiring is a costly mistake. The rationale is that someone, a warm body, is better than no one. An old joke we used to say when I was a headhunter was, “Can he/she fog a mirror?”
The reality is that it does not matter how high or low level the position is. This hire is a part of your organization and what it represents. As discussed in the blog “Culture Club…”, the soft costs of bad hires are enormously high. Think of it this way, would you say to yourself,
“I just need to marry someone, anyone is better than no one?”
6. “I don’t give a Sh%* if he pisses people off, he can sell!”
This was actually a statement a sales manager once said to me when we were discussing each other’s hiring needs. While other hiring managers may not say it so bluntly like this individual, these decisions do occur frequently in the industry.
It is a given that you need to hire someone who can produce, especially if this is a sales position. But what are you willing to sacrifice along the way if this person upsets everyone else on the team?
A single hire can affect the dynamics of a team and disrupt the entire culture of an agency. A hire that “rubs” everyone wrong can be fatal to that team and the agency as a whole. You may gain sales in the short term, but lose something much more in the long run.
7. “I can train her. I can train anyone.”
Some hiring managers are overconfident in their own ability or the agency’s ability to train a new hire. Don’t get me wrong, training is critical to the initial success of an employee. However, training is not the ultimate factor for long-term success for any employee. Even the most recognized training organizations in the world still have problems with employee performance. It’s not due to the lack of training, but rather the selection process of those employees.
8. “He won’t need any training, we can plug him right it.”
Opposite to number seven, hiring managers sometimes want to skip training and hire someone with experience to do the job right away. I’ve seen this with carriers and agencies when hiring managers want to take the easy route and hire a “plug and play.” However, similar to number four, just because someone has done the job before, does that mean he will do it the way your agency needs things to be done?
Even a “plug and play” hire needs training, development and support to be successful in the long run. This shortcut should not be the primary hiring decision.
9. “It was a great interview. I told him all the reasons why he needs to work here.”
Hiring managers sometimes make the mistake of being the “talker” in the interview. They are so excited about their agency and the opportunity that they spend the bulk of the interview talking.
An interview should be a sales call where the hiring manager or interviewer is the one buying. The candidate is the salesperson. The hiring manager’s job is to ask the questions and drill down into the answers.
It doesn’t mean the hiring manager shouldn’t sell the opportunity, but that should not be the focus of the interview.
10. “He’s had a few jobs but he told me he’s excited about working here and wants to be here long term.”
Some candidates have made honest mistakes in their career or are victims of economic conditions. The great recession of 2008 was a major factor for many individuals, including myself, to have a “blip” of instability on the resume during that time frame.
However, other candidates simply job hop. It is critical a hiring manager does not make excuses on behalf of the candidate. Instead, a hiring manager should really focus in on the reasons for instability and make an accurate assessment.
11. “I trust my gut, she will be good hire.”
Hiring managers often times rely on their “gut” when making a hiring decision. This is especially true for experienced managers, who may over rely on gut or experience, over the established selection process.
While intuition and experience are helpful in the decision process, they should never be the sole deciding factor, especially when it contradicts what was discovered during the interview process.
From my personal experience, your gut is most accurate if something doesn’t “sit right,” or “feel right.” Whenever I’ve gone against my gut and chose to hire a candidate anyway, it has always come back and burned me.
12. “… I don’t know, why don’t we have him talk to Bob to see what he thinks."
A consistent interview process is critical to hiring success. Even if you run a small agency or are hiring your first employee, developing and adhering to a consistent interview process for each candidate is imperative to the selection process.
This includes the number of steps, interviewers involved, what each step entails, and the questions asked during the interviews. The more consistent the process, the more consistent the results. Even if you are the sole interviewer and decision maker, developing a consistent process is key to proper selection.
13. “She’s not looking to leave her current company, but if we can pay her X, we can get her.”
In a previous blog, “Tales of a Hired Gun,” we discussed the pitfalls of bringing in talent that is beyond the traditional compensation range the agency can usually afford. These hires have a high failure rate due to the financial stress it puts on the agency, which creates poor decision making, and the unreasonable pressure for the new hire to deliver instant results.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recruit exceptional talent. It simply means you need to understand the financial commitment and potential consequences. If you choose to move forward, you and the hire must be on the same page with expectations and time frame for results. If you aren’t in sync, your results will be disastrous.
The above 13 mistakes are just a sample of common mistakes that are made. It is important for agencies large and small to develop a consistent interview and selection process in order to consistently hire top talent that is best suited for their agency. The money and time spent in learning and developing the best hiring process for your agency will yield returns well beyond your investment.
In our upcoming private membership area, we will be launching “Hire4Excellence, 5 Steps to Identify, Attract, and Select Top Insurance Talent,” where we will dive deep into the interviewing and selection process, and help you develop the winning formula to hire the best talent for your agency. Register to receive updates and additional information on the program.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have a story to share about one of these fatal mistakes? Is there another item you would add to this list? Please share in the comments below.