It’s Halloween…What Can Hirers Learn From Today?

Halloween is a great time for kids and a chance to let the ‘spooky side’ have a play, usually with kids dressing up going from house to house looking for treats, which they happily consume in a matter of seconds afterwards. But what can kids trick or treating teach us about hiring? Suprisingly a lot!

Firstly, a bit of background: My son is 10, he has the Autism-based condition called Aspergers Syndrome, which means his social interaction skills are much lower than the average child, his ability to concentrate on only a certain area of interest to him far outweighs the rest and his frankness of talk leads to some interesting observations. One Halloween, whilst all the other kids were dressed up in all sorts of ghoulish costume, my son refused. He could not see the point of dressing up as something fake. We managed to get him to wear a toy hard hat and his t-shirt with a digger on it and suggested he be a digger driver. This lasted all of 20 minutes when the hat was tossed aside. Later, some other children asked who he was dressed as and why he didn’t dress up. His answer?: “I am who I am supposed to be”. Frank. To the point, and utterly, utterly true.

So what about kids and hiring? Well, look at it – they go from house to house looking for the thing they want – usually lollies and choccies. They don’t wait at their house to have lollies and choccies brought to them, but go out finding them. What a great lesson! If you are waiting around for a top candidate to come into your office, it won’t happen. Go out there and make yourself known. Be active on the social media sites and network where these candidates will be. Use who you know to point you in the right direction and get on the phone and get in contact with top candidates. Simply get out of the office and get in front of these candidates. Pumpkin-shaped bucket is optional.

Now, back to my son. The frankness of his reply is a great lesson – don’t offer platitudes. Don’t beat around the bush. What are you saying to a potential candidate and why will be the difference between grabbing them and losing them. Be spot on with what you are saying: “I’m contacting you because I have seen your work, am impressed and would like to discuss you coming to join us”. If you are directly contacting a candidate, make it all about them. Don’t go for the ‘oh, we may have some roles if you are interested’ wishy-washy statement. That’s a great way to lose them. Be frank, be upfront. Be my son!

Another point is that observing the kids having fun and interacting away from school showed a clear insight that taking people away from a more formalised structure allows them to be themselves. When these children are in school it is all very formal, with pictures of principals on the wall (and in our case crucifixes and Mary also adorn the walls). They interact, but within the confines of the school rules. Outside of that environment, they are able to be themselves and be a lot more open and playful. This is a great lesson when interviewing (and one I am a great advocate for): get out of the office. Hold an interview in a cafe, or a restaurant…heck, even a park! Get away from the formality of the office environment and allow the candidate to be relaxed. This in turn will allow you to observe the candidate in a more fitting and relaxed space, and judgements can often be better made by this observation as to cultural and team fit. Something of which should be high on your list of requirements.

These are just three lessons we can gain from my experiences with Halloween. What about you? Have you seen things that can translate across to the way we hire? Even the way we conduct business. Love to hear them!


Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #6 – Hiring Ourselves

How many times have we seen decisions made during a hiring process based on a simple case of distinct similarities? How many times have business owners / Directors / Hiring Managers hired someone who thinks, acts, behaves the same way they do?

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so) it happens far more often that we would care to admit.

Inexperienced employers fall into the same trap of hiring candidates who think, act, behave the same, who went to the same school or university, who follow the same football team, listen to the same music or drink at the same pub. These brilliant reasons to hire pretty much always fail.

Bizarre, huh?!

The thing is, once we start to hire those candidates that are carbon-copy of ourselves we run into two major risks:

  1. We hire the same behaviours and attitudes. This means we also hire the same flaws as we have. The issues here is that our flaws are in our approaches and attitudes, and if we get someone in with exactly the same approaches and attitudes we will double our flaws and ensure that growth is liable to a furthering of the inhibitors that we have
  2. There is no chance to inject new ideas and new blood by hiring similarities. As a business owner or CEO or Director, we have great ideas – it’s what got you growing thus far – but within that propensity to growth are things that hold us back, that we may not have thought of or that we cannot push ourselves to. This is where a different approach via the hiring of an employee with a different sense of ideals can be catalyst for the next phase of growth.

So why does this happen? Simple: it’s easy. Those that fall into the trap of hiring familiarity are after a quick, easy solution to their hiring conundrum. They have been bamboozled by someone who is their equal that they don’t even bother looking for the wood in the trees. The candidate is there, it’s comfortable to have someone alike, and the decision is an easy one. Bottom line is it is borne out of pure laziness. No challenge, no new ideas, just same old, same old.

Employers that hire with a view to growth and strategically aligned decisions tend to discard familiarity and go for candidates that will challenge them and provide an injection of new blood, ideals and methodologies that could be the difference between stagnation and growth. Without that view, and without that need to be challenged, businesses will plod along, not really experiencing the possibilities that come with sticking the neck out just a little.

Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #7 – Poor Reference Checks – Or Lack Thereof

What I find interesting in speaking with businesses about their hiring process is this: Reference checks are often an afterthought and poorly done – if done at all.

Decisions are made when all information is available. A quality decision is when all this information is in such a way as to make that final decision a mere formality. In other words, what effort is put in the accumulation of the information means the simplicity of the decision in the end.

Therefore, why do businesses neglect a solid form of information, or use it in such a way that leaves itself open for misinformation and poor-quality returns?

Reference checks are a great way (but of course not the only way) to achieve a solid background on a potential employee. Provided they are done right, they will provide details from someone who would know the qualities and skills of the candidate best – an ex-employer. However, whilst they are great information sources, the quality of this information is determined by three factors that must be – though not always – considered:

  1.  The questions asked
  2. The confirmation of the person giving the reference
  3. Listening to the referee

Where a lot of businesses fall over is asking questions that don’t give clear indications or that offer no relevance to the role at hand. Generic questions that are closed or can be broadly answered will fail to provide this indication. Questions around “Are they a good employee”, “Did they do a good job”, “Were they on time for work” and pointless and won’t go deeply into the character of the candidate…yet these are the most common questions asked of a referee. They will not provide the deep detail needed, nor provide an overall impression of how the candidate will fit in a working environment and will only result in bland generalisations as answers. As a tip, a great question is one that will put the referee on the spot, such as “Would you hire this person again? Why / Why not?

The number of reference checks that do not check the reference’s validity is staggeringly high. How do you know you are not talking to the candidate’s best friend or relative? If you have only a name and number to go by, and you haven’t verified the reference was in a direct supervisory role to the candidate and you don’t use the likes of Linked In or the main switch to do the verification, then you cannot be certain the reference you receive is going to be a quality one.

If businesses have got acknowledgement of who they are speaking to, and have some good questions to ask, why then do they not listen? Too many times business get answers but they don’t listen. As the majority of reference checks are conducted over the phone, you are unable to see physical signs of disgust, apprehension or other tell-tale signs that the words spoken don’t match the body saying them. Listening for pauses, breath exhalation, sighing, stumbling and other non-verbal sounds that could indicate issues with the candidate’s reference can sometimes provide more information than what is actually said. Problem is, not a lot of people doing reference checks listen.

Then there is the case of those who do not do reference checks in the first place…and if you are making a decision without input from a referee, you are not making a qualified one as this really is a step backwards in any hiring process. Forgeting or refusing to conduct on is a major no-no in any hiring situation and the only guarantee you will gain from it is that the final decision will be a poor one. Sure, you may get lucky with the candidate, but who is really willing to take that risk – especially when it is your business’s growth, reputation and branding on the line.

What Can The Coalition Government Teach Us About Hiring?

Yes, I’m going to get all political here, because it is so damn hard to ignore the clear parallels there are with hiring right.

All over the news and social media lately has been the rorting scandal impacting the new Federal Government. The response from the new Prime Minister has been curiously lacking, and the words they spoke in opposition have not translated to actions in government. This has caused some confusion in the electorate and a lot of people are questioning whether a the decision to elect the Coalition to government has indeed been a good one. The polls – regardless of how scientific they are or are seen to be – all indicate there was no ‘honeymoon period’ for the new government and there is a sense of something is not quite right. In fact I heard one commentator declare it a case of buyers remorse. Another said that this is exactly like someone winning over an employer in an interview but not living up to the expectations created in that interview.

From a hiring point of view, that last statement is the most lucid. What lessons can we draw from federal politics and the election to make selecting candidates easier?

The first thing to realise is that decisions to hire MUST be made with as much information as you can gather. The interview (or the election campaign) is not the only source of information one should use to base a decision on. Background checks, feedback from previous employers, research and even behavioural testing can all be utilised to create a picture of not only who a candidate is and if they fit into the self-descriptive picture they created in the interview, but also providing a clear picture what that person will bring into the role and how they will approach their work.

How many times have we heard the axiom ‘past behaviours predicts future behaviours’? Then how many times has that axiom been ignored? In this digital age, we can become far more armed with information than we did even 5-10 years ago. The decision we make today should be some of the most informed and detailed ones ever.

No matter how good they sound, how many promises they make and how much they come across as a nice person, if you make a decision based on only one element of a hiring process, be prepared for not only your expectations to be unmet but to encounter some real problems as a result.

Whether this government will be eventually classed as a ‘bad hire’ is yet to be determined.

Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #8 Awful Interviewing

Providing you have completed a solid process to this point, you are ready to interview. The interview is generally the first time you have ever laid eyes on the candidate for your role and presents the best opportunity to verify they are indeed good for the role.


It is here that you will really start to determine if the person sitting in front of you is employee material – which is why the questions you ask will determine if you make the right decision.

However, too many interviewers fall into a whole world of problems when this process kicks off. Via inexperience, fear or downright ignorance, the mistakes made during the interview are amongst the most common.

Firstly, the trap of asking the same generic, vanilla questions gaining the same, vanilla response and shedding no sufficient light as to the candidate’s suitability is a common awful interview mistake.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself
  • What are you looking for in a new role?
  • Tell us about a time you offered great customer service
  • What kind of working environment do you like working in?
  • Why did you leave your last role?


Use a couple of these to gain some benchmarking, but using every question only as your interview time and time again is simply forgoing the uniqueness of the person in front of you for generalities. You simply won’t get the information you are after to make an informed decision.

To put it plainly: if you ask these same questions over and over again, you will get uniformity in the answers – regardless of who is sitting in front of you.

Ask questions that are interesting, that probe deeply into a candidates skills, experience and behaviours AND ask questions that reflect you have actually read the resume (and not in the 5 minutes before the interview itself!). Remember, you are qualifying an individual, not one in a series of clones. Therefore, the questions must suit the individuality of the candidate.

Remember though to keep the questions above board. You cannot ask questions that fall into the realm of ‘illegal’ which could place you and your business in a precarious legal position. Keep questions on:

  • sex;
  • disability/impairment;
  • marital status;
  • political and religious belief or activity;
  • race;
  • status as a parent or carer;
  • age;
  • physical features;
  • pregnancy and potential pregnancy;
  • industrial activity;
  • personal association with a person who has any of these attributes.

Out of the picture. It is an easy trap to fall into, so best to consider that questions including these:

  • How old are you? What is your date of birth?
  • Do you speak English at home?
  • How many sick days did you take last year?
  • Are you married? What is your maiden name?
  • Do you reside with another person?
  • Who cares for the children while you are working?
  • Are you gay?

Are illegal.

(Thanks to


Another thought is that the interview is always a structured question / answer format, very formal and very precise…and very dull. It is unlikely you will identify the behaviours / personality of the candidate in this structured format. What is wrong with firstly holding the interview away from the more formal setting and into something like a quiet cafe or similar? Allowing the candidate to relax in a setting outside of a formal office gives some worthwhile information about the candidate’s approaches / behaviours that may not be evident in that formal setting. From there, turn the interview into a conversation. That way, you are able to get the candidate to be in a more relaxed situation which allows them to feel more comfortable and allow greater flow of information and detail.


Ask the average business owner who conducts all interviews in their business and the answer invariable is themselves, or if they have a HR representative, them. Far too often, the most vital tool in the interviewing arsenal lies unused: the team. An interesting article by Chester Elton, a US business expert, called ‘Your Team Can Smell a Rat’ ( confirms exactly what I have been saying for years: get your team involved in your interview process. In this article, the story related says that it was the team’s feedback about a candidate’s unsuitability to a role that, whilst being ignored by management, turned out to be right – at a significant cost to the business.

The thing is, the very people that know who will fit into their team are those who will be working with them day in and day out. They should have the opportunity to assess for themselves the suitability of the candidate. On top of this, they should be listened to when offering feedback. It is a risky move to ignore the team’s call based on personal feelings or opinions.

The tale here is the get your interview right. You are not going to get a better chance to find out the fit of a candidate in any other forum than the interview. Don’t leave it at one interview – you will never be able to make an informed decision based on one interview…unless it is a really long interview which is neither smart nor comfortable for either party. Know the questions to ask, and what information you want to gain from it to make a qualified decision. Know where to hold it and get your whole team involved. Only then will you get to a spot where you can safely move into the next phase of the hiring process safe in the knowledge you have gleaned a solid view of the candidate and can decide accordingly on progress.

Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #9 Panic Hiring

Dont PanicThe moment when a staff member leaves or an influx of new work hits a business is usually the time it reduces to panic stations in an attempt to replace or cater. It is this panic, though, that breeds poor hiring decisions, as they are based on nothing but a simple concept of “they will do”.

“They Will Do” is code for simplistic and pretty much baseless decisions – they look good, speak well, seem to have some of the skills…and they are there. They are hired in an instant, usually forgoing the rudimentary background checks, and are thrust into the role

…and it is then that the business realises it has made a bit of an error.

As per Hiring Mistake #10, the skills check out fine, but there is insufficient details on the fit. Therefore the whole hiring process is compromised as it was not fully completed. Likewise, the employee is generally put into the role, given a list of tasks that they may need some skills-updating on, has no proper hand-over or orientation, and is promptly placed on the back-foot. Putting a new employee on the back-foot so early into their role spells danger for any business, as that new employee becomes more and more disillusioned and more and more likely to look for a fast exit…and the business finds it is back to square one once again.

Hiring is something that cannot be done quickly, or with a number of short-cuts. It has to be done carefully. Whether it is to replace a staff member or to cater to increased workloads, no amount of time saving by a quick-fire hire will replace the time required to re-do the hire because the first or second or subsequent hires didn’t work out.

Business cannot afford to run around screaming “I need a new employee NOW!”, because it is the best way to ensure the end result is a failed hiring process and a bad hire. When we panic, all logic seems to desert us. Francis P. Cholle, in Psychology Today says that “Panic often leads to drastic decision making, throwing a holistic solution right out the window”. When you have a situation that needs to be solved, sense and consideration must be at the forefront. Hiring, particularly, requires a level head and clear mind – panic or stress offers neither.

Finally, when you consider that a bad hire can cost a business anywhere from 30% to 5 times the annual salary of that hire, it can end up being a significant cost to the business on the basis of one, incredibly careless hiring decisions stemmed from panic.