Seven Critical Recruiting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Adding someone to your team is a very important exercise. Getting it right can have tremendous outcomes for you and the recruit. But getting it wrong can be quite disastrous for all involved.

Just a few years ago, during my time in sport, one recruiting decision comes to mind as an example of how pivotal this can be.

We were sitting not far from the bottom of the ladder with a few games left in the season, following the departure of a key player and a series of losses. The coaching staff had to sacrifice family time at Christmas and huddle together for a mid-season recruitment.

Given the holiday season and the external pressure and stress, it would have been easy to take short-cuts or break away from proven learnings. Instead, the hard-work, commitment and resilience of the coaching team, came through and not only did the recruitment result in a Championship that season, the contribution of that one person continued for many years on.

It is rare for a single signing to have such lasting benefits on a team. Far more frequently, however, we’ve all seen the damage a bad signing can be to an organisation.

Following are seven tips and lessons garnered from our experiences in both sport and business that we hope may assist in avoiding such mistakes.


Whether it is replacing a recent departure or filling a newly created position, having a clear process is important. The constant and urgent pressures of managing the organisation or the team can sometimes result in leaders not paying enough attention to the recruitment process. We often find it is delegated without much clarity, or given a lower priority than it deserves. This often results in ambiguity on what is being sought, delay in decision-making, exclusion of key stake-holders and the like.


A good starting point is to ask what are the learnings from the recent departure and how can we avoid them in future. If it is a new role, input from co-workers on what the role is and what key strengths and talents are required. The advice of a HR professional (internal or external) can be quite critical in this regard. Quite often people make the mistake of creating a job description and then sending it over to a recruitment agency. We recommend having them involved in the process from the start.


Above all else, character first. The dangerous results of these being just words are evidenced almost every day in the business, sporting and news journals. Focusing too much on results, profits and winning whilst ignoring behaviour, morals and ethics is never OK. Many leaders are unemployed or in jail and many more should be for their singular pursuit of success over decency. The super-star sales person, the toxic technical genius, the charismatic CEO have often been known to bring down entire organisations when the culture-fit is not considered.


It is useful to ask questions such as: What are our values and behaviours? How will this new person, not just fit in, but uphold and champion them? Are we willing to sacrifice what we stand for? Will we be a better organisation for it?
In our work, we recommend considering the 3H match – Honesty, Humility and Hard-Work. How does the new recruit shape up in these three areas (or other prescribed values) compared to us and our aspirational standards in this regard? How have they performed to date – evidenced on previous work, non-work (even socially)? If not ideal, is s/he likely to change, step-up and adapt?


We have long held that the miraculous power of teams is simply this:

As individuals we will always be limited by our weaknesses but in a team we can perform to our greatest strengths. With good management, weaknesses become irrelevant as each person’s complimentary strengths can be harnessed to have a compounding effect.

It’s a leader’s responsibility to maximise strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant. S/he accomplishes this by constantly ensuring individual weaknesses are complimented and supported by others in the team.
Therefore, every recruitment requires an iterative process of identifying what key strengths or skills are needed for the team to perform.
In addition to competency, we strongly recommend considering the suitability of a candidate’s personality to the role.

Key Emotionalities such as Concernedness, Sentimentality, Interdependence and Harm-Avoidance can be good indicators.
Understanding how one’s Affinities such as Sociability, Congeniality, Discipline, and Creativity match the role is critical.


Are we clear on what we need? What key skills and talents are we looking for with the new recruit? How do we screen for this? Are there tests, people and processes (internally or externally) that we can use for this purpose? How do we stay objective and avoid bias?


Cast a wide net. Search far and wide. Most organisations do not embark on a comprehensive search. There is often a temptation to hire a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, or someone from the organisation’s network. This may work on the rare occasion, but there is a greater risk of limiting options and, more concerning, lacking diversity.
Falling victim to the old adage – it’s not what you know, but who you know – leaves many organisations recruiting ‘more of the same’,’pale, male and stale’ or ‘group think’ – not to mention nepotism and potential relationship conflicts.
On the other hand a disciplined search exhausts numerous options – even people that may not have originally been envisioned – a different mind-set, unusual talent-mix, unconsidered skill-set, sex, age-bracket, country-of-origin…endless possibilities that may have been lost simply by settling for a narrow search.


Stay narrow on character and wide on everything else. Invest energy and resources in your search. Whilst internal talent and networks must be included, limiting the search to just that, is not advisable. Instead use all available resources to extend a wide search. Be open-minded. If the right candidate is not immediately available don’t settle for second-best, you’ll simply be repeating the entire process in the not too distant future. Given the total cost of staff churn, investing in a diligent search may end up being far less expensive than a quick-fix.


Whilst the past doesn’t always dictate the future, it provides a good indication for it. It’s imperative that past results and achievements are taken seriously when selecting someone.
It is startling how many people are taken at their word, face value, or first impressions – only to be found out later on.
A comprehensive review of one’s performance to-date, experiences, accomplishments, even mistakes is important in the decision-making process. There may be very good and plausible explanations for both successes and failures that must the taken into account. This allows for their calibration and projection of likely future outcomes.
A common mistake is to over-estimate the ability of the leader or organisation in un-tapping perceived potential. Too many coaches have been sacked for banking on a player’s potential. Likewise many leaders are left wanting when the promising talent doesn’t deliver.


Be diligent in the reference checking process. Qualify the contacts to ensure they are able to provide reliable and accurate intelligence on the candidate. With permission, investigate other sources of information, if necessary. Be comprehensive with the reference inquiry. Validate currency of qualifications, certifications, work-experience timelines, and roles. Detailed digital screening can provide deep insights from various perspectives including social media.


Inducting, orienting or on-boarding employees can have a lasting impact on their time with the organisation.

First impressions set the agenda and expectations. What is required and performed on the very first day often provides a good idea what lies ahead.

Failing to manage this effectively leaves both the team and the candidate on the back foot.
The very first day in a new environment can be intimidating for even the most confident person. It’s the manager’s responsibility to ensure this is avoided.


We see great value in what we call ‘Welcome Days’ or ‘Trial Days’. Giving all parties the opportunity to get to know each other by spending a day or two working together in a trial or as close to it as possible can be invaluable.
Having a mentor or ‘buddy’ for the first month is particularly helpful in large or unusual work environments.
Structured orientation is under-rated and worth consideration even for start-ups and small groups.
It’s also critical to provide everyone that joins the team clarity on values and behaviours: ‘what we do around here’ and ‘what we do not do around here’.


Finding the right person is just the beginning. Having them stay, perform, add value, align purpose and contribute is as important, if not more.
It is not uncommon to hear of new additions to the team unsure what is desired of them well past their initiation.
Lack of commitments and accountabilities can leave them fuzzy on expectations, goals, targets, key results and the like.
‘I have no idea, I just work here,’ is an oft-used complaint. ‘My boss micro-manages me’ is another. These usually stem from not providing adequate information and knowledge to get the job done; or ambiguity on empowerment to execute.
In the longer term, there may be insufficient attention being paid to how one best engages with the team.


Employees stay longer in organisations and perform better when they are in a safe work environment, belong – feel like they are part of the team, have the information they require to do their job, are empowered to execute, and are fully engaged.

We believe there are Six key factors to Full Engagement: Reward, Recognition, Voice, Choice, Learning & Legacy.

Every individual is unique and has varying needs in each of these. Getting them right, however, can be the difference between success and failure.


marvin Consulting Group uses proprietary analytics to gain insights in Character & Values, Communication Modalities, Affinities & Emotionalities and Engagement preferences together with the latest digital tools to assist organisations in their talent search.

Our work in management and people extends over two decades in business, sport, private, public and non-profit sectors.
Speak to Saarrah Mathinthiran on +61 8 6377 7607 –