What Are The Common Hiring Mistakes?

what are the common hiring mistakes

When it comes to hiring, the stakes are fairly high. Although no manager wants to hire the wrong person, with the recruitment process being so time-intensive it’s easy for mistakes to creep in. Through the loss of time and resources, a bad hire proves costly in the long run, especially in a technical industry like Life Sciences, where skill sets are so specialised.

At On Q Recruitment, we’ve got 100 years of combined experience in the Life Sciences industry and have seen a lot of slipups in our time. Here’s our advice to avoiding the most common hiring mistakes to ensure you recruit the Life Sciences professionals that are right for your business.


Prepare Appropriately

Before picking up a CV, preparation is critical. Although it might be easy to use an old or recycled job description, it’s a good idea to spend time ensuring that it reflects the current role accurately. This can often be a painful and time-consuming process, however, in the long run, it will definitely pay off.

Don’t forget about the administration. Too often, the recruitment process gets off to a quick start, only to be delayed due to a lack of availability in interviewers’ diaries. This is especially common with second-round interviews when other senior stakeholders are likely to be involved in the final selection. With this in mind, we recommend pre-booking time in diaries, even if they’re just placeholders.

Whilst organising multiple rounds of interviews, it’s always best to keep the process as efficient as possible. Aim to have the first and second interviews completed within a matter of days. If you wait weeks, it only increases the chances of top candidates being snared by competitors with a more streamlined recruitment process.

Also, ensure that someone is owning the process of communicating with unsuccessful candidates in a timely manner. Not only will this protect your company’s reputation, but you never know when you might need to delve into the same talent pool again.

Benchmarking Salaries

How does your salary package compare to competitors? If it’s company policy to pay in the top 25th percentile, it’s a much easier proposition. However, if it’s sitting at the 50th percentile, while insisting on a minimum of X number of years’ experience (without a clear USP), the task of attracting top talent becomes more challenging. Why would a candidate value your role over active vacancies? What would entice them away from their current role? Are you prepared to compromise on minimum criteria or can the remuneration range be stretched?

Talent Attraction: Know your Unique Selling points

The chances are your ideal candidate is from a pool of similar companies or competitors to yours. Do you know what the USP is with your current vacancies? Knowing this will not only help you write better job advertisements, but also promote your position to candidates during the interview process. Whether it’s promotion opportunities, location, your company’s pipeline or its values, getting this right will help you attract more of the right candidates.


A great way to get an idea of a candidate’s suitability, without the commitment of a fully-fledged interview, is to carry out a telephone interview. They’re ideal for gathering initial information to help with the shortlisting decision. For example, if there are hesitations about someone’s salary or where they live, this can be discussed quickly over the phone.

Whilst telephone interviews don’t take the place of a face-to-face interview, they’re quicker, more convenient and cost effective, and allow you to talk to a greater volume of people in a shorter period of time.

Face-to-Face Interviews

Face-to-face interviews are the most common. However, it doesn’t mean this process isn’t susceptible to mistakes. The key is to be prepared. Spend 10-15 minutes beforehand reviewing the candidate’s resume in detail. Take detailed notes and be sure to ask a mixture of questions, assessing technical expertise, behavioural competencies, as well as their motivations for moving organisations. In addition, to avoid unconscious bias, make sure all candidates are asked the same set of questions.

Checking References

The gold standard with reference checks is two recent direct hiring managers. Especially if there are currently out of work. Towards the end of the interview process, gauge from candidates the people they would nominate as their referees. At this point, observing body language is critical – their reactions can be very telling.

Avoid the common trap of accepting referees who aren’t direct line managers. If line managers are not offered, ask why. These days, candidates can usually find all previous managers on LinkedIn, so there shouldn’t be any reasons why they can’t be contacted. And just because you trust your assessment and really like the candidate, it doesn’t mean you should accept below par referees. Treat the process of reference checking as you would the interview, be prepared and ask in-depth questions.

Stay True to Culture Fit

With the majority of current teams swamped with a heavy workload, culture fit can be pushed aside to make an appointment, especially after a long and protracted recruitment process in a candidate tight market. Even though it might be tempting, resist the urge to compromise on culture and values. Instead, hire a contractor and revisit the market at a later date – your team will thank you in the end! Or instead, hire for potential.

Hiring for Potential

If you do have to compromise, this is where hiring for potential can be powerful. Recognising candidates who aren’t the perfect fit right now, but have the skills to excel in the future, can provide enormous value.

Ultimately, finding someone motivated, who has potential and whose values align with the company culture can be more beneficial. With a well-planned training program, it can mean you are ahead after six months, alleviating your team’s workload, rather waiting on the ‘perfect ‘candidate to appear on the market.


Hiring top talent is an important decision. Remember, know your USP, know the current market salary, prepare an accurate position description, book time in key stakeholders’ calendars. Aim for relevant referees. Consider compromising on experience but never on cultural fit.

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