June 15, 2021
Hiring 08 July 2020
How to Avoid Hiring Mistakes Commonly Made by First-Time Business Owners
Tiffany Rowe

As any seasoned business can tell you, a tremendous amount of time and effort is required to get a startup off the ground. In working to ensure the success of your business, you’ll need a trustworthy, highly competent staff by your side. However, hiring the best person for every job can prove difficult for business owners who have never been in charge of staffing. As a result, many fledgling entrepreneurs inadvertently engage in unwise hiring practices that create additional challenges for their businesses. 

Startup owners who are serious about staffing their enterprises with the right people should make a point of avoiding the following blunders:

Hiring Friends and Family Members 

Wanting to give jobs to friends and family members is understandable, particularly if you happen to be in a position to do so. While such an arrangement occasionally works out, it’s generally not a good idea to hire people from your inner circle. 

Unless a friend or family member is uniquely qualified for a certain position, hiring your nearest and dearest can often breed contempt among employees who landed their jobs based on qualifications. Bryn Butolph, CEO and founder of Eat Clean Meal Prep says, 

Hiring friends or family is always a bad idea. I know the inclination to have an easy hire, or hook up a friend seems like a good idea...but it never is! Running a business comes with a lot of responsibility, so be fair when hiring and do what's best for your business. 

For example, earning a master’s in data analytics is worth it for anyone who wants to thrive in the current job market, but seeing unqualified applicants get jobs based on who they know can be tough for people who worked hard to get where they are. Not only will this create problems for you, but it will also foster resentment against the friend(s) or family member(s) you hire. Jason from Drillers.com says,

Friends and family members... can get given roles that they don't have experience in, especially in supervisory and management positions. Every business owner should ask themselves,"If I didn't know this person, would I pick them from 100-500 qualified and experienced applicants?"

If someone from your inner circle truly is the best person for a job, it’s important that you lay down some ground rules and let them know you won’t be treating them any differently from the rest of your staff. 

Not Using Skills Assessments

According to FitSmallBusiness.com, "Traditional candidate screenings rely on how a candidate answers interview questions, the references from their former colleagues, as well as the information provided on their resume or LinkedIn. A skills assessment, on the other hand, will convey a candidate’s ability to perform a job-required task. While they may not determine future success, skills assessments provide tangible insight into a candidate’s ability to execute."

For example, every candidate will say they are comfortable with change in the workplace, but oftentimes a hiring manager cannot validate this until the situation comes up. Betty Rodriguez, Senior Workplace Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com recommends the following method to assess their flexibility skill:

"If I could create a project for candidates it would include clear instructions and not be too difficult or complex. The curveballs would come with a change in the direction of how to complete the task. Candidates would be measured on their ability to quickly pivot with little time to make important decisions. I would look for their willingness to collaborate on how to move forward and assess their reactions to the change. 

Of course, this would not be an easy assessment. But if you can design teams with people who are flexible and pivot easily, the organization will be able to efficiently navigate any challenge."

Although a traditional screening will inform a lot about the candidate, skills assessment can greatly improve the quality of a hiring process because they can help HR teams narrow their options to individuals who possess the needed skills and align best with the culture of the team.

Valuing Personality Over Skill 

Charisma isn’t the same thing as being qualified. Unfortunately, many first-time entrepreneurs are all-too-eager to give jobs to applicants who exude charm and good humor. No matter how good easy they are to get along with, it's important to make sure they can do the job.

Of course, this isn’t to say that being charming or charismatic is a bad thing, and business owners should take one’s personality into account when conducting an interview. That said, it should not be the determinant factor in whether a candidate is given a job. 

Melissa Mckinney from The Hive Law learned this lesson the hard way. She shares her bad hiring story:

One of the biggest hiring mistakes that I made was only focusing on the person being a culture fit. What I mean by that is that I hired someone that I simply got along with, despite the fact that they weren't great for the position at hand. It was the all-too-common case of right person in the wrong seat. 

Although I found myself thinking "wow, this woman is awesome!" during the interview, I quickly became frustrated and puzzled because she wasn't performing like I had anticipated. I mean, she was "perfect"... perfect for hanging out after work, but not so much at delegating tasks or leading a team. 

Being a natural charmer doesn’t mean an applicant is the most qualified person to tackle the day-to-day responsibilities a position entails. This is why business owners should prioritize educational background, work history, and relevant experience over charisma.  

Not Being Up Front About What a Position Entails 

When crafting job descriptions, many business owners fail to adequately explain what these positions entail. The more vague and generalized a description is, the more unqualified the applicants will be. Tim Absalikov, co-founder and CEO of Lasting Trend shares his experience saying,

Too many times I see job postings where it looks like I could send this off to a flunking college student and they would easily qualify for the position. You want to be intentional when you’re looking to hire someone and the first step in hiring intentionally is to prepare a clear job description that outlines what you’re looking for in a new employee and what they can expect from the job. 

Failing to properly outline what a position requires day-to-day can land you with an employee who isn’t at all qualified to hold this role. Not only can this be a drag on productivity, but it can also put both you and the person you hire in an extremely uncomfortable situation. Valerie Streif from Pramp shares her way of outlining a job position:

Spend some time to define the role and responsibilities that you’re hiring for, so you know exactly what you want to look for in a candidate. Once you know what you want - make sure you’re advertising to that specific person. Specific, concise job descriptions, clearly stated requirements, and thorough explanations of expectations and responsibilities are key.

Not having a clear position or role laid out for a new hire can have negative consequences in the long run once everything is under control.  With this in mind, make sure any job postings you send out are highly detailed and contain comprehensive rundowns of each position’s qualifications and responsibilities.  

Not Checking References 

No business owner or hiring manager relishes checking references. The entire process is usually awkward, cumbersome, and just plain boring. However, failing to do so can result in unqualified and/or dishonest people occupying roles they have no business being in. 

Many job seekers are fully aware that references are often overlooked, and because of this, they won’t hesitate to list fake references on their resumes. Luke Runnells from Accusource shares his advice: 

81% of people supposedly lie during job interviews. Follow up on the references provided by the candidate, and if you aren’t able to get in touch or aren’t satisfied with what you were given, ask for more. Use the opportunity to ask references a little about the candidate as an employee and their ability to fit into your small company.

No matter how good you feel about a certain applicant, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence and contact their references. The most seemingly trustworthy people are sometimes the most dishonest, so for the good of your business, make a point of checking each applicant’s references. 


To call operating a business difficult would be an understatement. Overseeing the day-to-day operations of a bustling enterprise, managing a staff of employees, and meeting with clients can take a substantial toll on even the most seasoned entrepreneur. On top of all the aforementioned responsibilities, business owners also play a crucial role in the hiring process. However, if you don’t have staffing experience under your belt, making smart hires can be much harder than it looks. 

By avoiding the mistakes discussed above, business owners can reduce the risk of making staffing decisions they’ll go on to regret. Make sure to get a demo at ProSky to help you avoid these mistakes!  

Tiffany is a leader in marketing authority, she assists Seek Visibility and our clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web. Tiffany prides herself in her ability to create and provides high-quality content that audiences find valuable. She also enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. With many years of experience, Tiffany has found herself more passionate than ever to continue developing content and relationship across multiple platforms and audiences. Connect with Tiffany on LinkedIn.