Another Entrepreneurship Project of the  Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University

HR Crash Course: Be smart!

To have the perfect business, you need the perfect people!

         In any company, and especially in startup ventures, it is crucial to have the right people. Indeed, whether they are in the process of expanding their one-person team, or already have a few people on board, entrepreneurs should remember that, at a smaller scale, every mistake can mean a lost customer. Hence, according to Liz Ryan on Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the hiring process has to be as meticulous as possible. She argues that employers should avoid nine major mistakes:

  1.  Not knowing what they are looking for: Managers need to agree on what is not working in their current team (if anything), on what a new hire should bring to the table, and on the best way to spend their available resources. A job creation should not be the mere aftermath of an employee leaving the team.
  2. Writing bad job ads:  Job postings should not be a list of bullet points listing “must-haves”, but should instead give an insight into what the actual job is like. After reading a good posting, talented individuals should want to apply for the position, because they see growth opportunities with the company.
  3. Ignoring their networks:  Posting job openings on before even asking employees, vendors, friends or family for potential candidates is a common HR mistake. Indeed, recruiters bypass personal networks, previous applicants or even current employees, and instead go through tedious processes to hire candidates. All networks should be used to find talented applicants, including referrals.
  4. Letting great applicants get away: According to Liz Ryan, the hardest part of the recruiting process is not getting the resumes, but instead identifying the best applicants. It is therefore important for recruiters to get back to promising candidates as soon as possible, because they may have other offers waiting. Moreover, it is crucial to free the application process of any hindrances (like trivial English or Math tests), because applicants may get tired, and end up considering those other opportunities.
  5. Using unreasonable filters…: Certain criteria used by HR managers are irrational, and may eliminate great candidates for petty reasons. Hence, clauses like “knowing exactly why they want to work for us” may not only create additional stress for job seekers, they may also keep qualified candidates from being considered.
  6. …And failing to use smart ones: Asking for something in addition to a resume or a cover letter is likely to highlight candidates who have a real interest in the job opening to read all the instructions. The screening process may hence be simplified, and talented prospects may be highlighted.
  7. Elevating “skills” over actual qualities: Sometimes, job postings just ask candidates for a particular skill, like the mastery of certain software, instead of emphasizing attributes like personality or ability to work under pressure. A prospective receptionist may learn how to type in a day, but may never have a pleasant phone voice.
  8. Interviewing ineffectively: Several scenarios could be avoided here: managers showing up unprepared for interviews, with no knowledge of the candidate’s resume; interviewers doing all the talking and failing to let candidates ask questions, or managers setting up unreasonably large panels to “interrogate” applicants. All these situations are unfortunately common, and usually end up with little or no insight about the interviewees.
  9. Overlooking the candidate’s needs: When considering candidates, managers should pay closer attention to the actual motivations behind applications. Some candidates may be very qualified, but have no passion for the job. However, others with less experience may be very excited about the prospect of learning from the company, or about specific job characteristics. Understanding that candidates have hopes and aspirations of their own allow managers to hire great people, while offering them an opportunity to do what they love, and grow within the company.

In summary, a careful hiring process results in bringing aboard more than mere employees. It allows recruiters to uncover talented, passionate and dedicated people who are a worthwhile investment of the firm’s available resources.


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