• Hiring & staff management mistakes

3 Common Hiring Mistakes & How to Fix Them at Your Youth Activity Center

Finding great staff and keeping them has become the number one problem of companies across the United States. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.8 jobs available for each unemployed American. 

Does this mean there are no good people to lead your dance classes, teach your students to front float, or brilliantly Jenga 206 weekly classes into your gymnastics schedule? Of course not. But it does mean you need to up your hiring and talent management game if your school is going to survive and thrive. 

While there is a lot of generic hiring advice out there, I’m only interested in what is going to move the needle. Having made a lot of hiring mistakes over the seven years I spent building my swim school and through my current work with international companies on implementing my Hire Right talent management process, I’ve seen plenty of other company owners and hiring managers make similar mistakes. Here are the top three hiring mistakes to avoid and how you can fix them. 

The job listing

Are your job descriptions (or worse, the job posting!) a laundry list of tasks? Usually, when I’m brought in to help a company with their next big hire I’m handed a massive list of everything this person needs to do –  from conducting intricate cognitive developmental testing down to cleaning out the lunch room coffee pot. 

To be fair, it’s not the business owner’s or the hiring manager’s fault for this short-sighted approach to job descriptions. The fact is, most of us think of the role we need to fill as a list of demands we hope someone else will fulfill. But, a job description that is a thinly disguised to-do list is not what top candidates are looking for. What the best candidates want is a career opportunity – where the work is well-defined, meaningful, and challenging. This is as true for an aeronautical engineer as it is for a college student. 

Solution: Define the six to eight performance objectives for the role you’re posting. This means getting crystal clear on the position’s priorities and the strengths your ideal candidate will need to do the job well. Taking the time to define what recruitment expert, Lou Adler calls performance objectives. By including them in your job posting, you will let candidates know exactly what the job is, what professional challenges they can expect and why this role matters.

Slow responsiveness

Another common hiring mistake I see often is a lack of hiring automation. You don’t receive a notification to review, vet and communicate with a candidate immediately and they are snatched up by your competitor.   

In the early days of growing my swim school, I lost two fantastic candidates and my operations manager to the city pool in a single day. I vowed I’d never let that happen again. From this frustration, I created a talent management system. When I took a hard look at what was wrong with my hiring process I could see I was taking too long to respond to candidates. 

Solution: Automate parts of your recruitment process, so that you can get back to top candidates quicker, fill the role faster and reduce your hiring costs. All while improving the candidate experience with your youth activity center. 

It took some time and forethought to set up our school’s hiring machine with its software, response templates, pre-interview questionnaires, work sample exercises and automation. However, when we fired up our well-oiled machine to hire ten new swim instructors and an operations manager, we saw our hiring success increase by 74% and our recruitment time drop by 63%. 

Hiring decisions

Mistake #2 is relying on your gut to make hiring decisions. Just like ‘moms know instinctively what to do’, turned out to be a fallacy when my son was born, so did the idea that I could hire based on my gut feeling. 

Many hiring managers trust their instinct to identify the best candidate during the interview process. The fact is, if you make a decision (even a tentative one) early in the interview process your brain will search for evidence to support your feelings and ignore evidence that goes against your choice. 

It’s called confirmation bias.

And, “It’s the primary reason that about 50% of new hires do not work out as planned.” writes Jeff Hyman in his book, Recruit Rockstars. 

Solution: Put your first impression aside and look for evidence when interviewing. We as humans naturally have biases, some that we are aware of and others that we are not.

If a candidate seems quiet or doesn’t offer much in the way of responses, I give them time to relax into their natural self. I ask questions and look for evidence of whether their past accomplishments prove they can deliver on the performance objectives of the role.  

If a candidate is outgoing and well-spoken, I make sure not to add to what they are saying, I sit back a little, ask clarifying questions and look for evidence.

To stay objective, my clients and I decide ahead of time what questions and exercises they will use in the interview process. I also train them on how to use a scorecard to grade each candidate.

You may not have control over the country’s unemployment rate, but you do have control over your job description, how responsive you are in the hiring process and the effectiveness of your interview skills. You make better hires when you learn from your hiring mistakes (or mine).

For more business tips and class management content, sign up for Jackrabbit’s monthly Ears Up newsletter here. 

About the Author:

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Stephanie is a seasoned business owner who built and sold her own private swim school, The Aqua Life Swim Academy, the first of its kind in Ottawa, Canada. Frustrated with staffing problems in the early years, Stephanie went all-in researching how to hire, train and retain the RIGHT people. She read books, took courses, invested in advisors and eventually formulated her own methodology, The Hire Right Method, and used it to grow her swim school to 6 locations with a team of 4 full-time staff and over 28 swim instructors. Since selling The Aqua Life in 2018, Stephanie has been using her BEd, Masters in Writing and over 30 years of teaching experience to help business owners implement The Hire Right Method into their business so they can build their dream team and stop wasting time and money.

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