4 Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Service Providers

You have got so much on your plate that you are wondering how it’s all going to get done. The house is accumulating dust by the day and there are no two-hour stretches in your foreseeable future that you can devote to cleaning. Your website is long overdue for a makeover, but you don’t have the expertise to design it or optimize it. Each day, your to-do list grows and you think, “I have got to get some help if I’m ever going to accomplish anything.”

Where do you begin your search for help, and how do you narrow it down to choose the most competent business to serve you?

Coming from an entrepreneurial family, being an entrepreneur myself, and working with other entrepreneurs in my current business, self-employment is near and dear to my heart. I admire anyone who sets out to take ownership of their future. That being said, it’s probably easier than ever to call yourself an entrepreneur today. Purchase a website domain, and bam! You’ve got a business. So where does that leave the consumer who is looking for a service provider? Overwhelmed and at risk of hiring someone who doesn’t have the expertise to successfully perform.

This post is inspired by MANY disappointments I’ve faced over the years in hiring personal service providers- hair stylists, housekeepers, photographers, nannies. My husband jokes that I may as well become an expert in everything myself because I am never satisfied with anyone else’s work. The sad part is that I have basically succumbed to trying. But I digress…

Why is it that it is so difficult to find someone who is competent? If your first thought is, “she must be hiring the least expensive providers,” you’d be mistaken. I’ve gone to some hairstylists who charge prices way beyond what I ever thought I’d spend to get some bleach slathered on my head and have left me gravely disappointed. I may as well have set fire to the $500 I spent for photos of my newborn baby girl since I never ended up printing or framing a single one. I have had three nannies in the three years I’ve been a mother, and I have not been overly pleased with any of them- though one I did employ for over two years out of desperation to avoid the search for a new one.

So what is going on? Are my expectations just too high?

The hard truth is, while I am an expert in the field of employee selection, I have failed to practice what I preach when it comes to hiring individual service providers in my personal life. Being aware of the common mistakes I fell victim to should help you effectively combat them when doing your own hiring, whether for personal or business needs.

1. Sourcing From a Small Pool

This has been a huge obstacle during my searches for childcare. Typically, I’ve been short on time to find someone and thus, made selection decisions based on just a few interviews. Let's face it, sourcing candidates is time consuming and interviewing is often awkward. Many people don't enjoy these activities so they seek to devote as little time to it as possible. In addition, when you’re attempting to get someone in the role quickly, you will tend to throw any criteria and processes out the window.

2. Focusing on Personality

Having worked with hiring managers in the corporate world for over 12 years, this was one of the most common mistakes I had to educate against. Of course people like to work with people they get along with, but ultimately, you'll end up resenting the person if they can't do the job well. As much as I know this, apparently I'm not immune to it.

The latest nanny I hired was a young girl who expressed such a desire for the position that I thought, “gosh, that’s gotta be worth something.” She was so sweet each time we spoke and I felt like we’d really get along…which we did. Plus, I was attempting to "correct for" the personality of the former gruff, boring, and condescending nanny I had just let go. The trouble with this approach was that the young lady I hired had little skill in handling the responsibilities of the role and after only three months had to be let go.

3. Disregarding Red Flags

Did the newborn photographer I described have some photos on her website that displayed a quality inferior to what I’d find acceptable? Yes. In fact, when I went back and looked at her portfolio AFTER I had received my disappointing photos, I realized that there were only a few photos out of hundreds that truly reflected the style I was seeking.

So why did I fail to recognize this before hiring her? I suppose I overlooked the photos I wasn't impressed with because I felt I had already invested enough time in my search. For me, you could file this mistake under the "Sourcing From a Small Pool" category. However, ignoring red flags happens for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you truly need a position filled quickly, maybe you've bonded personally or the candidate was referred to you by a friend and you feel an obligation. Sometimes you're outnumbered on the decision because your colleagues feel the person is the best candidate. Whatever the case may be, don't ignore those red flags. Investigate them.

4. Using Only One Tool to Make a Selection Decision

On two separate occasions of a search for a new hair stylist, I have thoroughly perused Instagram profiles and made decisions to book appointments solely based on what I saw there. The trouble is- photos are easily manipulated and it has become industry standard for hair stylists to use a bright ring light to take their photos. The effect is a much lighter color appearance than is accurate in real life...not to mention how filters and photoshop can alter reality.

I always recommend using several tools in your selection process. For example, one interview is rarely enough to make an informed decision, and all interviews are not created equal. When hiring for a role in your business, an objective, behavior-based interview is a must. But you should also consider the use of a job-relevant assessment and a work sample. While this approach wouldn't have been relevant to my experience hiring a hair stylist, I suppose I should have asked for referrals, checked to see if the person had any videos, shared tips about how they achieve different colors, and so on.

If you can plan far enough in advance for your hiring needs, a lot of these problems can be avoided. You should take the time to objectively determine what success in the role will look like. Once you understand what is required to perform the job well, you can make informed decisions so long as you use as much objective information as possible and stick to your process.