What Takes Longer: Hiring an Employee, or Buying a Car?
What Takes Longer: Hiring an Employee, or Buying a Car?

hiring should take longer than car buyingWhich do you think takes longer: hiring an employee, or buying a car? You may have heard the expression “most people hire too quickly and fire too slowly.”  In my experience, this is accurate, especially for higher stakes, professional roles.

A while back, I worked with an established small company that is known for providing high calibre professional services. It was clear they’d had some bad experiences in the past with hiring staff. They work in a regulated field where the professionals need to earn a specific degree and pass an exam (e.g., like accounting or law). I knew that if I agreed to work with them, I’d better make sure that their new hire was a perfect fit, or they’d be likely to complain bitterly about me, just like they had complained bitterly about former employees who hadn’t worked out.

Sometimes it’s Difficult to Distinguish Between Candidates

To make sure that this business owner would be happy, we talked through his needs in detail. I reviewed his website, his draft job posting, and the qualities that he was looking for in his new hire. We also looked at the qualities he wanted to avoid in a future hire. Using this information, I focused on developing a measurable profile of his ideal junior professional. I wrote “fake-proof” interview questions, scoring criteria, and a script for a reference check (for more information about my approach to hiring, read this previous blog post Advice for Better Hiring).

Hiring is hard when candidates seem similarOne of the challenges that employers face when hiring credentialed professionals is that on the surface, most of the candidates look similar. There tend to be a fixed number of universities that offer these programs. In addition, the candidates all pass the same exams. This means that when hiring a junior accountant or a junior lawyer, differences between candidates are hard to distinguish. When you factor in the reality that most smart people know what to say during an interview, it can be really hard to tell who will deliver on the job, versus who simply knows what to say during the interview.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are hard to fake (and almost impossible to teach). Therefore, I make sure that the most relevant soft skills are evaluated during the hiring process. As I noted in a previous blog post:

“Soft skills are the tools that we use to apply our knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences. Soft skills have a huge impact on how effectively an employee performs their assigned tasks and duties. Soft skills include things like judgment, initiative, interpersonal skills, and flexibility. They include an ability to effectively communicate verbally and in writing. Soft skills are how we use and apply our knowledge, skill, and abilities.”

In my opinion, it’s straightforward to evaluate a job candidate’s knowledge and work experience, especially when the credentials are well understood and verifiable. It is easy to confirm that a candidate has the right degree and designation.

On the other hand, soft skills, including things like empathy, a learning mindset, professionalism and conscientiousness take some skill to assess reliably.

Hiring an Employee versus Buying a Car – Guess Which Takes Longer

Image from CARIGOS.COM / Audi

This summer, I had the pleasure of test driving some cars. I was mulling over the idea behind this blog post, so I asked one of the sales associates about the average amount of time that a person invests into buying a car. Here’s what he told me:

  1. Online research: a minimum of two to three hours
  2. Five or six email exchanges to clarify details about the vehicles most interested in: one hour
  3. Visits to the dealership and test drives: a minimum of two to three hours per visit;
  4. An average of two more visits are needed to take care of all the details such as the sales contract, financing and licensing


This means at a minimum, most people will take at least five to eight hours to buy a car.

Now, back to the professional services firm from earlier. I helped them hire someone who is hardworking and very promising. Although they hired a terrific junior professional, the owner was somewhat frustrated at the time and effort required for the hiring process.

I’ll admit that the resume screening, preliminary and in-depth interviews, and reference checks required time and effort. But, in my opinion, when you’re hiring someone who will cost $55,000 to $65,000 per year in salary, indefinitely, shouldn’t you invest at least as much time as it takes to buy a car? A car is a one-time purchase that should last for years, while you’ll pay your employee year after year.

In addition to the financial cost of this employee, there’s a very real chance that a poorly chosen employee will reflect poorly on a company – much more than a poorly chosen car ever could. Yet, many employers don’t want to commit to spending five to eight hours carefully evaluating and comparing the top two to three candidates for a job. Given the problems evident in many organizations such as low employee engagement, poor retention, high turnover and limited loyalty, I’d argue that the time has come to re-evaluate the way hiring decisions are made.


Do you need help navigating the world of human resources and work? Contact Dr. Helen today for a free and confidential initial consultation by phoneemail, or via direct message on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

In some situations, when you don’t need a full hour, especially when it’s urgent, career coaching/information-by-the-minute via the Magnifi app is a very practical option.


Have you ever wished you could get inside the head of a hiring manager? You can. Dr. Helen Ofosu is a Career Coach/Counsellor with a difference. She has worked for organizations to create hiring and screening tools. She’s created countless pre-screening tests, interviews, simulations, and role plays for organizations of all kinds.

Dr. Helen’s training in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology means she is a genuine expert in evaluating work-related behaviours. She uses those skills to help hiring managers tell the difference between people who say the right things during interviews and people who actually deliver on the job. In other words, Dr. Helen understands first-hand how job candidates are assessed.


More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.


I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.


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