Top Recruiting Mistakes You Want to Avoid


By Tony Lewis

HAS FINDING HIGH-QUALITY talent become a challenge? Make sure you’re not committing the biggest recruiting mistakes, which only make the process that much harder. Here are some of the most common mistakes your team can make while recruiting and how to avoid them.

1. Basic, less-than-compelling job postings.

Review a recent batch of your company’s job postings. Do they include only basic information about the role – a dry recitation of responsibilities and a list of minimum requirements? If so, you may be boring the target audience you’re trying to reach.

Standard job descriptions simply don’t generate enthusiasm among job candidates. Similar to how recruiters skim through resumes and quickly move on if a candidate doesn’t hold their attention, job candidates often make fast decisions about whether to pursue an open position at a company based on the job posting.

Your goals should be to:

  • Stand out from the competition
  • Inspire attention and interest
  • Entice job candidates to apply

To do this, you need to learn how to write a compelling job posting. Offer more information beyond the basics and convey what makes your company special. Adopt the mindset that you’re “selling” choosy job candidates on your company.

  • Describe your company’s mission, vision, core values and culture.
  • Give job candidates a sense of what their everyday life will be like at your company.
  • Include a salary range, if possible.
  • Highlight desirable benefits and other unique workplace perks.

2. No external advertising and brand management strategy.

Many company recruiters post a job in the employment section on their website, sit back and wait for the applications to roll in.

But what if your company isn’t on a job candidate’s radar? How are they supposed to find you?

What about passive job candidates who are highly qualified but aren’t even actively searching for new jobs?

First, envision your ideal job candidate:

  • Who is this person?
  • What type of professional are they?
  • How much experience, knowledge and seniority do they have?
  • If you were in their position, where would you go to look for a new job?

To identify and reach your desirable job candidates, you must advertise strategically and conduct targeted, proactive outreach.

  • Consider both the most popular job search platforms and industry-specific job boards. If you’re recruiting specialized, highly-skilled job candidates, the lesser-known, more niche job boards will be more important.
  • Leverage social media, particularly LinkedIn, which can be a powerful research and recruiting tool and platform for targeted job advertisements.
  • Tap into your network for referrals.

In some cases, budget constraints can limit your advertising efforts. The point is for you to think through your advertising strategy with a target candidate in mind, and take actions with the highest likelihood for success.

Another part of strategic advertising is projecting a consistent brand experience across your website and social media channels. Expect that candidates will research your company once they see your job posting. You want your company’s online presence to reflect the company’s mission, vision and values – and at a minimum project an image of professionalism and legitimacy. Otherwise, they’ll be turned off before ever reaching the application stage, and you’ll lose out on a potentially great hire.

Also, pay attention to your company’s presence on major review sites, such as Glassdoor, and assign an employee to manage negative reviews – in a polite and professional manner. Don’t let just one side of the story dominate and allow poor impressions of your company to sit in the public domain unaddressed.

3. Lack of preparation.

Earlier, we mentioned that recruiters can breeze through resumes – sometimes spending mere seconds reviewing them – before making decisions about job candidates. This can be a problem leading up to interviews with job candidates.

Don’t wing it and think that you can get the intel needed to make the most informed recruiting and hiring decisions. To properly vet job candidates, recruiters must take the time to prepare.

  • Start with a standard group of questions that you will ask each candidate during the screening conversation and make a point of using these with each person that you are interviewing.
  • Supplement the standard questions above with some targeted, custom, thoughtful questions based on a candidate’s unique background.
  • Assess employment gaps and craft questions to reveal the reasons behind them.
  • Evaluate the candidate’s average company tenure and career progression, and craft questions around that history if necessary.

From a job candidate’s perspective, a recruiter’s obvious lack of preparation or questions about basic information from their resume can be construed as disinterest and lack of respect for the interviewee’s time. Recruiters should also be prepared to answer job candidates’ questions. Remember, candidates are not the only ones being interviewed – this is a two-way conversation.

4. Predictable interview questions.

Recruiters have long turned away from yes/no interview questions and have instead embraced behavioral interview questions that enable them to extract more in-depth information about who a job candidate is and how they think.

The problem is that, by now, some behavioral questions have become so common and expected that job candidates have a polished, rehearsed answer ready. Examples:

  • What’s been your biggest challenge?
  • What’s your biggest strength (or weakness)?
  • What’s been your biggest accomplishment?

These questions no longer catch candidates off guard and instead capture a scripted response.

Work to elicit or encourage candidates to showcase their interpersonal communication skills and ability to think on the spot by asking less predictable questions. Examples:

  • What’s something that makes you proud?
  • How would you describe yourself in one word, and why?
  • What’s your biggest pet peeve?
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a manager, and what did you do about it?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed, and what did you learn from it?
  • What makes you memorable, apart from skills and training?
  • When you one day look back on your career so far, what will be your biggest success?

5. Unconscious bias.

Everyone, including recruiters, can carry unconscious biases about other people based on their own individual experiences. For example, recruiters, hiring managers and other business leaders may not realize that they:

  • Prefer job candidates who they perceive to be more like them, or with whom they share outside interests
  • Dismiss candidates who don’t align with their individual preferences
  • Fail to consider candidates outside their preconceived notion of who’s right for the role
  • Prioritize experience over talent and knowledge

Allowing unconscious biases to influence employment decisions can cause a company to potentially hire the wrong candidate for a job. It can also result in a homogeneous, static workplace plagued by groupthink and lack of innovation.

To avoid this:

  • Screen resumes using a standard set of rules. Or use an applicant tracking system to automatically screen resumes for alignment with an open position.
  • Use a standard set of main interview questions for each candidate to create a consistent experience and make it easier to compare candidate responses (while still allowing for custom questions based on the candidate’s background).
  • Rely on facts and objective information, not your gut feelings.
  • Look not only for a candidate who will fit well within the established workplace culture, but who could potentially bring something new and unique to the culture.
  • Involve more than one person in the recruiting process to broaden perspectives and reduce the risk of one person’s bias causing undue influence.

6. Poor candidate care.

It really comes down to this: Treat job candidates the way you would want to be treated if you were in their position. Demonstrate common courtesy.

Many job candidates report these experiences with companies:

Too many hoops to jump through: Understandably, companies want to be thorough in their recruiting efforts. But when you require overly lengthy applications, multiple interviews or too many assessments, you may scare away job applicants.

Lack of respect for their time: Demonstrate respect for job candidates’ time. Join calls or arrive at interviews on time. Stick to scheduled times – don’t let an interview drag on for an additional 45 minutes. Remember that job candidates often must get back to their current job quickly. If something happens to cause you to be late, or you need to reschedule, let them know with as much advance notice as possible.

Lack of communication: For a job candidate, it’s incredibly frustrating and discouraging to apply for a position and then hear nothing – especially if that candidate has progressed further along in the hiring process. Whatever your reasons – you’re busy, backlogged with applications, having trouble deciding between candidates or you just want to avoid an awkward conversation – it’s never acceptable to leave candidates hanging without an answer.

7. Failure to recruit from within.

Often, recruiters are so focused on finding the perfect candidate “out there” that they overlook the people who are already very familiar with their organization and have an established performance track record: current employees.

For your current employees, hopefully you have developed:

  • A promotion policy
  • Career paths (a map of how they can move within your organization to develop specific skills)
  • Succession plans
  • A process for internal job applicants

When a position opens up at your company, there may already be an internal job candidate who’s suitable, which can reduce your organization’s recruiting costs and time. Knowing that they can move around – and up – within the organization can also keep employees engaged and motivated.

Furthermore, encourage employees to become brand ambassadors and refer their own contacts.

8. No adjustment for the remote era.

Remote work has introduced new challenges for recruiting and hiring. Make sure your business is prepared for fully remote recruiting and hiring, and has thought through each step of the process and how it will work at your company.

A few quick tips:

  • Pay even more attention to job candidates’ cues and body language in video interviews.
  • Take extra measures to minimize distractions at home during video interviews. Let candidates know of any potential distractions – such as children, pets or deliveries – at the beginning of the interview.
  • Evaluate which interview questions you should ask candidates for remote positions.

Summing It All Up

Many companies make the same biggest recruiting mistakes, and it can impact their ability to find and hire the right job candidate. It can also diminish their reputation in the job marketplace. But by taking the appropriate countermeasures, you can be more successful in procuring high-quality talent.

Tony Lewis is a senior recruiting and outplacement specialist with Insperity. Since 1986, Insperity has been showing companies how to harness the power of HR to improve business success. We’ve grown from two people sharing a one-room office to a $4.3 billion company with more than 70 offices across the U.S. Learn more at www.insperity.com.

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