10 Recruitment Mistakes

How to Avoid Wasting Time and Money When Hiring

10 Recruitment Mistakes - How to Avoid Wasting Time and Money When Hiring

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Avoid making these recruitment mistakes, and your search for the right candidate will be more successful.

Mark sat with his head in his hands and groaned, dreading what was coming next. In a few minutes he would be letting Alison go, just a couple of months after hiring her. How had it come to this?

She'd applied with a great resumé, interviewed well, and seemingly ticked every box. And yet she'd failed to hit targets, caused disruption in the team, and just not delivered in any area. With a sigh, Mark leaned back in his chair and waited for Alison to knock on his office door...

According to a study by the Center for American Progress, it costs about 20 percent of an employee's salary to replace him or her. If your organization has a high turnover of staff, that can be very costly.

You can attract the best candidate for the job and for your organization if you look out for a few common pitfalls. In this article, we explore 10 recruitment mistakes, and how to avoid making them.

10 Recruitment Mistakes

There is no guaranteed process for successful recruitment, but knowing the obstacles and potential problems that you might face can help you to avoid them, or deal with them if they do arise.

Mistake 1: Not Creating an Accurate Job Description

Describe the job accurately and honestly in your advertisement. If you don't, you'll less likely attract candidates with the qualities and abilities that you're looking for. A good job description is more than a simple list of duties; it should describe the role in terms of its overall purpose and identify key areas of responsibility. Our article, Writing a Job Description, explores how to do this.

Don't "oversell" the position, either, and lead applicants to believe that it offers more opportunities than it actually does. For example, don't imply that there's a likelihood of quick promotion if there isn't. If you do, your ambitious new recruit may feel let down and leave.

Mistake 2: Failing to Consider Recruiting From Within

Sometimes, the best candidates could be right under your nose!

It can make economic sense to fill roles internally, as it cuts the costs and time associated with advertising for external candidates. Also, an existing staff member will be familiar with your organization's processes, values and mission. Chances are, he would get "up to speed" in a new role more quickly than an outsider would.

Another potential benefit is that promoting and training up your own people can boost their morale and productivity.

Recruiting from within can also protect important knowledge that would be lost when people leave your team or organization. Our article, Succession Planning, has more on this.

Mistake 3: Relying Too Much on the Interview

Some managers use only an interview to evaluate potential candidates, but is it the best method? In his 2015 book, Work Rules!, senior Google executive Laszlo Bock says, "Most interviews are a waste of time," as interviewers can spend most of their time trying to confirm the impression they formed of applicants in the first 10 seconds of meeting them.

And, as we discuss in our article, Effective Recruitment, a candidate may say or do anything to get the job that you're offering. Consider giving her a test or exercise to find out how she might perform "on the job." For example, you can use Inbox/In-Tray Assessment and recruitment tests to reveal how good she might be at planning, organizing, prioritizing, and communicating.

Mistake 4: Using Unconscious Bias

Recruitment relies on your decision-making abilities, which means that you must avoid unconscious bias. You may unwittingly discriminate against certain candidates in favor of people who share your background, social class, ethnicity, age, or gender.

Accepting candidates regardless of any of those characteristics means that you have a larger pool of talent to draw from, improving your chances of recruiting the best person for the job.

Mistake 5: Hiring People Less Qualified Than You

In a New York Times interview, American entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki said, "‘A' players hire ‘A+' players. But others hire below their skills to make themselves look good. So ‘B' players hire ‘C' players. ‘C' players hire ‘D' players."

Some managers are afraid of taking on someone who is more confident or talented than they are, because they feel that he may be a threat to their position. But smart managers know that they need bright people to share their insights and bring their strengths to the team.

Hiring people who are better than you can improve your own skills and drive your business forward. A good example to follow is that of renowned U.S. automotive executive Lee Iacocca, who said, "I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way."

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Mistake 6: Rejecting an Overqualified Candidate

It's tempting to reject an overqualified candidate, either for the same reason as in Mistake 5 above, or because you're afraid that she will become bored and leave your organization for a more satisfying challenge elsewhere.

But highly experienced and talented people may have the skills and ability to help you to develop your team – even if they don't stay long. And to encourage her to be loyal to your organization, think about what opportunities for development, progression or reward you might be able to offer to this exceptional person.

Mistake 7: Waiting for the Perfect Candidate

You may have a picture of the ideal employee in your mind but, as you wait for him to appear, you may be jeopardizing your team's productivity by keeping it understaffed for too long. Your team members may have to pick up the extra workload or work overtime, which can affect their morale.

Recruiters call perfect candidates "purple squirrels," because they are so rare! Instead of waiting for someone who fits the role exactly, it's usually best to hire someone who meets most of your key requirements, who fits your corporate culture, and who has good soft skills. He can pick up job-specific skills once he's in place.

Mistake 8: Rushing the Hire

OK, the perfect candidate may not exist. That doesn't mean you should rush to hire just anyone. Take your time. Think about what it's going to cost in time and money to hire and train someone, only to find that she's not up to the job. You could end up having to repeat the whole process.

Interview twice if you have to and, if necessary, arrange for a freelance or external contractor to cover the role until you've got the best person that you can.

Mistake 9: Relying Too Much on References

How much can you trust the information on a résumé? Almost 60 percent of employers have discovered a lie on a résumé, according to a survey of more than 2,000 HR and recruitment managers, commissioned by U.S. recruitment specialist CareerBuilder. For example, a candidate who claimed to be a construction supervisor admitted in his interview that he had only built a doghouse in a backyard!

So, while applicants may have listed excellent experience and qualifications, you'll likely want to check some of the details they've provided.

However, don't place too much weight on these references, good or bad. Someone's positive experience at one organization does not mean that he will automatically shine at yours. And a negative reference from a previous employer does not mean that he won't thrive on your team.

As we suggested earlier, you can find out if a candidate has the right skills for your team by setting her a test or exercise that is relevant to the role that your are advertising.

Mistake 10: Expecting Too Much, Too Soon From a New Recruit

Typically, it takes a new starter about three months to become fully integrated into the team and to begin producing results. It's understandable to want her to "hit the ground running," especially if the position has been vacant for a while or if the hiring process has taken a long time, but this can mean that you don't give her the time to "learn the ropes" properly.

During the first few weeks, it's important to help your new recruit to familiarize himself with the organization's and team's goals, and to support him as he learns. This is often called "onboarding." Make him feel welcome on his first day, and introduce him to the team. Let him know that he can ask questions and seek advice, and arrange regular meetings to see how he's doing.

Key Points

Hiring new staff can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it's important to get it right. You want to make sure that you recruit someone who's the best person for the job and who fits into your organization, so that you're not facing continual turnover.

Here's our list of 10 common recruitment mistakes.

  1. Not creating an accurate job description.
  2. Failing to consider recruiting from within.
  3. Relying too much on the interview.
  4. Using unconscious bias.
  5. Hiring people less qualified than you.
  6. Rejecting an overqualified candidate.
  7. Waiting for the perfect candidate.
  8. Rushing the hire.
  9. Relying too much on references.
  10. Expecting too much, too soon from a new recruit.

Knowing the potential pitfalls when recruiting new staff can help you to ensure the continued success of your organization, and the ongoing happiness of your team.

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Comments (7)
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    My top two mistakes earlier in my career: rushing the hire and also (like Paul_Rd) relying on first impressions to much. Over time I learned to hire slow and also to make use of an interview panel. In the end I had a panel that always consisted of an uneven number of people so that we never had a tied decision.
    What I found difficult about the panel, is that I sometimes had a "gut feel" about a candidate and felt that we definitely shouldn't hire them. In all four cases where I felt about it very strongly but was outvoted by the rest of the panel, the hires didn't turn out well. What the 'gut feel' is I can't tell you...it's just an inner knowing sometimes that something isn't quite right.
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hello Paul_Rd,

    Congratulations on reducing your turnover rate. That is quite a significant reduction! Hiring committees or panel interviews do help to increase the objectivity of the hiring process. A practice I have adopted is to interview the first round of candidates with a recruiter from HR during which we cover the aspects of the job and conduct the behavioral event questions. The top three candidates are invited to a second less formal interview which includes key stakeholder the candidate will be working with. The combination of the two interviews has resulted in a better quality of hire.

    Michele
    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago Paul_Rd wrote
    Great article, I've been hiring people for the last 6 years as plant supervisor and I keep learning something at each interview. But I'll be the first to admit, I've made bad choices and good choices when hiring, but my biggest hurdle to overcome was to be able to get past first impressions of potential new hires. But I did make my job a little easier by putting together a hiring committee. Our turnover rate has dropped from 40% from the past decade to about 5% today, and I attribute these numbers to better choices in potential employees and having a plan for them when they hit the floor.
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