The Five Deadly Sins of Hiring

As an executive recruiter, I see a lot of different hiring practices. As an operational manager, I played a role in some of them. While companies feel that they (should) have the upper hand in recruiting, the best and brightest candidates (even in a down economy) have other options. Not paying attention to the five deadly sins of hiring could doom your company to a long, drawn-out and expensive hiring process.

  1. Field of Dreams job postings – If you post it, they will come
    Job boards are a good opportunity to get your position out to a wide audience quickly. However, it is not a targeted approach to recruiting. The response to posted jobs tends to be 95% unqualified candidates, and 5% you are interested in speaking with. Of the 5%, most of those don’t have all the skills you are looking for. A strong search should stretch the boundaries by proactively looking for candidates that might not see your posting. Reaching out to potential candidates that have the right skills can reduce the time to hire.

    LinkedIn, job posting websites, and blogs are great sources to proactively identify potential candidates. The process is similar to business development cold calling in terms of lower response rates, but the benefits can be substantial.


  2. Make the candidates feel like dirt – Lack of a professional recruiting approach
    Companies that feel they have the upper hand, tend to think that they don’t need to worry about the image they present to their candidates. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Often, a candidate’s first interaction with your company is through the recruiting process. If your hiring process is designed to make the candidate feel like dirt, what are you communicating about the type of company you are to work for?

    First impressions stick. You should have a hiring process that is designed to sell your company from the start. Communication, responsiveness, and making the candidates aware that you respect their time can all go a long way to presenting a professional image.


  3. The attrition approach to hiring – Moving so slowly that the best candidates drop out
    Especially now, candidates have a lot of options. Moving too slowly guarantees that you will miss out on the most qualified candidates, leaving you with less qualified candidates. As a hiring manager with a full plate, I’ve been guilty of this in the past and missed some great hires. Now, I support my clients in moving both quickly and diligently through the hiring process. This doesn’t mean cutting corners in the hiring process, but it requires you to move through the steps without wasting time.

    Most hiring managers see recruiting as a time sink that takes away from their daily activities. As a result, they put it off as long as possible. I help my clients see that speeding up the process works in their favor: ultimately, they spend less time on the hiring process (since they don’t lose top talent); and bringing in the talented new hires quickly relieves the stress of understaffing in their department, making everyone more productive.


  4. Let’s talk about me – Poor interviewing skills
    Much has been written about the potential interviewing biases and poor interviewing skills of hiring managers that lead to hiring mistakes. Challenges include, not having a standardized process; talking, more than listening; looking primarily for reasons to decline the candidate; or looking for “someone just like me”. Not being aware of the potential biases in the hiring process can lead you to making disastrous hiring decisions.

    There are a number of techniques and approaches that can be used to reduce interviewing biases and improve the results of the interview process. These include: a standardized process – have candidates follow the same process, and ask them the same sets of questions; having multiple people interview the candidates – reduce the impact of individual biases by making sure more than one person sees the candidates; training on appropriate interview techniques.


  5. Looking for a warm body – Not assessing the cultural fit
    At times, the hiring manager is so desperate to fill a position that they will accept any candidate that seems to have the right skills, even against their better judgment. In my experience, candidates don’t fail in the first year because they lack the skills for the job, they fail because they didn’t fit the culture. Culture fit is a two-way street. While you are assessing the fit of the candidate, they should be doing the same with the company.  It is important for companies to have an understanding of their internal culture and what characteristics make for a successful new hire and to communicate this to the candidates.

    Approaches to defining the culture and cultural fit include: fit interviews – candidates should be asked behavioral questions to assess their approaches relative to the culture of the company; overall management assessments – so that the management teams understand their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to bringing on new people; and candidate assessments – there are many Predictive Index type products that will help assess what motivates a candidate.

Companies and candidates face these challenges every day. Hiring mistakes are expensive. Many of the sins identified above can be fixed internally. However, sometimes the advice and service of an outside set of eyes can help improve the process. Professional executive recruiters know their way around the hiring sins and create a positive ROI by helping their clients avoid the pitfalls that lead to poor hiring decisions.