More than half of 6,000 hiring managers in a 2014 survey by Fast Company had felt the effects of a bad hire. In addition to missed sales opportunities, unhappy customers, and strained work environments, poor hiring decisions have direct financial costs. 41% of companies surveyed said that a bad hire in the last year had cost them at least $25,000, while 25% claimed costs of $50,000 or more. "Hiring managers make fatal errors all the time, usually when they feel pressure to hire quickly — and, as we know, rushed decisions lead to bad hires," says Mike Del Ponte, co-founder of Soma. Here are ten common recruiting mistakes to avoid.
1. Poor job descriptions.
All too often, job descriptions fail to clearly and succinctly describe what the job entails, what the job requires, and why the job is desirable. “Job descriptions have tons of textual debt in them,” says Kevin W. Grossman, Director of Product and Content Marketing at Peoplefluent. “We revise and add layer after layer of textual debt with poor proofing and we end up with a job description full of requirements that no human being on planet Earth could ever fulfill.” A job description is all that a potential candidate has to decide whether or not to apply, so make sure that a bad job description isn’t standing in the way of landing great talent.
2. Unnecessary requirements.
A lot of the challenge of recruiting is getting the initial contact with strong candidates. Many requirements are nice to have, but not strictly necessary for the position and may put off an otherwise excellent candidate. “It is illegal and morally wrong to require a four-year degree for positions like sales,” says Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of College Recruiter. “In these cases, employers need to state that a four-year degree or equivalent experience are required. The requirement for candidates to have attained a four-year degree disproportionately harms lower income candidates.” Think carefully about what the job really requires, so that great candidates don’t slip through the cracks.
3. Not aggressively seeking candidates.
Considering only the applicants who respond to a job posting is certain to result in receiving many mediocre and subpar applications, but few applications from the best candidates. It is very possible, even likely, that the best candidate for the job already has a job. "You need to work your network to get introductions to people who can accomplish your goals, even if they don't yet know they want to work for you," says Del Ponte. "Make a list of advocates who can help you grow your candidate pool." Or try Happie.
4. Ineffective interviews.
Vague, open-ended interview questions are common but unhelpful. “‘Tell me about yourself’ is the first question down the wrong road,” says recruitment specialist Tony Beshara. “A structured, disciplined interview technique that is applied to every candidate in exactly the same manner is the only real way to compare candidates. It is so simple and yet so seldom practiced.” A consistent, targeted interview strategy provides more value per interview and makes it easier to to determine which candidate is best for the job.
5. Uncomfortable Interviews.
Just as some of the smartest students may test poorly, some of the best workers may experience interview jitters and underperform. Interview questions are only useful if candidates are able to answer them honestly and to their best ability. “I tend to include several behavioral questions when I’m interviewing, as I want to see how the candidate will truly react to situations that might present themselves on the job,” says Shilonda Downing, founder of Virtual Work Team. “When candidates are tense, they give canned responses; however, when they’re comfortable with you, they’ll let you know exactly what they will do in situations.”
6. Not checking references.
Always require references and always check references. If a candidate who claims to have resigned was actually fired for laziness, tardiness, excessive absences, or sloppy work, that’s good to know. “I have seen people not bother, or get too busy, or need to move too fast to check references,” says Patty Azzarello, founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. “Then they get surprised and burned.” The best predictor for future behavior, work ethic, and professional integrity is a candidate’s past.
7. Overemphasizing cultural fit.
Cultural fit is very important, but being well-liked does not make up for being unqualified. “Recruitment isn’t a popularity contest,” says Tess C. Taylor, founder of HR Knows. “Effective recruitment is about placing the best candidate in a job, not the most good looking or charming candidate or the one liked the most.” Value cultural fit, but be sure that it is only supplementary to an already strong applicant profile.
8. Taking too long to hire.
Hiring too quickly, without checking references and considering enough candidates, is clearly disadvantageous. However, holding out for the perfect candidate when there are already very strong candidates in the applicant pool can be just as harmful. "It costs money not to hire," says Tracy Cashman, partner and general manager at WinterWyman. “If you're not producing a certain application or your resources are overloaded because you haven't brought on that new developer, it can affect your bottom line.” You also risk losing strong candidates to more decisive companies.
9. Not having backup candidates.
While it can be tempting to save the time, money, and effort of continued recruitment once you find a good fit, it is a better idea to keep at least three other candidates in queue. “As happens too often, a hiring authority zeroes in on one candidate, and as the interviewing process drags on, the hiring authority quits interviewing because it is a pain,” says Beshara. “They get to the end of the process, make an offer, and it isn’t accepted. Keep interviewing until someone is hired – and has started the job. We simply expect that a good candidate is going to get multiple offers.” That way, you don’t risk the costly and time consuming process of starting a new search from the ground up if the candidate declines the offer.
10. Not firing bad hires quickly.
Mistakes happen, but the worst mistake is not cutting your losses early on. The longer you wait to fire a bad hire, the higher the cost of the error. “You’ll usually know something's wrong in the first 90 days,” says Joel Peterson, JetBlue Airways Chairman. “The longer you keep the wrong person on, the worse the mistake becomes. Problems compound as the recruit's performance puts more demands on the people around him, and they start getting dragged down too.” Once it is clear that a new employee isn’t working out, act quickly to minimize the damage of a bad hire.
The people are what determines whether a company will thrive or falter. Make wiser hiring decisions by avoiding these common mistakes and optimizing your recruiting strategy.