Common recruitment mistakes

…that reduce your chances of finding the best candidates…

1. Initial Preparation

Consideration must first be given to which individuals will be involved in the assessment and selection of candidates. There is a need to ensure that they are committed and available for the purpose of developing or reviewing the position and requirements, conducting interviews and evaluating short-listed candidates. Two key documents, the Position Description and the Person Specification, should be comprehensive and separate documents, but a common mistake is to merge them. Over time either may change quite independently from the other.

2. Advertising only where job seekers are looking

The best candidates are usually not looking. It’s a simple fact. This strategy will generally only attract active job seekers. A good advertising strategy should include targeted and well positioned placement to attract the more passive candidates who are not looking.

3. Including a closing date

Why would you include a closing date? The best candidates may become aware and interested just before or after this deadline, and are not likely to have an up to date resume with which to apply in a hurry. You should always leave the door open for that perfect candidate at the eleventh hour.

4. Poorly constructed advertisements

These mistakes all risk missing the best candidates: Advertisements with headings and titles that are too long; no location mentioned; no remuneration indications; not enough relevant information; spelling or grammar mistakes; confusing or ambiguous details; “cheesy” advertising copy e.g. “Looking for that perfect opportunity?….Have we got the job for you!”, etc.

5. Average selection skills

Selection is an art and a science. Too often organisations do not possess nor recruit the advanced skills necessary for reviewing applications and resumes, interviewing potential candidates, reference checking and ultimately selecting new appointees.

6. Asking applicants to provide details of how they meet selection criteria

This has become common practice to help make initial selections prior to interview. It is probably driven by the volume of poor applications from advertising only on seek etc., and average skills in reviewing resumes. What it usually does though, is cause further confusion and discourages those very good and time poor candidates whose resumes already demonstrate that they likely meet the key selection criteria. It is doubtful that any responses would indicate that they do not meet the selection criteria. It would be much better to ask those questions in person during an interview, or at least on the phone, when the candidate must respond on the spot, and the interviewer has the opportunity to probe for specific information. Similarly, reference checks should usually only be completed live on the phone or in person.

7. Considering only one candidate

Whether they are internal or external, it is folly to only consider one candidate unless it is a strategic succession plan, or it is known that no other possible candidates exist (unlikely). Where possible the preferred candidate should be selected from a short list, and undergo a competitive selection process, rather than receiving a tap on the shoulder or a direct advance and tacit endorsement. Otherwise you can create a very different, potentially negative and sometimes dangerous engagement dynamic if the candidate knows they have been exclusively “chosen”, as this will impact organisational culture and fit.

8. Using contingency, industry specialist or big recruitment agencies

There is a separate article devoted to this, but the common theme is that these agencies tend to cut corners, and identify only active and sometimes passive candidates, but rarely those who are not looking. They also tend to become candidate driven rather than client focused, and their ability to search for potential candidates is ethically restricted by their business with a large volume of other client organisations. Their “searches” are usually restricted to their existing databases of previous candidates and past job applicants, as they try to fit known “candidates” to available jobs. Using mid-level recruitment agencies for more senior positions is also a big mistake which may discourage quality senior candidates.

9. Picking the best from an average bunch

If the recruitment approach is limited to attracting only active and perhaps some passive job seekers, you may end up simply selecting the best candidate considered, whether or not they meet all of the selection criteria. In this situation the best thing to do is to change and re-start the recruitment process, rather than making concessions. Good candidates are out there, you just haven’t used the right strategy to identify or attract them.

10. Not providing appropriate contact to applicants, or feedback to candidates.

Whilst this won’t affect the current recruitment assignment, it may impact on future ones, if all unsuccessful applicants and candidates do not receive the appropriate contact and feedback to ensure they experience a professional, and where necessary a confidential and discreet engagement.

As a boutique and client focused firm, Hines Management Consultants has over 30 years experience managing professional and comprehensive search and selection assignments for a wide range of organisations and position types within the public and private sectors.

We have the necessary expertise to ensure that your next key appointment, regardless of level, is of the highest calibre.