Recruiters' Five Biggest Mistakes

Recruiting experts tell us some of the worst practices they've seen and how to make the hiring process better for everyone.

It's a familiar hiring hurdle—an abundance of qualified candidates and limited resources to evaluate everyone.

Ken Sundheim, CEO of KAS Placement Recruiters, estimates that nearly one of every four decisions a small to midsize business makes during the recruitment process will hurt their chances to snag prime talent.

We’ve looked at ways social media can surreptitiously bias hiring managers and how candidates can game the traditional interview process. But what about the ways hiring managers and recruiters are sabotaging their own efforts.

Since even Google’s senior vice president of “people operations” publicly denounced the search giant’s practice of asking quirky brainteasers (“How many golf balls can you fit in an airplane) as “a complete waste of time," we asked recruiting experts to tell us some of the other worst practices they’ve observed.

1. Lamenting the Lack of Good Candidates

Shon Burton, founder of HiringSolved:
The idea that "It’s impossible to find a qualified candidate” is a myth. The role of the recruiter is to actively find talent, and to identify people who demonstrate the desired skills and knowledge that any given open position requires.

Recruiting must be done creatively. The method of thinking of a candidate as a walking bullet-list—as someone who can meet a laundry list of expectations and requirements—is as outdated as the traditional resume. Through social media recruiters can easily find who they’re looking for: those who are able to demonstrate both passion and talent. These types of candidates might not have deep experience in an industry, or the most professionally robust resumes, but they’re qualified.

Today, in competitive markets, the best candidate for the job is the person who’s trending up, who you can predict as being extremely successful.

2. Relying On The 10-second Gut Scan

Kevin W. Grossman, director of product and content marketing, Peoplefluent:
Hiring data shows that the gut steers us wrong most of the time. Saying you can scan a resume in less than 10 seconds and know if they’re a fit is a farce. I don’t care how good you (think) you are.

For example, according to assessment company Evolve, previous customer service experience does not mean that you are good at customer service. And just because you have a college degree in engineering doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good engineer. Maybe the rare recruiter who is empathic and generally balanced and insightful has a better track record at screening with the gut (because of leveraging some sound data), but we just aren’t wired for prescience.

3. Listing Job Requirements That Aren't Actually Required

Steven Rothberg, president and founder, College Recruiter
One of the less reported on, yet quite illegal, practices used by some hiring managers and recruiters is to advertise some experience or educational accomplishment as a job requirement which is not job related.

An example that I often run across are job postings which require candidates to have a four-year college degree. That's fine in a licensed field such as engineering in that you can certainly require someone to have an engineering degree if you're hiring an engineer. But it is illegal and morally wrong to require a four-year degree for positions like sales. 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.

4. Using Confusing and Poorly Written Job Descriptions

Kevin W. Grossman, director of product and content marketing, Peoplefluent:
Job descriptions have tons of textual debt in them—one job description was drafted by HR years ago, and instead of starting from scratch with the hiring manager and creating a sound description based on actual needs and skill sets, we edit and bastardize them. 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.

Now, if job descriptions were based more in reality with what’s truly need in skills, experience, and competencies, combined with real-life “day-in-the-life” video interviews from the hiring managers and colleagues and other individuals who may currently fill the role, kind of a 360 job description review, then we’d be getting somewhere more quickly and accurately with our sourcing and recruiting.

5. Mentioning a "Negotiable" Salary

Aram Lulla, general manager, Lucas Group:
Rather than listing a salary range as negotiable, I would advise not to list any comment or statements about salary altogether (post only the position and requirements).  Regardless, the logic is the same as to why a candidate wouldn’t want to disclose their salary requirements to a company: aim too high or too low, and you potentially limit your opportunity/pool.  Additionally, even if the role they are applying to is above or below their respective range, there may be an opportunity to discuss other opportunities now or in the future.  The key for both parties is making that initial connection.

[Image: Flickr user josh.ev]

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3 Comments

  • Ben Simerly

    Lyndia, thanks for the article, but you forgot #6: Ignore the last line of #3. Income level should have nothing to do with the hiring process. Are they qualified and a good fit, or not. Period. When I am hiring somebody the reason I wouldnt require a certain level of education for a particular position is because it may not matter in that position. The idea that the clause may hurt someone in a lower income class is an insult to modern man, experienced workers, and educated workers alike. All that does is promote discrimination.

  • I've written a lot about this stuff on my own blog because I'm going through a painful job search of my own right now. This is a great article and hits pretty much every key point that you run up against.