27 September 2023

Hire calling: The most common recruiting mistakes and how to avoid them

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Riia O’Donnell* says with so much at stake, recruiters can’t afford any missteps in the hiring process.

The dog-eat-dog world of hiring is pushing hiring pros to look for new ways to source and acquire talent.

For some, success is the reward for innovation; for others, old snags and problems persist, stifling their efforts no matter what they try.

Candidates no longer tolerate lags or red flags anywhere in the process.

If recruitment doesn’t work like a well-oiled machine, experts suggest taking a look at whether you may be making some common mistakes — and offer solutions for avoiding them.


  1. Missing the Goldilocks zone

If your postings read like War and Peace, it’s a safe bet no one will get through the first paragraph.

If they’re too short or too vague you’re likely getting an avalanche of candidates who don’t fit the bill.

Postings are not job descriptions, which can be lengthy and detailed; they need to be concise, interesting and, most of all, motivate the right candidate to apply.

As Goldilocks would say, they need to be “just right.”

  1. Getting the name and location wrong

“A common mistake that recruiters make is using … vague, irrelevant or non-standard job titles,” Mark Masterson, VP of talent acquisition and delivery at Yoh said.

He suggested recruiters think about what a candidate would be searching for, rather than specific jargon.

  1. Working with old tools

Crafting a posting from an obsolete (or overreaching) job description is certain to net you bad results.

“Really question whether or not the job you are trying to fill really requires the candidate to have an MBA or even a university degree,” Gretchen Van Vlymen, VP of human resources at StratEx writes.

“You may be alienating yourself from good workers if you automatically require a higher education degree without really thinking through whether the job truly requires that.”

Kurt Smith, founder and CEO of Recruitsy agrees. Too often recruiters ask for skills and talents that simply don’t exist (or don’t exist in today’s market).


  1. Holding out for a perfect fit

How often are you really going to get an exact match for the opening you post?

Hiring managers often make the mistake of being too narrow in their search, looking for the perfect fit rather than a person with the aptitude to stretch and grow into the role.

  1. Minding the gaps

Too many employers look at employment gaps as an automatic disqualification, said Van Vlymen, but “there are a lot of valid reasons why good candidates take breaks”.

“Some of this real-life experience can actually lend itself to common competencies required for certain positions.”

  1. Skipping the phone screen

Whether you merely find out the candidate is still available or are able to go deeper, phone screens are worth the time, experts say.

“Phone screens are a great first line of defence to help save time during the whole process,” said Van Vlymen.

They can help filter out the candidates who aren’t the right fit right off the bat and do a quick assessment of communication skills and basic criteria.


  1. Not preparing the candidate

Adequately preparing the candidate for the final interview is the most critical task in the process, and is something many recruiters don’t do well enough or at all.

The entire process should be as predictable as possible for the candidate.

They should feel comfortable knowing the process, next steps and what to expect from the interviewer.

  1. Ignoring unconscious bias

If you knew you were doing it, it wouldn’t be unconscious.

But Van Vlymen says you can acknowledge the existence of bias.

“It is in our nature to gravitate toward those who are like us,” he said.

“Acknowledge that there may be unconscious bias and work actively to think outside the ‘box’ looking for candidates who … also bring something new to the table via their background, their experience, their language.”

Consider your reasons to exclude: are they generic like “culture fit,” or “overqualified?”

Make sure any reason you use to eliminate a candidate from consideration is rooted in subjective, measurable criteria.

The process

  1. Forgetting that candidates are customers

It’s a buyer’s market and a laundry list of requirements isn’t going to entice job seekers.

What you want from them must be artfully camouflaged around what they can expect from you.

When a candidate isn’t treated with the respect as a potential customer, the candidate experience fades.

But so does the recruiter’s reputation.

The best recruiters value all interactions with candidates, develop strong relationships and build future business with referrals.

  1. Sending them packing

A long or complex application process can translate to lost applicants.

  1. Snoozing on the job

Keeping on top of every viable candidate means communicating quickly and routinely; it’s a lot harder to ghost a recruiter with whom you have a solid personal connection.


  1. Skipping reference checks

Passing on reference checks is a big mistake, experts say.

They recommend doing more than checking a box: ask in-depth questions about a candidate’s personality, character, and drive.

Discover important projects the candidate played a part in, and see what their role was in its success.

* Riia O’Donnell is a HR professional and Contributing Editor to HR Dive.

This article first appeared at www.hrdive.com/.

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