Top Hiring Mistakes, Part 3

In my last two blogs, I covered some of the top hiring mistakes made by employers, culled from Tony Beshara's list of Top 10 Mistakes Employers Make in the Recruiting and Hiring Process. (See: Top Hiring Mistakes, Part 1 and Top Hiring Mistakes, Part 2.) In this blog, my final on the subject, I'll cover another four.

  • Not having a clear idea of what they are looking for.
  • It's nearly impossible to get the right candidate for a position when the hiring authority isn't clear on what he wants (what duties, skills, and competencies are needed). Job descriptions are frequently too generic, and oftentimes outdated. I had an electronics manufacturer actually submit a Sales Manager job description dated 1999. That's 12 years old — the requirements for the job haven't changed in 12 years? Time spent upfront, determining and then communicating what is needed, is time well spent and will help ensure a match in the hiring process.

  • Not communicating with candidates after interviews and not giving honest feedback.
  • Beshara said that “for some reason, hiring authorities don't seem to mind being rude — even to candidates they are interested in hiring.” Timely feedback is important to a candidate, and for most candidates, finding a job is a very high priority. It is common courtesy to close the loop with a candidate, even if the answer is “not a fit”. That candidate might be a fit down the road, and if not treated with dignity and respect during the process, he may not want to work for that company at a later time.

  • Not having backup candidates.
  • There are a thousand reasons why a candidate may drop out in the process prior to hiring — even candidates who seem to be a perfect fit with the client. It could be due to pressures from a spouse or family, not passing a profile test, or just having cold feet. Oftentimes, clients will think they have found the right candidate and therefore stop interviewing. Even candidates they had interviewed previously may have found another position (remember, good candidates have a shelf life), so the process must start from the beginning again, which can be very time-consuming. Having three solid candidates in the queue is recommended.

  • Finally, not hiring older workers solely due to their age.
  • This is not one of the Top Hiring Mistakes highlighted in Beshara's list, but, unfortunately, it's one I've witnessed on multiple occasions and felt it important to include. More seasoned workers oftentimes have much experience and great maturity to bring to a position. Aside from it being illegal to discriminate based on someone's age, companies may miss out on incredibly energetic, loyal, and knowledgeable employees.

23 comments on “Top Hiring Mistakes, Part 3

  1. AnalyzeThis
    September 27, 2011

    Carla, this is some more great advice, I think! A few comments:

    That story of using a job description from 1999 is insane. I can understand being lazy and using old job descriptions as a framework to craft a new job description, but just copy & pasting something that is over a decade old is nuts.

    I agree that it's very important to figure out what type of skills you're looking for in a candidate, while also keeping in mind that the perfect candidate does not exist. So I also believe it's important to prioritize and figure out what competencies are truly essential, and which things would be nice to have, but you can live without.

    As far as not giving candidates honest feedback… this is tricky. I think a lot of people treat job interviews like dating, so if they aren't interested in a candidate, they just don't call them. Even if they “say” something like, “oh, we'll be in touch!” It can be awkward to reject someone. And I've certainly been guilty of not providing feedback to candidates I wasn't interested in, in the past.

    However, I do agree that it is probably best to close the loop and let people know where they are at. A simple, polite email indicating that you won't be pursuing them any further is probably a good best practice.

  2. Nemos
    September 27, 2011

    I liked much the last one “Aside from it being illegal to discriminate based on someone's age, companies may miss out on incredibly energetic, loyal, and knowledgeable employees.” And this statement is so true  I have seen people with the double age that I have and to work with passion and giving the “whole” thing to the job. Furthermore, “older” worker is a great example to follow specially for the younger. Consider a Company with an age limit, something is going wrong for sure …….

  3. Ms. Daisy
    September 27, 2011

    Carla, thanks for the advice in this post. I am glad that my company already adheres to 3 of the suggestions, but we need to do better with our communication with candidates.

  4. Tim Votapka
    September 27, 2011

    I'm not a legal authority on employment law, but after having just attended a two-and-a-half day conference onthis, here's a few soundbytes to add to the hiring mistake list (legal disclaimer – this does not in any way represent legal advice):

    Never put the following phrase in your help wanted ad: “looking for youthful individual…” Instead say “looking for energetic individual.”

    Look at your help wanted post and determine if it's something you yourself would respond to if you were looking in from the outside.

    Never promise anyone anything. Even remarks that seem well-intended like “You do good and work hard, you'll always have a place here.”

    Never abandon an “at will” employment policy, and always include a phrase that says “Other duties may be included in this position not mentioned here.” This protects you from the “that's not in my job description” claim.

    And that's just a few.

  5. electronics862
    September 28, 2011

    Yes, I do agree with the point .. giving the feedback after interview is most important for a candidate .. because if the feedback is given he could have the chance to know the mistakes he has made..but most of the employers, they just take an inteview and they dont let the candidate to know what was the mistake he made during the interview.. i feel it is minimum courtesy,that a company should give feedback to the candidate..

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 28, 2011

    One point I would like to add:


    The hiring company should be proactive in closing the communication with all the candidates who have been interviewed once the selction is finalised. Do't keep everbody guessing or calling you up to know the outcome of their interview.



  7. saranyatil
    September 28, 2011

    Thanks for the post, I feel this article can be a never ending discusiion.

    I agree to all the previous comments, age should never become a barrier in selection process having senior people in the organisation will help growth of company tremendously and they can forecast lots of problems which comes with their experience they carry hence they can guide and caution the younger professionals.

    Next as you mentioned there should be back up of candidates as it will reduce the time spent and on the other it can depict a clear cut comparison between the candidates and right one can be chosen along with the others who are close to the one chosen.

  8. jbond
    September 28, 2011

    This was another great article with some very valid points. The one that sticks out the most to me is the lack of communication to candidates after the interview. I know it is not realistic to expect an answer immediately, but I have personally seen many hiring managers lose great candidates because they drag their feet. People who are searching for jobs can't sit by the phone and wait for a response. At the bare minimum if the manager doesn't want them have the courtesy to call or email and say you didn't fit the bill.

  9. Carla Mahrt
    September 28, 2011

    Thank you for the interesting comments. Many of them surround communication with the candidate post interview. One of my practices as a recruiter is to provide this feedback – the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly! Even though the candidates might not always agree or like the feedback, every one of them has appreciated the candid feedback….sometimes this appreciation doesn't surface until a few days later 🙂

  10. Nemos
    September 28, 2011

    The above advices looks like “how to cover your back when you are working in the recruitment department.” I think if you have a human and professional profile in the same time it is a better option. 

  11. elctrnx_lyf
    September 28, 2011

    I think the most difficult among these four mistakes to correct would be to actually have a back Up. This is mostly because it is difficult to drop a candidate after confirming him a job. In countries like india where the notice period in any company would range from two to three months. After issuing offer the company has to wait for this duration for the employee to join and many times people turn down the offer only when the actual promised joining date comes really close.

  12. Himanshugupta
    September 28, 2011

    an outdated job description might still suits the need of the recruiter as the candidates do not end up doing exactly what they read in the job description. My fear is the case when there is no job description provided to the candidate or the recruiter. It happened to me twice. Luckily one time it end up helping me as i did not need to pretend the knowledge of the subject. But other time it was a complete disaster as i end up interviewing for a job of completely different requirement. This happened because the recruitment agency had no idea about the job profile and they were sending the candidates for the interview with their eyes closed. 

    Not telling the full description of the job may actually help both candidate and interviewer as candidate need not to garner full knowledge of the job subject matter and can focus on his/her strength and interviewer can judge from the candidate's quality for the fit.

  13. Himanshugupta
    September 28, 2011

    @elctrnx_lyf, this can go either way: candidate ditching company or company backing off. I have experience both the cases. I had to let go an offer because of personal reasons and believe me that saying no after you have got a close to dream job offer is not easy. I do not know if people just want to go to job interviews for personal satisfaction of collecting job offers. 

    Recently, my friend was waiting for the offer letter after he cleared all the round and at the last moment HR told him that the offer is no more valid due to fear of recession. It was the first time that i realized deeply that the market situation might not be as rosy as it sounds. 

  14. Taimoor Zubar
    September 28, 2011

    I would completely agree with this. It's very important that the recruiting team has a clear understanding of the job role and responsibility of the position they are hiring for. I think the relevant department needs to communicate this clearly to the recruiting team through documents as well as examples. I was interviewed in an organization for a position and upon inquiring about the job description during interviews, I was given different (and even conflicting!) descriptions about the job responsibility by the recruiting team and the manager of the concerned department.

  15. Taimoor Zubar
    September 28, 2011

    “Finally, not hiring older workers solely due to their age”

    I think experience is directly proportional to age in many cases and the more experience a candidate has, the higher will be salary expectation. In many cases, companies cannot afford highly experienced candidates so they may opt for young people who have lesser experience. This may seem to be an age bias, but effectively it's related with experience and salary expectation.

  16. electronics862
    September 28, 2011

    I do agree with the point, if the experience is more there are more chances that a candidate demand for higher salary.. most of the companies look for the knowledgeable employees for less this case having more experience(age) may be a factor ..

  17. electronics862
    September 28, 2011

    Yes,Hiring authorities aren’t specific enough about the duties, skills, and competencies. The actual requirements need to be communicated with the hiring authority so that they can hire the correct person for the required position..

  18. ProcurementGDL
    September 29, 2011

    the comments regarding age+experience=higher salary is further evidence of hr and organizations are out of touch.  in this economy older applicants realize they won't get higher salaries but HR and organizations are immediately writing older workers off, not even given chance to interview.  it's just incompetence or plain ol' complacency to do things the same old in a new business and economic era.

  19. Carla Mahrt
    September 29, 2011

    to ProcurementGDT…in the cases I referred to age bias, yes the candidates were well within the salary limits.

  20. Anne
    September 29, 2011

    I quite agree that not having backup candidate is one of the hiring mistakes.  This has an impact on recruitment process, in a situation that the best and the chosing candidate found another better offer, the recruitment process is start over.

  21. JADEN
    September 29, 2011

    “Not communicate with candidates after interviews and not giving honest feedback” This mistake is common to most employers, they believe once they are not hiring the candidate, there is no need of getting back to the candidate, it is a lack of courtesy.

  22. Taimoor Zubar
    September 30, 2011

    @Jaden: I agree with you. What I have seen is that most companies do not give out the feedback of the interview to candidates so that they are not able to help out other fellow candidates whom they might now. I don't think this argument is valid though. I strongly believe interviewers should give out complete, honest feedback to the candidate.

  23. _hm
    October 2, 2011

    Yes, this happens often as Managers are not keeping up with technology and some other hidden reason. But following two suggestion works very well:

    (1) Ask peers (with whom new recruit is going to work) to conduct interview. Their feedback is very important. If three peers has same opininon for candidate, manager can take very safe decision.

    (2) Ask peers to bring candidates – like one who they know well. This works very well and it provides good incentive to employee also.


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