UK: The Top 10 Recruitment Mistakes

Last Updated: 13 November 2012

The top 10 recruitment mistakes (in order of frequency) are:

  1. Inadequate job descriptions. The job descriptions that drove the recruitment process focused solely on experience and skills rather than company expectations for the position.
  2. Superficial interviewing. The recruitment process did not put candidates under the magnifying glass, verify claims or check facts.
  3. Inappropriate prerequisites used too early in the selection process. An over-emphasis on specific education, technical skills, and industry experience screened out qualified candidates.
  4. Snap judgement. Recruitment teams relied too heavily on first impressions to make final recruitment decisions.
  5. Historical bias. Recruitment teams used only past performance to predict future results.
  6. Performance bias. Failure to understand that interview behaviour and job performance are two different things, which resulted in making an offer to the "best actor", not the best candidate.
  7. Fishing in shallow waters. Structuring the search to attract only the bottom third aggressive candidates; not actively seeking out selective "sleeper" candidates.
  8. Failure to probe for core success factors. Not looking for evidence of the five best predictors of long-term success – self-motivation, leadership, comparable past performance, job-specific problem solving and adaptability.
  9. Ignoring top candidates' needs. Not understanding what motivates top talent to take a job.
  10. Desperation recruitment. Not budgeting enough time for the search, resulting in shallow sourcing and superficial interviews.

A combination of causal factors

In most cases these recruitment mistakes are not caused by wilful ignorance or negligence. Rather, recruitments that fail to produce the desired results are most often the result of a predictable combination of causal factors, including the following.

  • Inadequate preparation. The company fails to take the time to outline a detailed, measurable definition of "success" that can be used to source, evaluate and select candidates. Instead, most recruitment organisations rely on outdated or insufficient job specs that merely list desired attributes, educational attainment and other minimally useful criteria.
  • Lack of information. Many recruitment managers lack the information and training to recruit effectively at the executive level.
  • Human nature. Interpersonal situations such as interviews are often guided primarily by gut feelings. The recruitment team that has not been trained to minimise these distractions is easily influenced by preconscious perceptions and non-verbal cues.

The study also identified several other recruitment mistakes. Although not as common as the top 10, these pitfalls still manifest themselves far too often:

  • ignoring cultural mismatches
  • not physically preparing (reception, waiting area, greeting, etc.) for successful interviews
  • failure to create compelling marketing campaigns to attract top talent to open positions
  • passive sourcing (waiting for CVs to come in rather than actively pursuing sleeper and selective candidates)
  • lack of preparation for interviews; no written questions
  • failure to evaluate candidates against an objective definition of success.

With high-stakes competition for talent at an all-time high, companies can't afford to make these kinds of mistakes on a regular basis. The problem is not a lack of desire to recruit properly. In most cases it's a lack of replicable recruitment methods to improve outcomes.

A methodology for recruitment success

The solution is a structured approach that enables companies to avoid the predictable pitfalls that plague many high-level hires. Based on our experience of helping clients to recruit thousands of executives, we have developed a methodology that consists of seven distinct steps:

  1. Implement a deep sourcing strategy to reach and attract selective and sleeper candidates.
  2. Identify and verify success prospects.
  3. Create structured dossiers on selected candidates to enable objective, unbiased evaluation and comparison.
  4. Conduct panel interviews using a "magnifying glass" probe methodology.
  5. Proactively address and overcome obstacles to hire throughout the entire active interviewing process.
  6. Streamline compensation and benefit negotiations through structured interview-based preliminary groundwork.
  7. Follow through on the hire with proven transition communication and work style assessment, coaching and facilitation.

Each step in the process requires the full collaboration of stakeholders in all the business units affected by the potential hire. But when you employ the methodology in a consistent and systematic manner, the outcome is a hire with a significantly increased likelihood of long-term success.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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