Blog Candidate Quality The 5 Biggest Recruitment Mistakes That Drive Talent Away
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I recently read an article by Liz Ryan, a respected journalist working for Forbes, outlining five common recruitment mistakes that drive talent away.


It’s a good article and well worth a read if you recruit staff and want a sharp reminder of the biggest recruitment mistakes and what you should and shouldn’t be doing to attract and retain the best talent.


LR: It’s unbelievable but true that most medium-sized and large employers have not figured out what every marketer knows: if you treat people decently, they’ll stick around. If you treat people badly, they’ll disappear! This holds true in recruiting as well as product and service marketing.


Some employers are slow to get the memo that the best candidates have their pick of which organization to work for. Don’t you want to target great applicants in your recruiting efforts? If so, you have to step your game up and treat those applicants like gold!


Employers who understand that job candidates have choices and don’t have to put up with obnoxious recruiting practices will hire the best candidates. Those employers don’t whine about “talent shortages,” which are imaginary in any case. They know that people will show up to work for them if they value good candidates, and show it!


MS: Talent leaders around the world have been saying for some time now, that it is no longer a war for talent, but the modern-day mindset should be more in tune with nurturing or romancing talent and this needs to be reflected in the recruitment processes that you deploy and administer.


LR: Here are five ridiculous and insulting recruiting practices that can’t help a company do a better job of recruiting, but will definitely help them drive talented people straight into the arms of their competitors!


Five Horrible Recruiting Practices that Drive Talent Away

          1.     Radio silence

          2.     Pre-employment tests

          3.     Focus on a job candidate’s current or past salary

          4.     Outdated interviewing practices

          5.     General neglect and abuse of candidates in the pipeline


LR: Radio silence is the sound job candidates hear after they’ve spent an hour or two completing a painful and archaic online application form. Your candidates may hear nothing back from you for two, three or four weeks. Why would you expect them to stick around that long?


Your terse auto-response email message that says “We’ve received your materials and we’ll let you know if we are interested in you” doesn’t count as a true communication. You have to do better than that if you want great people to join your firm!


MS: Lack of communication is one of the biggest recruitment mistakes. Communication is central to any effective recruitment process, but it’s the when, how and what question. IMHO communication needs to take place at each touchpoint in the process and sometimes that means human engagement and other times it can be automated. Automated responses to confirm that an application has been received, to thank the candidate, to outline the process and time frames and to provide additional information about the job and company is completely fine and will help your organisation to stand out. What the example Liz uses demonstrates, is a recruiter attempting to remove the necessity for further communication with anyone that they feel is unsuitable and this subsequently comes across as arrogant and demonstrates a lack of professional compassion for all the applicants, including those that they are interested in.


LR: Pre-employment tests are one of the great business hoaxes of the second half of the twentieth century. They do nothing to ‘improve the quality of hires’ but they certainly drive away talented people who feel that if you can’t look at their resume, read their recommendations on LinkedIn, meet them in person and make a determination about whether or not you want to hire them, you obviously don’t deserve them.


MS: Let’s be clear, pre-screening is dead. If you pre-screen candidates in a traditional format, in order to avoid unsuitable applicants applying and in an attempt to cut down on the workload ahead, then you are a recruiting dinosaur making a huge recruitment mistake. All the research and trials that have measured the effect of pre-screening of this nature prove that you not only screen out the unsuitable applicants but generally the best ones too. Redirecting candidates from your job advert, to an application form with pre-screening questions will guarantee only one thing; at least a 75% drop out rate.  However, providing gamification tasks at the front of the process is different and certainly, the biggest most established IT brands, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft have turned pre-screening into a challenge for the best applicants to prove themselves.


I do not agree with Liz entirely, that technical tests are outdated. Sometimes these tools form an essential part of the companies selection process, but it’s a case of when to use them and the quality and relevance of the test, as well as the way it is deployed to the applicant.


LR: Great candidates are not going to tell you what they’re earning now or what they earned at their past jobs, period. Employers who can’t determine what somebody is worth without knowing what a completely different company paid them in the past do not deserve the best talent.


Valuing a job applicant’s skills relative to your company’s needs is a basic skill that every recruiting and hiring manager must possess. If your recruiters and hiring managers don’t possess that skill, that is your problem and their problem — not your candidates’ problem!


It is a rude and unprofessional violation of a job-seeker’s privacy to ask for, much less require, his or her past salary details. Are you ready to tell your job applicants what the other people in the company get paid, and what you get paid? If not, stop asking candidates to fork over their pay data!


MS: I am not going to completely disagree with Liz here, because there is certainly some truth in what she is saying. However, establishing what salary the candidate is looking for at the start of the process is essential and clearly advertising a salary band that you are willing to pay and sticking to it is fundamental. Negotiating a package based upon what the candidate was previously earning is incorrect and should be based on what you feel the job is worth paying, within the parameters of market rates etc. Losing candidates at the offer stage based upon salary is criminal in my mind as it signifies a lack of effective communication around one of the most fundamental aspects: what the job is paying.


LR: Outdated interviewing practices are sadly common although it is very easy to replace them with new-millennium interviewing practices that not only work better but make the interview a more pleasant experience for everyone. Get rid of these insulting and idiotic interview questions right now if your interviewers are still living in the past:

          •     What’s your greatest weakness?

          •     With all the talented candidates we will meet, why should we hire you?

          •     If you were a (bird/can of soup/whatever) what kind would you be?

          •     Where do you see yourself in five years?


MS: The biggest problem that I see here is the lack of education and training on this subject. Many companies do not have a defined recruitment process full stop; especially for deeper evaluation of the shortlisted applicants, that culminates in an intelligent cultural and behavioural assessment at the interview stage. In another survey that I read recently, it stated that a very high percentage of candidates actually made their minds up about whether to accept a role if offered, based on their experience at the interview.


LR: The last self-destructive recruiting practice on our list is the widespread, general neglect and abuse of job candidates. Some employers delude themselves that they can take their time making hiring decisions. That is inaccurate because the best candidates won’t wait around while countless committees meet and deliberate and countless bureaucratic pre-hire protocols are followed. The world moves faster than that, and your recruiting systems must move as fast as the world moves outside your doors.


MS: I regularly tell our clients that “I never heard of a candidate that accepted a job, because the recruitment process was slow, but I have come across hundreds who have taken a job elsewhere or even stayed where they are because the application process for the job they were considering was”.  The process of nurturing applicants requires ongoing communication, with each touchpoint an opportunity to leave a positive impression and to help make the applicant feel that they are progressing towards a positive outcome ….. the art of modern recruiting.


LR: Not mentioned on our list is the overarching problem that makes recruiting a trial and a punishment for millions of job-seekers. I’m referring to Applicant Tracking Systems, those lumbering beasts built of nineteen-eighties technology that keep talent-hungry hiring managers and brilliant job-seekers from finding one another.


Applicant Tracking Systems are tools built for a recruiter’s convenience, and any tool that is built for the seller’s convenience at the expense of the buyer is bound to fail, exactly the way Applicant Tracking Systems have failed in making recruiting more pleasant, faster and more effective. If you are confused about the fact that the so-called “talent community” is your audience and you, the recruiter or hiring manager, are the marketer, here is your wake-up call!


MS: A modern recruitment management system should focus on delivering better outcomes and support the user in adapting quickly, to meet their own personal objectives. Choosing a recruitment system should not be done based upon a list of features or because it comes as part of the HR system that has been acquired. The all-encompassing ATS is, 90% of the time, counter-productive to effective online recruitment strategy. They are usually over-priced, over-engineered and struggle with user adoption. Worst of all, they do not provide the applicant with a positive experience of your brand in most cases and thus you can expect to lose many of the best applicants along the way.


LR: Employers who do not see themselves as marketers will never recruit effectively. They will complain about imaginary “skills gaps” and they’ll wonder why great candidates are not beating a path to their door. The answer is clear: change your mindset, and recruiting success will follow!


MS: This is well summarised and brings us back to the start of the talent attraction process. Attracting the best applicants starts by creating a strong brand and that comes from what your current workforce actually says about you. However, attracting talent into the top of the recruiting funnel is a marketing exercise. Your product is, the company, the role and the opportunity and you need to sell it like you would any other product or service, because if the candidates aren’t convinced that your role sounds better than what they already have, then they won’t become part of your prospect list for that job.  You then just need to keep them interested ….


Offering support for both recruiters and on-site HR workforces, Smart Recruit Online helps businesses find and hire the best talent more efficiently. To see how SRO can improve your talent acquisition, campaign management, and candidate screening workflows, book a demo today. 

Mark Stephens

July 11, 2016

Mark has worked in and researched the HR & Recruitment landscape for over 20 years. His key focuses are how recruitment technology, evidence-based processes, and human behavioural science can be used to optimise recruitment performance. He is a serial entrepreneur, previous winner of the prestigious Chambers of Commerce 'Innovation in Business' award, and founder of Smart Recruit Online Ltd, and Corporate Wellness & Mental Health UK Ltd (Corpwell).

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