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Top 5 Recruiting Mistakes...and How to Avoid Them

Recruiting, or Talent Acquisition, is as much art as it is science and the most successful recruiters have discovered the secret of how to do it right. With over 20 years of experience resulting in 15,000 hires, I have made my share of mistakes! Here is my top 5 list of things to avoid during the recruiting process:


Or any other company for that matter…

Every company has different challenges, and different talent markets require custom approaches. Maybe you are the hottest ticket in town and candidate screening is your challenge. In that case, you put your efforts towards finding the best tools and techniques to make the evaluation process the most efficient and effective.

Alternatively, your company has little employer brand recognition and the jobs themselves require specialized skills or training that is hard to find. If that’s your company, you’d put your efforts into developing candidate flow and use pre-demand recruitment techniques such as partnering with educational institutions, or investing in multi-platform advertising and referral campaigns.


Most companies find themselves in both situations at times and need a recruitment strategy that addresses both candidate flow and screening. You also will want a talent acquisition program that comprehensively addresses a continuum of recruitment needs. These needs range from doing a good job of executing daily blocking and tackling while occasionally engaging outside recruiting services. To make a healthcare analogy, think about the balance between routine and regular preventative care versus the rare trip to the ER.

The key is to make your talent acquisition strategy consistent with (and unique to) your company’s brand, goals, priorities, budgets, and talent profiles. Don’t try to be like someone else.


We’ve all been there—a key member of the team has given notice and it’s a race against time to get a replacement hired quickly. So what do you do? Grab the old job description, maybe change a sentence or two, then get it posted so the flood of qualified applicants can start coming in. The problem with this approach is that you are making the process more challenging for you in the long run if you don’t put the time into the job posting up front.

The job posting is not a job description. Just like a resume is a candidate marketing tool, a job posting is an opportunity marketing tool. Make sure it is accurate, but also make sure it is appealing and enables candidates to clearly determine if they see themselves in the role or not.

The job duties of an accounting clerk are not going to vary much from company to company, but the overall environment will vary significantly. Spend the time to communicate the “sizzle” of the opportunity and the “why” behind the work you do. Describe the ideal candidate in conversational and human terms and pose the question, “Is this you?” A candidate who is lukewarm on the role will not invest the same amount of time and effort applying, whereas someone who feels a connection to the employer brand projected will make much more effort crafting a cover letter, or articulating why they are a great fit. Enabling the candidate to self-screen saves you much more time and effort in the long run.



Congratulations, you have got a great group of resumes. The hiring manager wants to interview this week and has blocked out a whole day. Excellent news! Let’s just get those folks in and get this process moving, right?

Unfortunately, as we all have learned (probably the hard way) a perfect resume isn’t the whole story. There is so much important information that can be learned about a candidate with some simple pre-screening. That can either be a phone call, or a follow-up questionnaire/assessment, or even incorporating customized questions at the point of application. Most applicant tracking systems make this easy to do in an automated way.

Give some thought to the “knock-out” questions. Can the candidate work the needed hours? Is the established pay rate in the right range? Does he/she work well alone? If given a choice of 3 work tasks, which would he/she like least? The options for skills and fit-based questions are limitless. Making some judgments, about what is needed and what responses are most desired in advance of an interview, will provide useful information and make the process much more efficient.


In a tight labor market in general, or with roles that require specialized skills that are always in demand, the top candidates stay on the market less than 10 days. That means you need to act fast. If an applicant looks great on paper, contact him or her immediately. Don’t let too much time go by before next steps. But most importantly, don’t fall victim to believing that you need to take extra time to find and interview an arbitrary number of candidates if you have a strong candidate in hand.

There is a concept in economic theory called “satisficing.” This basically means choosing the first available option that meets the need. It may feel counter-intuitive to not continuously seek a better candidate, but think about it...if you had all the time in the world, you would eventually find a better candidate. And then a better one after that. But at some point, striving for perfect becomes the enemy of good and you’ve lost months of productivity. Definitely take all the steps needed to make a good choice, but then pull the trigger.


If you were lucky enough to get 100 applicants for a role, 5 contenders and 1 successful hire, you have left 100 people with an impression of your employer brand. You want it to be a good one. In our totally networked world, everyone is connected to someone who is a potential employee, customer, shareholder, competitor, or other stakeholder.

Think about what impression you want to leave with the folks who did not get (or take) the role—particularly if they are the silver medalists. It’s important to close the loop with any applicant so they don’t feel as if their inquiry went straight into the proverbial black hole, but you want to give special attention to the folks who would have been great hires but for the “chosen one.” Be prompt with feedback on the process, keep in touch with them, and respect their efforts with personalized messaging. You never know when you will need to hire for that role again, or who those candidates are connected to.


When working with people, there are too many potential mistakes to compile just a top 5 list. But if you can avoid the ones highlighted here, in addition to the standard “unforced errors,” you will be well on your way to mastering the balancing act that is recruiting.


Written by: Allison Small, Co-founder and VP of Program Development and Execution, TalentCMO

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