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Common Hiring Mistakes That Every Recruiter and HR Professional Makes and How to Avoid Them

Recruiters and HR professionals walking around, trying to avoid the pitfalls created by common hiring mistakes.

Avoid the Major Pitfalls of Recruiting by Tackling These Common Hiring Mistakes

A bad hire. We all know the costs and most of us have felt the burn of making one. But what is it that leads hiring professionals to hire the wrong candidate? Many view bad hires as an inevitable by-product of the job, but the truth is, most bad hires result from common hiring mistakes that plague recruiters and HR professionals throughout the three major stages of the recruiting process:

  • -Pre-Application
  • -Interviewing Applicants and Moving Them Through Your Pipeline
  • -The Offer Stage

In this blog series, to ensure that you never feel the pain of making a bad hire again, we will highlight the most costly pitfalls found within each of these stages. To kick it off, let’s examine the 4 major hiring mistakes that employers make before even getting any applicants.

Hiring Mistake #1: Taking Orders From Your Hiring Manager

The role of recruiting has evolved. Today’s top hiring professionals must lead the conversation with their hiring managers, and promote a collaborative working environment. Why? Research shows that a strong relationship between recruiters and hiring managers is the #1 indicator of hiring success. To foster these strong relationships and promote effective recruiting at your organization steer clear of the following:

Reactive Hiring

There is no other business function as prone to reactive behavior as recruiting. At most companies, the search for a new candidate starts only after the pain has been realized. To make up for lost time, unrealistic hiring timelines are set and there is a mad dash to fill the role ASAP. Amidst this haste, many employers find themselves “settling” for the best candidate available, rather than finding the ideal candidate for the job.

To avoid reactive hiring, develop a strong line of communication with your hiring managers and executives early on to discuss future hiring plans. Hold regular staffing meetings to determine headcount projections. Ask leadership to forecast growth and identify any areas where new team members may need to be brought on. Understanding these expectations gives you the foresight needed to begin building out talent pools early on.

Hiring Without Context

When corresponding with your hiring managers and leadership, it is also vital that you develop a full understanding of the role that you are hiring for. Duh, right? But you would be surprised how many hiring professionals base their job search off some boilerplate job description or req, without developing any further context. Not only is this bad practice, it’s downright lazy.

Put yourself in the shoes of your hiring managers to build context around the positions that you are hiring for. Understand the full scope of the role. For skills and experience, what are the must-haves and what are the nice-to-haves? What is the desired personality type, educational background, industry…? Leave no stone unturned.

On top of these qualifiers, you need to know the search limitations of your hiring manager (salary range, timeline to hire, etc.). If their expectations are unreasonable, tell them so and work with them to create more realistic ones. Do research so that you can come to these meetings prepared with data to inform decisions. Where have you found similar candidates in the past? How much did they cost? How long did it take you to fill the position?

If you use an applicant tracking system, search your ATS to pull relevant profiles from the past to calibrate the job. Show examples. Create an agenda for each job calibration meeting. Here is a sample that we use at Newton:

  1. Explanation of the role and 30/60/90 day project plan
  2. Likely titles
  3. Most important / critical aspects that will make this person successful
  4. Target companies that may have this type of person
  5. Approved salary range
  6. Is relocation on the table?

Hiring Mistake #2: Writing a Weak Job Description

Now that you know the makeup of your ideal candidate, it’s time to write a job description that will attract them. Unfortunately, in many employers haste to hire, they carelessly throw up some generic job description. With most job seekers skimming through hundreds of job descriptions a week, how do you expect some cookie-cutter posting to grab their attention and drive them to apply? You need to show well to get the best candidates.

Regardless of where job seekers flow in from (job ads, your careers page, employee referrals and social recruits), they all eventually land on your job description and use it as the basis for their decision to either apply or not. As such, think of your job descriptions as the gateway between job seekers and your candidate pool. They must be enticing and attract the right candidates to apply, however, you don’t want to cast too wide of a net either or your pipeline will become clogged with unqualified candidates.

Don’t be afraid to let your organization’s personality shine through in your job descriptions. You want to attract candidates who fit in culturally so why not show them your true colors? Get them excited about working at your company! Good candidates have options so you have to go a step above to attract them.

In Newton’s job descriptions, we are always sure to include the following:

  1. A short blurb about our company with an exciting hook to draw candidates in.
  2. A brief description of our ideal candidate.
  3. A description of exactly what they will own / do.
  4. A list of requirements and qualifications that the candidate must meet.

Insider Tip: Be careful of the wording in your job descriptions. Studies have found that certain wording can unconsciously drive women from applying and promote gender discrimination.

Hiring Mistake #3: Not Having a Marketing Strategy for Your Jobs

Having a great job description means nothing if you don’t have a marketing strategy in place to get it in front of the right candidates and drive them to apply.

Online Applications Need to Look Good

This starts with having a fully-branded careers page with online applications. Put yourself in the shoes of a job seeker. If you came to the careers page below, would you want to apply? Probably not.

An image showing a bad example of an online job application.

First impressions matter in recruiting. Within the first couple of seconds on your careers page, a job seeker will form an opinion about your brand. To separate yourself as an employer, provide them with more than just a listing of jobs that you need to fill. Why should they apply to your company over the next one? To answer this question, offer an inside look at a day in the life working at your company. Let your culture and values speak through. Tell your company’s story and get them excited about it!

Looking for an awesome example to build your own careers page off of? Check out the careers page of Newton customer, Annexa. They accomplish everything discussed above by employing the following tactics:

  • -Simple but bold call-to-action that inspires job seekers to learn more and apply: “Do work that matters.”
  • -A spotlight on Annexa’s core values
  • -Another strong call-to-action below the values: “Join our team. Make a difference.”
  • -Listing of current openings after company culture has been established
  • -Annexa’s work philosophy with an accompanying video
  • -A quote from the Founder and CEO discussing the value of Annexa’s work culture

Having a bad looking careers page is one of the biggest hiring mistakes. Here is an example of a great careers page.

External Promotion of Jobs

Outside of how you present yourself as an employer, you need a plan to promote your jobs to external networks where qualified candidates will be searching for them. Posting your jobs to sites like Indeed, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Monster are essential for getting the exposure that you need (Indeed alone has 200 million unique visitors every month). Also, many of these sites offer easy-apply and job advertising capabilities, which can draw up to 5X more clicks and convert up to 88% more qualified candidates.

Insider Tip: Don’t forget about employee referrals and social recruiting. Candidates are connected so your experience needs to be consistent across all fronts. Additionally, both of these outlets provide a more personalized candidate source that often leads to higher quality candidates.

Hiring Mistake #4: Making It Hard for Candidates to Apply

Ok great, you’ve got applicants coming in! Now you need to get them to submit their application. We look at this process as an online retailer would. Think of your candidates as customers- you need to reduce any friction and get them to “transact” (or in your case, apply). Reducing this friction takes a special attention to detail in two areas:

Time it Takes to Complete Your Application

The less time it takes to complete your application, the more candidates will apply. Literally. A common misconception is that making your application more challenging will weed out less qualified candidates. In reality, the opposite is true. Indeed found that 30% of all job seekers and 57% of more experienced job seekers will forgo filling out an application if it takes longer than 15 minutes to complete.

The last thing that you want is to create a bottleneck at the start of your candidate pipeline. Ditch the unnecessary questions and login screens (image below). Only collect the information essential for the position. Then, once you get to later interviewing rounds, you can dig into the details.

Image of the common hiring mistake of having job applicants login.

For an example of what your online application should look like, head over to Newton’s careers page and click through to an application for one of our open positions (yes, we’re hiring!). Notice how short and simple it is. All we require to apply are:

  1. Resume (which can be uploaded from desktop, Google Drive, or Dropbox)
  2. First Name
  3. Last Name
  4. Email

A common hiring mistake is making it hard for candidates to apply. This image provides an example of an online job application that offers a good candidate experience.

Applications Must Be Mobile-Friendly

Aside from being short and simple, your applications also need to be optimized for mobile devices. Mobile search is an integral part of job seeker behavior, as 9 in 10 people use mobile devices for their job search. Want to ruin your recruiting efforts? Having an online application not compatible with smartphones is a great way to start.

But what does a mobile-friendly job application look like? Check out the example below. See how the text and layout are pre-formatted to display properly on the screen? This is a relatively new technology called responsive design. With responsive design, content can be displayed optimally on any device, regardless of screen size. Also notice how this application supports technology like resume parsing and cloud apply, both of which make it easy for mobile job seekers to submit their applications.

A common hiring mistake is not offering mobile-friendly job applications. This image shows an example of a mobile-friendly online job application.

For more information on what it takes to satisfy mobile job seekers, read through our guide on the 6 rules for mobile recruiting.

Insider Tip: Mobile recruiting is also a great tool for promoting EEOC and OFCCP compliance.


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That’s it for the pre-application. Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series, Interviewing Applicants and Moving Them Through Your Pipeline! In the meantime, if you want to stay up-to-date on all things recruiting and hiring, join the thousands of hiring professionals who receive Newton’s monthly Newsletter by signing up below!

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