How to avoid these 11 common hiring mistakes

Last updated:
July 26, 2021
November 17, 2021
min read
Adrie Smith
Table of contents

The stakes of good versus bad recruitment have never been so high. You’ve probably seen some of the statistics:

These are only a few of the trends making it hard to identify, attract, and retain great talent even when you have a well-oiled recruitment machine.

No hiring process is perfect. And many teams suffer the consequences of more than a few common recruitment mistakes.

With that in mind, it’s time to weed these common hiring mistakes out of your recruitment process!

Here we’ll give you a brief overview of the most common hiring mistakes to avoid, along with how you can jump over (or climb out of, if you’ve already made the hiring mistake this time around) the traps.

Hiring mistake 1: Rushing into an offer

Listen, we’ve all been there. Perhaps a long-term employee decided to up-and-leave halfway through a massive project because the stress was too much.

Perhaps you’ve been given a ridiculously tight deadline that has to be met, and you physically can’t do it alone.

There are countless reasons why you might rush into offering a candidate a role. And while we understand, we implore that you stop and think rationally.

As with anything, rushing often comes with copious mistakes. Sure, you could get lucky and hire a stellar candidate. But, equally, you could find your candidate was hired out of desperation, and you’re filled with regret shortly after they began.

Solution: Do your due diligence

You may get a knee-jerk reaction when you’re under intense pressure to hire a candidate as quickly as possible.

It’s now clear why this could prove a massive mistake. So, how do you avoid it?

It’s silly to say ‘take your time’ because sometimes recruiters and hiring managers don’t have that luxury. Sometimes, rushing is the only option.

But if you’re going to rush, you need to rush smart. Of course, many people would consider these two words oxymoronic, but it can be done.

First, assess what you need. Answer why you’re recruiting for this role. The more specific you can be, the better.

For example, if you were to respond to this question by saying, ‘I need help with the new project,’ this task won’t serve you exceptionally well.

However, if you were to say, ‘I need to outsource the data analysis side of Project X while I focus on Y. The data must be gathered, filtered, analyzed, and prepared to present to the team’; you’ll find it far more helpful.

After you’ve answered the real reason why you’re recruiting, assess whether the tasks could fall to any other members of your team or pre-existing employees. Could you divide it, perhaps, between them?

If the answer is ‘no,’ then proceed to your recruitment process. However, make sure you have an apparent representation of the candidate you’re looking to hire. Ensure, too, that you have a way of assessing how close a candidate gets to the ideal person in your mind.

If you simply don’t have time, consider raising a vacancy internally. Chances are you’ll already know the employee, so you’ll be taking less of a risk than rushing into an external hire.

Hiring mistake 2: Emitting radio silence post-offer

You’ve signed your dream candidate, and they’re all set to join your company. The only thing left is for them to work their one-month notice period. Your work as a recruiter is done! Another successful hire, signed, sealed, delivered – they’re yours!… right?

Wrong.

This is one of the most common hiring mistakes, and it’s one that’s easy to make.

With so many hires on your plate, it’s common to jump from one process to the next. Unfortunately, just because an offer has been signed, it doesn’t mean the candidate will make it to their first day on the job.

Many candidates continue field interviews and may even receive calls from recruiters. Just because they’ve signed your offer doesn’t mean they won’t receive more enticing ones.

Radio silence on your end post-offer compounds the issue by creating doubt and uncertainty on the candidate side. Understandably, you may lose some candidates during this waiting period if there’s no contact.

Solution: Create an engaging onboarding process that gets your new employee involved from the moment the offer has been accepted.

You’re going to want to start your employee onboarding early and make sure to engage your candidates post-offer.

Give them some homework: documents to review, tools to download or learn. You may even consider inviting them to company gatherings to get to know the team before joining.

An introduction or visitors’ day is an excellent way of setting expectations from the start, alongside driving engagement and enthusiasm before their very first day.

Hiring mistake 3: Canning rejected candidates

It’s hard to justify spending more time on rejected candidates when you’re still trying to hire someone in that position. And more often than not, candidates are rejected and forgotten about. As in, zero feedback, zero communication, and zero care. Sounds cold when you put it like that, right?

We know it wasn’t your intention, but treating rejected candidates this way is a double-whammy of negative consequences. Of course, it’s unkind. But it also conveys your company as a brand that doesn’t particularly care.

And while they may not have been the right fit initially, some rejected candidates have great potential.

This is especially true in processes where you have to choose between two great candidates. They’ve already expressed interest in working with your company, and depending on their skills, they may be a great fit for another position.

Discarding qualified, interested candidates, but not the right match at this particular time is a huge hiring mistake.

Solution: Use talent pools and stay in touch

Ask qualified but rejected candidates if you can stay in touch for future opportunities. You can either manage a list manually or add them to talent pools where you can engage them easily.

This will both soften the blow of the rejection but also prove to your candidate that you felt they had great potential. It also keeps the prospective candidate interested, further emphasizing what a great company you work for!

Hiring mistake 4: Relying on standardized hiring processes

Every talent acquisition team worth their weight should have a recruitment policy on hand that documents their standard hiring procedures.

Standardized hiring processes can help your team deal with high volumes of job requisitions. They will also guide them in the right direction when it comes to creating a good candidate experience.

Here’s the catch:

People change, companies change, and so do roles. As a result, relying on fixed, standardized hiring processes can, in some instances, become more of a hindrance than a help.

Think of the scenario where you have difficulty finding the right candidate- it seems that every candidate you interview quickly receives an offer from another company.

If you have too many steps in your process (phone screening, technical test, in-person interview, executive interview), you may be missing out on talent.

This situation is where you may need to be flexible on your processes and perhaps deviate from the standard.

Solution: Roll with the times. Don’t be afraid of change, and communicate this with recruitment stakeholders.

Standardized hiring processes exist for a reason, but don’t let them make your job harder than it needs to be.

Meet with your recruitment stakeholders regularly to determine which standardized processes work and which ones don’t.

Also, remain open to updating and changing processes for the greater good: hiring the right talent.

Hiring mistake 5: Using a limited recruitment team

Traditionally, HR and recruitment teams have tended to work in relative isolation. They receive the details of a vacancy from a department. Then they get to work trying to find, qualify, and, hey presto! They hire the right person for the job.

No recruiter needs to be a lone wolf. And keeping recruitment as just an “HR thing” is limiting your potential.

It’s a given that hiring alone can be a heavyweight to carry. On top of this, there are many elements you may miss. Whether that’s during your resume analysis, telephone interview, or in-house interview, it’s impossible to be aware of 100% of what the candidate has said.

There may be red flags that you overlooked. Or, perhaps there was quite the opposite. Regardless, missing out on various elements because you’re recruiting by yourself means you could make a costly hiring mistake.

Solution: Use your team and collaborative hiring.

Make staff recruitment a team activity.

Get your team more involved in the recruitment process.

Use their skills, industry expertise, and team knowledge to identify the right talent.

Make sure to invite them as users into your collaborative hiring software or ATS so that they can be more involved in the process. As onboarded users, they’ll be able to help you screen CVs, schedule interviews, leave feedback, and more.

Collaborative hiring is a fantastic strategy to zoom in on the details. If you have a solid collaborative hiring team, you’ll get to hear the thoughts and opinions of others, sharing the heavy load that you were once carrying alone.

Plus, the opinions of many are more valuable than the opinion of one.

Hiring mistake 6: Avoiding candidate feedback

It’s hard to reject candidates and even harder to receive feedback from them after.

But it’s a common recruitment mistake to believe that the input will always either be negative or useless. You’d be wrong on both counts.

Candidate feedback has the potential to take your candidate experience and hiring to the next level. And while you may be tempted only to receive feedback from your successful hires, it’s more important to gather it from the unsuccessful ones.

Successful hires are likely to want to make a strong impression, seeing as you’ve just hired them. They may also feel indebted to you for the same reason, meaning their responses may be tainted with gratitude.

Unsuccessful hires, however, need no reason to give solely positive feedback should there be constructive criticism to share.

Solution: Refine your candidate experience with a feedback survey.

The best way to combat this hiring mistake is to build a candidate experience survey in your recruitment process.

In Recruitee, you can use integrated questionnaires. Failing that, you can use an external service like Typeform to gather responses.

Make sure to regularly report on satisfaction, experiences, and interviewfeedback from your candidates - hired or not.

Hiring mistake 7: Giving equal attention to all job promotion channels

In the rush to get your job out on the market, you may be tempted to cover all your bases. Posting your vacancy on every platform, social, premium, or niche, may help you feel like you’ve done your best and you’re reaching the most candidates possible.

We get it. But, here’s the thing.

Posting on all job promotion channels is not only unaffordable but may waste your time when it comes to managing the postings.

Not all job promotion channels will be relevant for your vacancies, so don’t spend the same amount of time or effort managing postings on them.

Solution: Make use of your ATS to track your best-performing platforms.

Use your ATS or talent acquisition platform to start tracking your best-performing channels. If you can see what’s already working, it’s conveying that prospects are resonating with your vacancy.

Different people digitally ‘hang out’ in different places. As such, it’s crucial to monitor where your ideal candidate is spending most of their time by analyzing the data.

Tag candidates by acquisition channel or application source as they come into your system. This way you can generate a report later on that reveals the source of your highest volume of candidates but also the highest quality.

Hiring mistake 8: Letting interviewers “freestyle”

Many people prefer to “freestyle” interviews.

After all, sometimes that’s the best way to get to know candidates.

You don’t want to sound like a robot. However, if you at least tailor the questions to the candidate at hand, you’ll be able to dig deeper into the candidate’s skills, qualifications, and experience.

“Unstructured [interviews] doesn’t mean that it lacks any preparation by hiring managers or HR screeners. Instead, it entails a process that goes without any formal structure as dictated by HR. Any sort of preparation, quizzing, questioning, or other process stems strictly from the hiring managers and current staff interviewing the candidate. This means that each discussion becomes an individualized process and that level of individuality makes it very easy for unconscious bias to come into play.”

Unstructured interviews aren’t necessarily bad. But the consequences of unconscious bias can lead to some pretty severe hiring mistakes, which is why this recruitment mistake makes our list.

Solution: Plan your interview questions, but allow some space for flexibility.

Set up your own easy-to-follow structured interview question set within your ATS and invite your hiring manager as a user.

While you want to allow for a certain amount of flexibility within the interview, ensuring that certain questions are answered will only help you later in the selection process.

Include structured interviews into your recruitment policy, and make sure to create your templates within your talent acquisition platform for everyone to access.

Structured interviews may sound constrictive, but they prove one of the most useful interviewing approaches.

Hiring mistake 9: Taking too long with referrals

Employee referrals are an extremely powerful tool in any recruiter’s kit. They have the power to speed up your recruitment process, boost employee engagement, and improve employee retention. Three magical ingredients - so what could go wrong?

Despite these benefits, some teams struggle to manage employee referrals appropriately amid other hiring priorities.

One of the biggest hiring mistakes is mismanaging employee referrals. Not treating the referral with care or urgency can erode any trust that was built with the employee.

They’ll be unlikely to make another referral, and it will be difficult to engage that employee (or others in the loop) in the recruitment process going forward.

Solution: Build an official referral system and document it. Then, stick to it.

Build a referral system into your recruitment process, and write it into your recruitment policy. Detail how employee referrals are managed, including:

  • What the referee needs to do to refer a candidate;
  • Who the point of contact is for any referrals;
  • What HR will take care of and how they will keep the referee updated;
  • Timeframe for response and candidate qualification;
  • Any reward scheme (and conditions) for referrals.

Detailing a system in your recruitment policy will help avoid any confusion and speed up your process.

Hiring mistake 10: Not pushing back on hiring managers during the job spec (& ambiguous job descriptions)

In the traditional hiring model, recruiters play the role of order takers. During the job spec with a hiring manager, the recruiter will get all the information they need to go out and find a selection of potential hires.

In this sort of relationship with a hiring manager, it’s difficult for many recruiters to push back on unrealistic requirements. After all, the hiring manager knows what they need, who are you to question them?

Let’s make one thing clear: you absolutely can question them. And you should.

Not pushing back on hiring managers when there are unrealistic requirements is a humungous hiring mistake. Not only will trying to fulfill unrealistic expectations for a candidate set you back in the hiring process, but it can easily double your time to hire.

Without a good working job spec, you’ll likely need to double back to re-qualify the position with the manager.

Poor and ambiguous job descriptions stemming from the job spec will receive little attention from qualified candidates or too much attention from unqualified candidates.

Blunders and time lost from this flawed process can deteriorate your relationship with the hiring manager and any buy-in you built with them.

A good hiring manager and recruiter relationship is one of the foundations of a successful hiring process, which earns this hiring mistake a place at the top of the list.

Solution: Work on the relationship between yourself and the hiring manager(s). Build it on communication, trust, and honesty.

Establish trusting and consultative relationships with your hiring managers. This starts with pushing back during the job spec and sharing your knowledge on the job market they’re operating in.

Are they looking for a hard-to-find skillset? Or experience that may not be currently available in the candidate market? Tell them!

It’s important to work as a team: they have the business know-how, and you have the recruitment knowledge required to find their next hire.

Make sure that you share your knowledge and experience with them from the beginning in order to work towards your common interest: finding the best candidate.

Hiring mistake 11: Using spreadsheets to manage (even parts of) the recruitment process

Many businesses, especially smaller ones, manage their recruitment processes to some degree using spreadsheets.

They’re seemingly a quick, easy way to manage your candidate information, including contact details, CV information, hiring process steps, reference taking- the list can go on.

Spreadsheets can be a diverse tool, and certainly one you should use… just not to manage your hiring.

Why? Well, there are a couple of deal-breakers.

  • Accessibility

Spreadsheets pose a significant risk when it comes to the accessibility of processes and records.

Unless you share these sheets with the relevant team members, the team may be left in the dark if the recruitment lead is off unexpectedly.

The reality is that many teams save spreadsheets containing hiring process details on desktops- it only takes one sick day or an unexpected computer crash to lose valuable data.

  • Personal data

The most common use of spreadsheets in hiring is to keep track of candidate details.

However, even when you collect this personal data (phone number, name, email address, etc.) with consent, it still falls under the GDPR if it belongs to an EU citizen or is stored on an EU server.

This means that it is not only a security risk- if your laptop gets stolen or server hacked- but it will also need to be maintained according to GDPR. Without automatic deletion of candidate data, you may wind up storing data longer than necessary.

Ultimately, keeping candidate data on spreadsheets is not only a hassle but also a risk.

  • Efficiency

Spreadsheets are a lot of things, but they are not a full-fledged recruitment system.

You need to constantly update spreadsheets, which can add countless hours of admin for you or your team.

Additionally, it may be the interaction that costs your business a great candidate if someone refers to outdated information.

With all of the options out there at various price points, there’s no reason to use spreadsheets as a talent acquisition system.

Spreadsheets are a great tool- just not to manage something as important as your recruitment. Recruitment is complex and requires a lot of dedicated attention. Choosing a tool that is designed for mathematical calculations and not really made for this purpose will wind up costing your team as you grow (if not now)- whether that’s in time, money, or great candidates.

Using spreadsheets in recruitment earns itself its position as one of the worst recruitment mistakes because it is so common and so easy to make.

Often, teams start with spreadsheets, as they’re not ready to invest in an ATS or talent acquisition platform.

As we all know, old habits die hard.

Once you establish a system that works, it’s hard to let go- even when it starts to break at the seams.

Solution: Use a tool that’s been built for recruitment.

Invest in a tool that is designed to track your hiring process and engage candidates.

Many businesses don’t do this from the get-go as these tools can cost a lot of money. But the truth is, many ATS or talent acquisition platforms are now affordable for even small businesses.

Spreadsheets will wind up costing your team time and your great business candidates.

Find a tool that is fit for your purpose and facilitates your hiring rather than bringing it down.

Hiring tips to take action

It seems that sourcing suitable candidates, engaging them in the process, and, ultimately, keeping them as employees is getting more complex every day.

Recruiting day in and day out is a tough job. But one that’s ultimately extremely rewarding as you see your business grow.

Inevitably you will make hiring mistakes along the way. But there are a few recruitment mistakes that are easy to avoid.

Take these eleven recruiting tips into your day-to-day to avoid any recruiting missteps.

  1. Know the reason you’re recruiting along with the tasks that the candidate would be taking on to avoid rushing into a hire.
  2. Continue to engage your candidates post-offer.
  3. Develop talent pools of candidates who have been in process with your company.
  4. Meet with your recruitment stakeholders regularly to revisit standard hiring processes.
  5. Invite colleagues and team members to your ATS to get their input into the hiring process.
  6. Gather candidate feedback.
  7. Assess your best-performing talent acquisition channels.
  8. Set up structured interview question sets to refer to.
  9. Outline your referral system and treat referrals with care.
  10. Consult with your hiring managers at the job spec stage.
  11. Avoid using spreadsheets in your hiring process; consider using a talent acquisition platform.
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