What is a recruitment process? A plausible answer would be “a process to hire new employees”. A more detailed one would be “a process with five steps: 1) write a job description, 2) post it to job boards, 3) receive candidates, 4) interview, and 5) hire!”
Although no two recruitment processes are the same, you will stumble on these five steps more or less when trying to figure out your own process. Along the way, you will also find some surprises.
A recruitment process is often plagued with uncertainties and biases. You are uncertain because you don’t know what the goal – the one you should hire – looks like. You are prone to be biased because that’s all you’ve got to rely on to get to the goal. That’s when you form fallacies – ideas that you hear often and think are true but are actually false. Worse, they can dictate your hiring decisions throughout the entire recruitment process.
Realizing your own process is one thing, making sure you don’t commit fallacies in each of its steps is another. Below I’m going to cover the most common fallacies in every step of a typical recruitment process. May they be the force that prevents you from falling for any of those fallacies.
For easy navigating, you can click on each step below to jump straight to that step.
Step 1 – Set up for candidates (and success)
Step 2 – Post job ads
Step 3 – Source candidates
Step 4.1 – Screen and track candidates
Step 4.2 – Interview candidates
Step 5 – Make hiring decisions and offers
Step 1 – Set up for candidates (and success)
That’s right. Before you jump into writing any job description, think about how you will display it, distribute it, and get candidates from it. Think about tools that can help you do those things. This is the foundation which your entire recruitment process will depend on. Skip this and you will be committing…
Solid slope fallacy: You reason that you can take certain actions because they won’t cause any serious effects. But you don’t have any evidence proving that the effects will not be serious.
For example, you managed to hire your first two employees with just spreadsheets. So you keep using spreadsheets when you need to hire four people. Four is not a lot more than two, so it will be ok. In fact, many of us have tried to make do with spreadsheets until we hate ourselves for doing that. The number of files and back-and-forth emails with candidates will eventually crush your speed of switching tabs. When you realize you can’t track what is where anymore, it might be too late. This fallacy was one of the reasons we built Recruitee. Its essence is to keep everything organized and to be the base supporting your entire recruitment process.
When looking for a tool, naturally you would want it to help you with as many hiring tasks as possible. But keep your expectations in check, otherwise you will commit…
Extension fallacy: You argue that something is under par because it doesn’t do what it isn’t supposed to do.
For example, you complain that recruitment tools are bad because they don’t give you as many applicants as you hoped for. In reality, the best tools can only help you reach potential candidates and keep your communication tidy. Convincing those candidates to apply for your jobs is your job. No tools can do that for you, yet.
One of the many ways to attract applicants is listing your open positions on your own website. You might have seen those web pages called “careers page”, “careers site”, or “job page”. You might have one as well. It’s kind of okay, maybe doesn’t look as good as your homepage. But isn’t that how careers sites have always been?
Appeal to tradition fallacy: You argue that you should do something in a certain way because it’s always been like that.
For example, you don’t want to invest in your careers site because most careers sites you have seen are quite simple, if not dead simple. Why spend time and effort on it? Actually, a careers site is a powerhouse for your employer brand. It’s where candidates check first and foremost to get to know you as an employer. Impraise, one of our users, showcases not only their openings but also photos and videos of their work culture. As a result, Impraise’s candidates already familiarize themselves with the culture and the team the moment they’re hired.
It’s great to have a careers site with your logo and photos shining with your employer brand. Candidates can see your employees’ happy faces everywhere they scroll. It’s great. But is that enough to sweep candidates off their feet?
Style over substance fallacy: You reason that something is correct as long as it is appealing. Its content doesn’t matter at all.
For example, you believe you will get applicants with a dazzling careers site and mediocre job descriptions. But it doesn’t work that way. Candidates may visit your careers site, but they ultimately apply for your jobs. No smoke and mirrors can dress up soulless job descriptions. No candidates can be turned on by laundry lists or buzzwords. Seriously. For more advice on writing good job descriptions, please check this article out.
With a nice careers site AND decent job descriptions, candidates will be impressed with my employer brand and apply – you think – they will have a great candidate experience thanks to my great employer brand. It’s easy to get into this train of thought. But we’re just at the very first step of a recruitment process. If you get ahead of yourself at this point, you might fall for…
Complex cause fallacy: You attribute an event to a simple cause while the real cause is more complicated.
For example, you expect your careers site to deliver your entire employer brand to candidates. And it should be responsible for providing a good candidate experience, too. As a matter of fact, a careers site isn’t the only thing that contributes to your employer brand or the candidate experience you give. The speed and the way you communicate with candidates, for example, are also important pieces of the puzzle. We will dive more into this in the following steps.
Step 2 – Post job ads
A good setup with the right recruitment tool – checked. A nice careers site – checked. Great job descriptions – checked. Now you just need to post your jobs everywhere and applicants will flood in, right?
False cause fallacy: You argue that something is the cause of another thing, but you have no evidence proving that such causal relationship exists.
For example, you pour money into posting to every job board you can find, hoping that you will get tons of applicants. This approach actually does more harm than good. First, candidates might not apply at all because your job post is irrelevant (don’t expect to get sales applicants by posting to tech job boards). Second, you might get so many irrelevant applications that you become overwhelmed and miss out on the good ones.
Not to mention, job boards can sometimes be misleading…
Appeal to pride fallacy: You are told to accept something only because you have the capabilities to grasp it.
For example, job board X claims that only modern, innovative companies would post there. Your company is modern and innovative, so you want to use job board X. As it happens, what the claims do is sweet-talking you into believing them rather than being truthful. It’s risky to blindly base your job ad budget on these claims.
To avoid posting everywhere or being influenced by subjective claims, you might decide to rely on what you have heard from third-parties elsewhere…
Appeal to anonymous authority fallacy: You argue that you should do something because unidentified authorities approved it.
For example, you want to use job boards X, Y, and Z because people got lots of good candidates from there. But you have no idea who those “people” are. You don’t know which sector they are in, which professional level they are looking for, which network they are using, and so on. With so much context missing, as a matter of fact, your chance of getting the right applicants won’t improve.
Ok, how about following posting practices from similar companies?
Equivocation fallacy: You interchange two things because they are similar, but you don’t consider their differences.
For example, Google is a tech company and they don’t post jobs to job boards. Your company is a tech company, so you don’t want to use job boards either. What you are overlooking in this case is the difference between Google and your company. One thing to consider is work cultures. Different work cultures require different candidates. Google couldn’t find candidates meeting their criteria via job boards so they stopped using it. But that doesn’t mean the same would happen to you.
How to know where to post your jobs then? I’d say take a hint from Google’s approach. Look at your past activities. Where did your best candidates come from? Track down the channels and double down on them. Where did you not get candidates at all? Stop using those channels. Booking.com has used this tactic and seen great improvements on their bottom line. Besides, making decisions based on data would prevent you from committing…
Appeal to common practice: You argue that you should do something because other people are doing it.
For example, you only post jobs to job boards because everyone else is using job boards. In truth, there are many other ways to advertise a job than job boards, such as utilizing normal advertising channels. We have experimented with Facebook ads and Instagram ads to promote our job openings. Relevant candidates were attracted, including passive ones, and we made great hires from there. The logic is quite simple: If you post jobs where other people are not posting, you might get the prize candidates people are not vying for. To take this to the next level: If you find candidates pro-actively instead of waiting for them to find your job postings, you might just lay hands on the best candidates before anyone else.
Step 3 – Source candidates
You often go through a recruitment process to select the best from the candidates that applied. How about the candidates that didn’t apply but are better? Most of them already have a job, but the idea of moving on to something else might be on their mind. They just haven’t taken action. Yet. If you come to them and invite them to apply for your jobs, you will increase your chance of getting the truly “best” there is. This action is called “sourcing” and you can start doing it right now. With a good Internet connection and a simple sourcing tool, you already get off to a good start. Then it’s up to you to judge who would want to join your company and be successful. Just be aware of…
Accident fallacy: You generalize the characteristics of a group and you attribute them to a single member of that group.
For example, you don’t want to source a millennial candidate because millennials are known to be job-hoppers. Even if you hire them, they’ll probably leave within two years. In fact, this argument doesn’t hold true for every millennial. Remember that you’re generalizing a whole generation – millions of people! They can’t be all alike. It’s better to source them first and then get to know them and their intention with a phone call.
It can feel too much when you start doing sourcing. Any websites with a user database are opportunities to source from! Normally you would start with a source you know, but don’t rely on it too much, because of…
False analogy fallacy: You come to a conclusion by comparing two things although they’re not similar enough to lead to your conclusion.
For example, your top performer came from school X so you only source candidates coming from school X. You think that they will become your top performers, too. The thing you should realize is that school X might have changed a lot since your top performer studied there. Even when the school doesn’t change, there is no guarantee that all students enrolling there are at the same level.
Sometimes, you decide which candidates to source based on unspoken criteria. Then you might have committed…
Hasty conclusion fallacy: You come to a conclusion while not having enough evidence to support the conclusion.
For example, you don’t source candidates who work less than two years in each of their previous positions. Because they are not committed, you conclude. What you really overlook here is the reasons why they changed their jobs. If a company went bankrupt or the candidate had to attend to personal matters, it has nothing to do with them.
Very often, you need to stop yourself from judging the source where candidates come from while sourcing them. That would help you prevent…
Genetic fallacy: You argue that you should accept or reject an idea solely based on its source.
For example, you don’t want to source ex-employees for fear that they might leave again. As it happens, candidates who know how your company works and have a chance to see how other companies work can bring you great value. We even had an extensive discussion about the surprising benefits you can get from ex-employees.
Only considering the source of the candidates can also get you into…
Snob appeal fallacy: You argue that you should accept an idea solely because highly-regarded people accept it.
For example, you only source candidates who have been working for well-known companies like Google and Facebook. Sounds good. But the fact that they bring value to Google and Facebook doesn’t mean they could do the same for you. Research has found that career success is highly situational. Unless you have the exact team and organization setup as Google or Facebook, hoping their employees to replicate success for your company is wishful thinking.
Of all the fallacies you might commit at this step of the hiring process, there is one that is particularly deceptive…
False criteria fallacy: You use irrelevant criteria to judge the subject of an argument.
For example, you only source candidates who have a certain diploma or certificate, while none of the top performers in your company have that. I know it’s tempting to go around sourcing candidates with a checklist. Just be careful not turning it into a wishlist. Be realistic with what a potential candidate must have. The “nice-to-haves” can come later once all the “must-haves” are covered.
Step 4.1 – Screen and track candidates
This is the most overwhelming step of a recruitment process. Applications keep coming in and you need to stay afloat. Even when the number of applications is low, the pressure to select the right candidates can escalate pretty quickly. It’s not surprising that you can find more fallacies here than in the previous steps. Actually, there are so many fallacies that I need to break this step down into two sub-steps. First, we will tackle the fallacies in screening and tracking candidates. Second, we will look into the fallacies in interviewing candidates.
With screening candidates, it’s hard not to run into…
Self evident truths fallacy: You accept an idea with no concrete evidence other than that it is well known.
For example, you screen all female candidates out for a technical position. Because it’s commonly known that girls are not as good at natural science as boys. Ok, it doesn’t have to be that drastic in reality. But we are all biased. Being conscious that we’re biased is the first step to combat it. Don’t take common beliefs for granted. Attest them when it comes to something as important as hiring the best candidates for your company.
Just like with sourcing, you often have a checklist full of requirements to screen applications. However, some of those requirements can exclude more great candidates than you think…
Significance fallacy: You use statistical evidence in an argument while knowing or not knowing that the statistic is inaccurate.
For example, you disqualify any candidates with less than 10 years of experience. What you fail to notice is what the requirement is really about. It might be counterintuitive, but “10 years of experience” has more to do with the quality of the skills a candidate possesses than the number of years they accumulate. Imagine a candidate doing the same thing for 10 years and another candidate achieving the same level in only two years. If you exclude the latter, you forgo a brilliant mind.
A candidate’s past experience is always the highlight of their CV. Be mindful of what you read here and avoid committing…
Laudatory personality fallacy: You reason that a person couldn’t have done anything bad because they hold a highly regarded position.
For example, you think that a candidate can’t perform poorly because they worked for a well-known company before. Well, of course they can. Remember that career success depends a lot on context. A candidate’s success could be attributed to their team and work settings as much as to themselves. They might have messed up before, but it was fixed thanks to their team. They could repeat the same mistake in your company, and you might not have the same setup to fix that. This doesn’t mean you should disregard a candidate’s past success. Just keep in mind that the big picture of a candidate’s achievements is more important than its parts.
The opposite of the laudatory personality fallacy is also something you can relate very well.
Reprehensible personality fallacy: You reason that a person couldn’t have done anything good because they hold a certain position.
For example, a candidate had a career gap for a year so you think they are not capable of working. To tell the truth, external factors can play a big role in shaping a candidate’s career. A career gap can be due to personal circumstances and the candidate’s skills might remain intact. Before you get to know the real cause behind it or assess the candidate properly, it is too early to rule them out.
You need to focus on what candidates did in their previous companies besides those companies’ names. The more details you can get out of that, the better. Then you won’t fall for…
Post hoc fallacy: You argue that one event caused another because the first event happened before the second event.
For example, a candidate stated that their company’s revenue had increased thanks to a project they had worked on. While it’s true that the project happened before the revenue increase, it doesn’t mean that the candidate was necessarily responsible for that growth. It’s tough to get to the root of a candidate’s claims by just screening their CV. What you can do is taking note of those questionable claims and call the candidate to verify, or save that for the interview step.
Another part of a candidate’s CV you often look at is the activities and hobbies they have outside of work. Your checklist probably doesn’t cover these because they’re not per se essential to the open positions. Because of this, it’s easy to let your subconscious judgment slip and commit two fallacies.
Guilt by association fallacy: You reason that a person shares the same traits with the thing they’re associated with.
For example, a candidate is part of a leadership network so you think they have leadership quality. This is not necessarily right or wrong. Just don’t take this at face value and rank the candidate higher than those that didn’t list such network or activities in their CVs.
False sign fallacy: You come to a conclusion based on a sign while there is no correlation between the sign and the thing being concluded.
For example, a candidate doesn’t list any team sport as their hobby so you think they are not a team player. The irrelevance of this sign can be obvious to some people but obscure to others. Just like with biases, a good start to prevent this is to be aware of it. Stop yourself whenever you’re making assumptions about candidates. When you’re in doubt, note your remarks down so that you can verify them later.
Step 4.2 – Interview candidates
Interviews are the moment of truth. Up until this point, you and candidates have only had one-sided information. Now both parties can clarify each other’s assumptions. The info exchanged at this step will likely dictate the outcome of your recruitment process. If you don’t gather enough information, you can’t make a hiring decision and the process will only prolong. If you gather false information, you will lose the right candidates. Although the pressure is high, make sure to do your due diligence and pay attention to these fallacies.
A priori fallacy: You decide the conclusion you want beforehand, then you accept only evidence supporting your conclusion.
For example, a candidate looks smart and confident when they shake your hand. Your conclusion is that they are smart and you spend the rest of the interview looking for evidence to support that conclusion. This fallacy is really common and often known as “confirmation bias”. A simple cure for this is to remind yourself that this step is for gathering data, not making snap judgments.
When you plan ahead some interview questions for candidates, it’s tempting to include unconventional questions to spice the interview up. But that would result in…
Evading the issue fallacy: You use irrelevant evidence to support an idea.
For example, you use brainteasers during an interview and disqualify candidates who can’t answer them. While brainteasers seem more refreshing than “what is your strengths/weaknesses?”, they fail to predict candidates’ abilities. After years of using them, Google decided to scrap the whole thing when they found out how useless brainteasers are. What you can do is having structured interviews where every candidate is asked the same set of questions designed to assess their behaviors.
Behavioral questions and situational questions are the two types of questions that can help you unearth a candidate’s attitude and aptitude. Situational questions are hypotheses designed to test a candidate’s reaction, like “Imagine if X happens, what would you do?” Behavioral questions lean towards a candidate’s past experience more, like “Tell me about a time when X happened, what did you do?” Since they are fairly easier to conduct, behavioral questions have become the go-to choice for many interviewers. You just need to watch out for…
Anecdotal evidence fallacy: You support a generalization by providing small, individual stories that don’t make up a large enough sample.
For example, a candidate tells you a story of how they delivered a project while hiding three other stories in which they didn’t deliver. It’s easy to fall for this fallacy when you don’t dig deep enough. Don’t be afraid to probe into details. If the candidate truly did something, they would be able to elaborate it on multiple levels. Another solution is to ask opposite questions one after another, like “Tell me about a time when you didn’t deliver a project” after “Tell me about a time when you delivered a project.”
It’s crucial to make all your questions crystal clear. If there is a hidden implication behind a question, it might have been infected by…
Complex question fallacy: You ask a question that includes an assumption making a yes/no answer pointless.
For example, you use the question “Have you worked on this kind of project?” to identify candidates who know the ins and outs of a certain type of project. You will qualify the candidates answering “yes” and disqualify the ones answering “no”. As it happens, by setting this implication up, you have ignored a vital point – the level of contribution. A “yes” candidate could join the project briefly without generating any value. A “no” candidate could provide support for the project without joining it officially. It’s up to you to decide who is qualified, just make sure you have enough info to make sound decisions.
Since an interview is a conversation at heart, it’s easy to be influenced by sentiments. Sometimes, it can even get the better of you.
Appeal to compassion fallacy: You come to a conclusion because you feel sorry for someone, while that feeling is irrelevant to the conclusion.
For example, a candidate was treated unfairly in their previous job. Your company is better, so you want to hire them and prove that to them. To tell the truth, no matter how subtle the compassion you feel for the candidate is, it can sway your decision in favor of the “victim” regardless of their ability to do the job. One way to keep yourself on the right track is having a clear skill set and requirements to calibrate all candidates per open position. If “previously being mistreated” is not on your requirement list, don’t base your judgment on it.
Gathering enough information is key at this step. When you compare and review interview notes, try to look at the big picture and see the gaps in it. If you just focus on the things you know, you will miss the things you don’t know.
Appeal to ignorance fallacy: You argue that an idea is true because there is no evidence saying that it is false.
For example, a candidate claims that they are a hard worker. There is nothing on their CV or in the interview notes saying otherwise. So you accept the claim stating that the candidate is a hard worker. In practice, you will only find out the truth when the candidate has been hired for a few months. Sometimes, that’s too late. Do your due diligence, conduct intensive interviews, have every interview note in one place, and synthesize them properly.
If your interview notes are not sufficient or you realize that there is a limit to what you can get from a candidate, don’t hesitate to cross-check. “That’s too much hassle” or “I don’t have time for that” are just excuses for…
Suppressed evidence fallacy: You come to a conclusion after omitting or ignoring evidence that can go against a claim.
For example, you decide to hire a candidate without making reference calls. Because you’re afraid that the calls might not be supportive of the candidate and your hiring effort so far would go for naught. It’s true that you have gone through so many steps and the idea of losing the chosen candidate before the last step is nerve-racking. But if you consider the alternative in which you go on and hire the wrong candidate, you will still need to start all over again. It will only cost you more the longer you drag on. The earlier you get the right info, the better. Pick up the phone and be perceptive about what the other side has to say. Then you’ll be ready for the last step of a recruitment process.
Step 5 – Make hiring decisions and offers
Hiring decisions are rarely made in a silo. You have different perspectives from the people interacting with the candidates up until this point. You have different input from the people who will manage the future hires. It’s more important than ever to navigate through all the information you have while staying in line with the openings’ requirements. Below are the last fallacies you will need to beware of.
When there are many opinions on the table, you need to differentiate between the subjective and the objective claims. Because there will be…
Question begging epithets fallacy: You use emotional words to rephrase a claim instead of providing evidence to support it.
For example, you disapprove a candidate. When others ask you to clarify, you just say “She sucks” and nothing more. In reality, people would seldom push you further for more info. The loaded message would be accepted unanimously in silence. One way to avoid this is to implement reasons for disqualifying for all candidates. When someone wants to disqualify a candidate, they need to provide a clear reason for that. This will eliminate any possible emotional triggers.
The method of providing reasons for disqualifying candidates would also help you prevent…
Argument from authority fallacy: You argue that a claim is true because an authority figure accepts it.
For example, a manager approves a particular candidate, so you hire them. The candidate might not be the best, but it’s hard to resist a manager’s decision. In fact, research concludes that humans behave according to hierarchy more than we would like to admit. Standing up to a manager might be tough. But you can easily ask them to provide a reason for hiring a certain candidate. Like reasons for disqualifying, reasons for hiring need to be clear and candid. Once you have that information, it will be much easier to justify whether what the authority accepts is best for the open position.
After a great deal of careful consideration, you narrow your options down to a handful candidates. Now it seems impossible to make a decision. The job requirements are probably no longer sufficient to benchmark the short-listed candidates. Usually at moments like this, you would commit…
Appeal to the people fallacy: You argue that a claim is true because many people accept it.
For example, between two potentially equally good candidates, you choose the one who has worked for more companies. While that candidate might have gotten the approval of more companies, there is really no guarantee that they are better than the other candidate. I need to stress again that career success depends on circumstances. Unless a candidate has worked for your company before, you can never be sure whether they are the best for you. Other than looking at the names of the companies a candidate has worked for, it would be better if you call them for references. You might gain more information about what kind of settings works best for the candidate and whether they would be a fit for you.
Evaluation after evaluation, you would end up with your best two candidates. What can be more difficult than choosing between those two? … Perhaps realizing that both are not good enough. This tends to happen when you start screening and selecting from a small pool of applicants. You would find yourself thinking about…
False dilemma fallacy: You assume that you have only two options while there are other choices.
For example, when you narrow down to your top two candidates, you think that you have to hire one of them or you have to start the recruitment process all over again. Actually, there are other options. One of them is to look at the previous candidates you have rejected for the current job opening or other similar jobs. They might have been overlooked for some reasons – could be one of the fallacies above. So you could discover a better candidate this way. Another option to consider is late applications. You would process them faster now because you already know the benchmarks of each recruitment step.
At this very last step of a recruitment process, from all the fallacies that can make you choose the wrong candidates or pass up the right ones, this is probably the most rampant.
Argument against the person fallacy: You argue against a person using their character or background rather than their evidence and reasoning.
For example, despite the good writing samples and positive reference for a candidate, you decide not to hire them for your writing job because they’re not a native speaker of that language. As a matter of fact, everyone is subject to errors in writing and native speakers of English are no exceptions. If a non-native can write as well as, if not better than, a native, isn’t that a clear indication of hard work and perseverance? (Besides, if you have read to this point and enjoyed this article, you have proven my point.)
Want to prevent fallacies in your recruitment process? Let us know 🙂
I’m impressed that you have made it this far. The fallacies you have plowed through are something any of us could have committed if we let our guard down. You might have noticed that most fallacies happen when you process your judgment alone. It becomes easy to echo your own blind spots and bias. To rid your recruitment process of fallacies, you would need a setup that prevents fallacies from happening. Through trial and error, we find out that collaboration between your recruiting team members pay dividends. By having a place where your team can chime in and voice their thoughts, you establish transparency and leave little room for fallacies. And it’s really easy to do. For example, your team can discuss with each other about a certain candidate right in their profile. They can also assess candidates according to a predefined skill set to avoid bias. It worked out so well for us that we have it built in Recruitee.
If you want to try it, feel free to sign up for an 18-day trial! Let our team know about your needs in the live chat and we will help get your hiring up and running in no time.