How to Fail at Hiring (Even With a Great Recruiter!)

Let me be frank: even the best recruiters can’t save you from yourself.

You can fail at hiring. Maybe you’re even failing now.

“But Jenn,” you say, “I still manage to hire people. How can I be failing?”

You can be scoring a failing hiring grade and still do just enough to fill positions. It just takes a lot longer to fill them, and you’re probably missing the best candidates. If you’re really failing, your hires probably aren’t working out very well, either.

Do you wonder how to fail at hiring? Here are some ways:

Become a moving target

“We’ve decided to take this role in another direction.”

“We thought we wanted people with 15 years of experience, but now we want to talk to people with 5-7 instead.”

“Thanks for coming in to interview for role X. But we think you’re a much better fit for role Y, so we’re going to chat about that one instead.”

How often do you say things like this during your hiring process? If it’s more often than once every few years, you’re doing a great job at failing at hiring.

By being flaky about what you want while you’re talking to your recruiter or your candidates during the process does a couple of things:

  • It lengthens the process. By constantly changing direction, you’re lengthening the time it takes you to fill your open role. Each change of direction means that your recruiter has to go looking for a completely different batch of candidates.
  • It frustrates candidates. Your recruiter sold superstar candidates on your role. If you’ve changed any part of the description, either the recruiter has to disappoint the candidate or (worse) the candidate takes a day off to interview with you only to be disappointed in person. I’ve had the latter happen to me – it is really not cool. Serious fail.

If you’re really not exactly sure what you want, work with your recruiter on pinning it down, rather than simply informing him or her about a certain job description, only to change its direction later.  Recruiters have seen quite a bit in their careers and can really guide you towards the type of job descriptions that will pull in the candidates who will be best suited for your situation.

Fail to communicate

Not happy with the candidates your recruiter is sending you? Do you want to see something more or different? Do you have a different process you’d like the recruiter or the candidate to follow? By all means, keep quiet about it.

Not communicating is one of the best ways to fail at hiring.

If you’re not communicating with your recruiter or your candidates, they have no way to know how to make you happy.  Think about it – how will they know what to do if you don’t tell them?

There is virtually no way for a hiring manager to over-communicate to a recruiter (or even to most candidates) during the hiring process.  Make sure you’re blindingly clear about what you want to see or when you need a change. Do you want the recruiter to be more transparent? Tell her! Do you need the candidate to do a video interview? Tell him!

Drag your feet

Do you wait a week or two before calling a candidate when you receive an application? Do you wait a while before replying to a recruiter’s email about an awesome candidate? Awesome – you’re definitely on the route to failure.

So many companies fail to get back to candidates that they assume that they’re not a fit if you don’t get back to them immediately. And recruiters can’t guarantee a candidate’s availability for a phone call that they’re not expecting.

I know you’re busy, but you have to be fast to land the right candidates. Prioritizing hiring and responding quickly will keep you from failing to catch the good ones before they’re gone.

Be rude

Do you let candidates wander around your office until they find their way to the elevator? Do you avoid eye contact at all costs? Do you hang up the phone without saying goodbye to your recruiter? Do you treat recruiters and candidates as subservient to you?

Congratulations! You’re not only failing at hiring; you’re probably failing at life, too.

Acting like you’re better than other people – especially during the hiring process – will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. This will really hurt you if you’re trying to win a candidate that has multiple offers, and will poison your position with recruiters, candidates, and possibly throughout the industry.

So brush up on your manners and be polite during this process. Apologize if you make a misstep, and remember that you’re dealing with future co-workers (or possibly bosses!), and act accordingly.

Be a clueless hiring manager

Since we already did a post about this, I’m not going to belabor the point. However, you really do need to know what you’re doing when you interview candidates in order not to fail. In other words, if you want to fail, continue to be a clueless hiring manager.

So, be honest – are you already failing at hiring? Are you on your way? If you are, act fast to turn it around. If you can turn your failing grade into a passing grade, you’ll land better candidates, fill your open positions faster, and increase your employee retention. Not such bad results, eh?

Views: 559

Comment by Matt Charney on December 6, 2013 at 2:12pm

Paul - awesome post. Any content written for real recruiters with real takeaways by a real (talented) voice is gold; thanks for these spot-on points and observations. You rock.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on December 6, 2013 at 2:19pm

Thanks, Paul. and Matt. It's only a "failure" if you blame your contract recruiter and stop paying them.

If you don't do those things, it's called "contract recruiter job security".


Comment by Steven Guine on December 7, 2013 at 7:51am

This all speaks to the so called "War for talent". There does not seem to be one at firms which thoughtfully manage the hiring process.


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