How to stop repeating your recruitment mistakes

01 March 2024

In case you missed it, Friday 2nd of February was Groundhog Day, a date that has become synonymous with repetition, thanks to the film of that name starring Bill Murray. Every morning he wakes up to find he’s reliving the same day over and over again. Sound familiar?

It put me in mind of organisations that repeat the same mistakes every time they come to recruit. With recruitment, any mistake can be costly. Repeating those mistakes can be disastrous. The job market is tough and competitive, so it is really important to ensure that any mistakes are limited, and certainly not repeated.

Here are some of the top mistakes that are made and how best to learn from them and ensure that you attract the best possible candidates and make the best impression whilst recruiting.

Failure to prepare

Before you jump straight into advertising for your next recruit, take time to plan. Firstly, take time to assess thoroughly whether or not there is a need to recruit for this role at all. Could the work be covered by other teams? Can you adequately justify why you need to recruit and whether the need is justified in terms of the responsibilities? You don’t want to find yourselves six months down the line with no requirement for the new recruit.

If it’s clear that you do need to recruit, the next important piece of preparation is to review and refresh the job description. A very important part of the recruitment process, the job description isn’t just a tick list of the duties of the role. It should give an overview of the role and an indication of its purpose within the organisation. But don’t oversell the role either, or promise more than you can deliver.

Uninspiring job ads

Its all too easy to recycle an old advert and tweak it to fit your current requirement, but this isn’t a great idea. If you want to stand out and attract the best possible candidates, you must put your attention into your advert and make it as engaging and compelling as possible.

Try to be creative. There are so many ads out there, you need to find a way to stand out. So rather than just bullet pointing the duties of the role, show the candidate who you are as an organisation, why they should work for you and what you can offer them in return.

Overlooking your internal talent

Is there someone already within your organization who would be ideal for this role? Make sure you’re aware of your teams talents and career aspirations. Overlooking internal talent can make employees feel demotivated, which in turn will affect their performance and may well compel them to leave.

Use your monthly 1-2-1 meetings to listen to your people and learn about all their aspirations. If they have any burning desires to work in any different roles with your organization, you should know about it and try to help. By actively seeking out this understanding of your teams and their aspirations, you shows them that you value them and care for them and have a willingness to see them develop and grow within your organisation.

Too many questions

Most people would agree that the interview questions are the worst part of a candidate experience when it comes to recruitment. We’re all familiar with the usual standard questions: ‘What’s your greatest achievement’; ‘What’s the biggest challenge you have had to overcome at work?’. Any candidate worth their salt will have predicted these questions coming up and will have prepared their answers.

So try to come up with some different questions that help you really get to know the candidate sitting in front of you. Think about your organisational values and what they mean to you and ask the candidate to give you an indication of what they mean to them.

But don’t rely solely upon interview questions, and don’t ask too many. Consider supplementing them with a test or an exercise to see how candidates may perform on the job. For example, you could set them an inbox tray activity to see how well they can plan, prioritise and organise themselves.

An interview can be a nerve wrecking experience for the candidate and sometimes for the interviewer, which can prevent you from seeing the real them. So think of different ways that you can evaluate their skills and behaviours, and this will allow them to shine in more ways than one.

Unconscious bias

When you make a decision on a candidate, you must have reached that decision based solely on the candidate’s ability to perform in the role. That means ensuring there is no unconscious bias[1]. As ACAS puts it, ‘How a person thinks can depend on their life experiences and sometimes they have beliefs and views about other people that might not be right or reasonable.’

In recruitment, it’s crucial not to make judgements based on first impressions. You may think better of someone because you believe that you are alike, or indeed less of them because they are different to you in one way or another. When recruiting you are relied upon to make decisions free from unconscious bias, to avoid unwittingly discriminating against certain candidates in favour of others.

We offer a training course that will help with this.

Rejecting an overqualified candidate

Many organisations will often dismiss candidates as overqualified. They worry that they will become bored and leave quickly, that the manager hiring them may not be as qualified as the candidate so may feel like they will overshadow them, or even that they will have a higher level of salary expectation.

Although this may be true in some cases, think about what you can gain from an overqualified candidate who really wants the job. They will have more skills to develop the team and they won’t need as much training as other candidates. They could support the team in a meaningful way in terms of mentoring. They can also bring in fresh ideas and a different perspective to your organisation.

So think twice before you overlook anyone as overqualified.

Relying on references

A number of years ago an employee would not have been able to start with a new organisation until they had received ‘satisfactory’ references from their previous employment. However, these days more and more organisations heavily rely upon their probationary periods to assess the skills and behaviours of new recruits.

A good reference doesn’t necessarily mean a recruit will work out well and a negative reference doesn’t necessarily mean that they wont work out either. It is so important to have your own onboarding processes and procedures, including probationary periods, so that you can make your own judgement of a candidate’s performance.

Expecting too much too soon

Once your new recruit has joined your organization, it is all too easy to assume that they will hit the ground running, especially if they are overqualified!. However, it is really important that you don’t, as an organization, expect too much too soon from a new recruit.

Let them settle into the role and team. There is a lot for them to learn and it can take a while. Give them time.

If you have an onboarding programme, make sure their induction period is set up, they have all the relevant meetings in place with the relevant people, so that they become accustomed to the new role and organisation as a whole. It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that you don’t set them up to fail. Provided them with the help and support they need within their first few months and you will get the best out of them in the long term.

Follow these tips and your recruitment will never feel like Groundhog Day again.

Our Training and Development programmes offer expert advice on all aspects of successful recruitment. Find out more.

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