How You Sabotage Your Ability to Hire Top Candidates

How You're Sabotaging Your Ability to Hire Top Candidates

Let me tell you the story of my first job interview that took place more decades ago than I care to admit — because I simply can’t be that old. I wanted that job so badly because I had heard how great it was to work there. I’ll be honest, though; I was as scared as a cat in a room full of dogs. I didn’t know what to expect. I lacked any kind of work experience, and I was worried that I wouldn’t have the right answers to the interviewer’s questions. Other candidates were smarter and had more experience. As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry, because the interview wasn’t a great experience for me, and I knew that I did not want to work there.

Here’s how it went down. When I arrived, I had to wait a long time before meeting the interviewer. I wasn’t given any information about the delay, offered something to drink, or told where to find a restroom in case I needed one. I was already nervous, and now I felt lost and abandoned sitting alone in the lobby. When I was finally taken to see the interviewer, he was distracted and rushed through his questions. In less than 20 minutes, I was shown out without having the opportunity to ask a single question. In fact, I had waited in the lobby longer than I had been interviewed! I couldn’t understand why people thought this company was such a great place to work.

Have you conducted an interview like this? Be honest; this is the Internet and we can’t see you raising your hand or nodding your head. We’re all guilty of making mistakes, and that’s okay as long as we learn from them and don’t repeat them. Sadly, though, many of you are repeating this mistake, and it is costing you great employees.

We have high expectations of our candidates. And yet we as interviewers fail to hold ourselves to the same high standards. We ask candidates to be prepared for the interview. We expect them to research and have an understanding of our company’s products or services. We want them to ask thoughtful questions about the job and their responsibilities. We require them to answer our questions clearly and concisely.

If you think candidates aren’t assessing you using the same criteria, you might still be living in the 1950s. View your hiring practices through the lens of your candidates. Are you clear about the job responsibilities and how they help you achieve your business goals? Are you doing your research, taking time to understand your candidates, and asking thoughtful questions? Are you communicating your unique value as an employer?

If not, then you are losing top quality candidates. The best candidates want to work for companies that have challenging work and share their personal values. If your hiring process doesn’t clearly represent your value to potential employees, you are missing an opportunity.

According to CareerBuilder’s 2015 survey, 60% of CEOs report that the inability to find qualified candidates is preventing their company from reaching its full potential, 35% say their recruitment process is inefficient, and 48% say their companies have lost money due to inefficient recruiting.

The competition for talented people is fierce, and candidates can afford to be highly selective. Your candidates are watching and evaluating everything you do. If you think they aren’t, look at sites like and check out these hashtags to learn what not to do:

  • #ihaterecruiters
  • #recruiterfail
  • #recruiterprobs
  • #recruiterspam
  • #candidateexperience

You’re busy with a lot of important things to get done and you probably never have enough time. I get it. But I’m telling you that candidates care about how you treat them, and you can’t ignore the impact of the experience you create for them. It does take time, but it’s not as hard as you think. Here are a few simple ways to give candidates a great experience.

The Job Posting. It should be designed to attract the best candidates. You do that by giving them a clear picture of the role and responsibility and how it contributes to the company’s success. Unfortunately, most job postings miss the mark. The Internet makes it easy to post that boring old job description instead of taking time to write a clear and concise ad. When you think of advertising, you think of being persuaded to buy something. You want to sell talented candidates on working for your company.

Phone Interviews. Be on time for scheduled phone calls. I had a candidate thank me this week because I called when I said I would. He told me that so many recruiters were late or didn’t call at all. What kind of impression does that leave with your candidate? You expect the candidate to be on time, so you should be, too.

Scheduling in person interviews. Candidates are evaluating how quickly you can act once you make that first contact. Be prepared schedule interviews with qualified candidates within a day or two. Your hiring team needs to move fast so that candidates don’t have to come back 2 or 3 times just to meet everyone. I hear from frustrated candidates all the time because they are excited about an opportunity, but it takes weeks to get an interview scheduled. If you are too busy to schedule an interview, a candidate will wonder if you will be too busy to give them feedback on their work or to be available to answer questions or help them work through problems.

Conducting the interview. The biggest mistake I see is failing to plan. We expect that the candidate comes prepared, and yet we so often are not prepared. Have a strategy to collect the information you need from each candidate you interview. Hold the interview where you won’t be interrupted by phone calls, walk-ins, emails, and text messages. Focus completely on the interview with the candidate and allow enough time to obtain the information you need as well as give your candidates the opportunity to get the information they need.

Communication. Another common mistake is contacting a candidate and then failing to communicate. Do your candidates hear crickets after the first contact? If they do, shame on you. We expect candidates to be at our disposal and yet we fail to communicate our process. Your candidates are looking for a career with your company, not buying groceries. They expect to be kept informed of the status of their application and your excuse that you’re too busy, is a weak excuse. We have multiple avenues for communicating that take mere seconds. So just do it!

If you can’t say you have done all of these things, then you are missing a huge opportunity to attract top talent. In today’s competitive buyers’ market, employers have to be on their game in order to sell their opportunities to the best and brightest.

If you examine your process from a candidate’s point of view, how do you stack up? Are there areas that can be improved? Let’s talk about it. Please share your candidate experience in the comments.