The 5 Cardinal Sins of Recruiting

Recruiting can be a humbling business.

execunetselect-error-messageI’ve made every mistake in the book. And I’ve seen countless other executives fall prey to the same errors.

How many times have you been sure you had snagged the perfect candidate, only to see a short time later that the sure thing turned into a big bust? If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re likely to repeat them time and time again. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of what I call the Cardinal Sins of Recruiting. Avoid these, and your hiring success will surely increase:

Gut feelings: After 25 years in executive search, I’m convinced that choosing candidates based on intuition and feelings is the major reason only about 50% of new hires don’t work out for most organizations.

It’s human nature to decide whether you like someone or not within a few minutes of meeting them. From there, we tend to look for evidence that supports our initial feeling and discount evidence that runs counter to the feeling. The psychological term for this is Confirmation Bias and it’s something we all must resist.

My solution is simple: If I find myself feeling overly positive or negative about a candidate early on, I consciously try to find evidence that counters my feeling. Not infrequently, this exercise will lead me to change my mind completely about a candidate.

Poor DNA match: This is the second biggest error in recruiting. DNA mismatches create conflict, disengaged workers and high levels of turnover.

DNA is the three to five qualities that are most important to your organization and are expressed in the actions and behaviors of your top performers. DNA is the soul of your company.

The solution to DNA mismatches requires work and discipline: First, model the traits and characteristics of your best performers. Second, make sure everyone you hire going forward shares the same DNA as your best people.

Overreliance on interviews: Too many hiring managers believe that they are terrific interviewers and place too much stock in their subjective impressions of candidates.

Throw new hires into the deep end: Hiring executives often think that the battle is won when the candidate accepts the offer.

Be aware, 20% of all staff turnover occurs within 45 days of employment. Even the most qualified candidate needs time and guidance to understand the organization, their role, and how to work with others. Commit your organization to a comprehensive and effective onboarding process and you’ll experience better retention, a more productive workforce and a stronger culture.

Self-Awareness is Critical

While these are the most damaging mistakes in recruiting in my opinion, there are plenty of other things that organizations get wrong. Self-awareness is critical. In any endeavor–recruiting included–understanding and avoiding mistakes is essential to staying on the right path and producing successful results.

If you can avoid these Five Cardinal Sins of Recruiting, you will make much better hires and build a much stronger and more productive workforce.

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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