The 5 Biggest Mistakes (Almost) Every Recruiter Makes

Recruiting is never easy, but for some reason, many talent acquisition professionals make it somehow much harder than it really needs to be.

The fact that recruiters inherently work in silos and are largely forced to figure out the intricacies of talent sourcing and screening independently means that we tend to all make the same mistakes.

For the most part, they’re easily avoidable, but again, recruiters don’t really like to focus on what’s not working—after all, there’s too much work to do.

Trust me—every recruiter is going to make one of these top 5 most common sourcing or recruiting mistakes at one point or another in their careers, and likely, sooner rather than later. Some of these bad habits, of course, are easy to overcome. Some stick with you for the rest of your career if you’re not careful.

Remember: the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. And if you’re in sourcing or recruiting, chances are pretty damned good that you’ve made at least a few of these errors at some point or another.

Don’t worry—you’re not alone. And while these are among the most common mistakes our industry makes, the good news is, they’re among the most fixable, too.

5. Wide Net, Small Minds.

It’s kind of an interesting paradox that in recruiting, we generally tend to bemoan the resume tsunami flooding our inboxes and ATS, complaining how there are just too many active applicants.

Conversely, however, there’s a tendency for sourcers and recruiters to start their searches by using the most generic and basic search strings, returning a broad swath of irrelevant results that are more or less worthless for sourcing or candidate development.

Too many direct sourcing results at the top of the funnel is every bit as frustrating, and probably even more futile, than receiving too many resumes at the bottom of the funnel. There’s a big difference between relevant results and qualified candidates—and statistically speaking, you’re much more likely to locate the latter in your ATS than in your search engine results.

What too often happens is when those results are generated using basic or generic search strings, they tend to be so big that they’re impossible to drill down on enough to render them relevant.

The real competitive advantage in using advanced searches such as X-Ray searches or advanced Boolean strings is to see results that are superior to every other sourcer out there.

Success lies largely in finding the most relevant candidates the fastest, which is why carefully constructing search strings is still such a relevant skillset, even in the age of semantic and natural language search.

Anyone can use Google. Not everyone can use it to effectively supercharge their sourcing.

4. The 8 Second Rule of Resumes.

Recruiters have been known to screw up once in a while, particularly when it comes to the inherently imperfect art of reviewing resumes. These documents are obviously limited in terms of their utility—static representations that paint a picture of a person’s experience and expertise in only the broadest of brushstrokes.

Because resumes don’t ever really tell the whole story, it’s always amazed me just how many recruiters actually take the time to read these bulleted lists and objective statements—it’s asinine, really, since they’re really designed to be skimmed over and scanned.

The average recruiter spends 8 seconds reviewing a resume, and if you’re wasting any more time than that qualifying them, then either shoot the candidate an email or pick up the phone and figure out whether or not they’re qualified, interested and available. It’s really not all that hard. If you think you’re getting too many applicants and just don’t have time to read resumes, consider the possibility that you’re just spending too much time reviewing them.

8 seconds is enough.

3. Confirming Confirmation Bias.

Of course, this shortcut can lead to another fundamental hiring fallacy, which basically confirms the confirmation bias that’s so pervasive in sourcing and recruiting.

While the key to going through the most resumes in the least amount of time by nature involves more errors of omission than inclusion when it comes to dispositioning, it’s imperative to avoid making snap judgments or unqualified assumptions about candidates’ qualifications (or lack thereof) based exclusively on their resumes.

Just like you don’t judge a book by its cover, to cite the old cliché, or a person from their Facebook wall or Twitter stream, never ever make the mistake of reading too much into a resume. To assume makes an ass out of you and me, but it’s likely already costing you candidates.

Never assume, for instance, that someone would summarily dismiss a slight pay cut for the right opportunity, or be unwilling to relocate, or dead set against a temp-to-hire position when they’re currently an FTE.

If you’re passing up a good candidate because you’re giving into objections they haven’t actually made, it might be time to rethink how you read resumes, and consciously combat the often crippling confirmation bias that so often accompanies our reviews.

2. Stop Submitting Resumes With No Chill.

As I’ve written about before, one of the most ridiculous things I think recruiters do is to submit the first few candidates they’re able to source and screen who meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

Many recruiters slate candidates with the goal not of finding the best talent on the market, but the first talent on the market you could find who was qualified, interested and available.

They find 5-7 potential fits who look good on paper and sound compelling enough over the phone to pass ahead to the hiring manager, and then move onto the next req without ever looking back to see if any better candidates might be out there.

If a hiring manager agrees to interview this initial candidate slate, then for most recruiters, it doesn’t matter. But what do you think the mathematical chances are that you’re going to source and develop the absolute best candidates you can find from a pool that’s limited to the first ones you were able to qualify? The same goes for your clients.

That’s why it’s important to be selective and figure that for the average search, there are around 100 applicants; of these, there will be around 10 who are qualified. Of these, the top 5 will be worth slating for final steps, but make sure you’re selective. I recommend waiting a minimum of two weeks before starting to screen out candidates; that’s 14 out of 60 days on an average time to fill spent sourcing, which is likely way less time than you’re spending now for your average req. Sometimes, the wait is worth it. Either way, it’s better to be patient to make sure you’re making the right hire than to rush the wrong one—I promise you that.

1.    Trusting The Experts.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably making the fundamental fallacy of listening to people who don’t really know the first thing about recruiting or sourcing positioning themselves as “experts” or “thought leaders” online. The truth is, there’s no such thing—and the only way to find out what’s going to work for you is to actually try it.

That’s why I recommend ignoring this post—and all blogs, really—closing out of this tab and pulling up a clean Google search bar. From there, it’s all trial and error, but unlike reading some specious blog bylined by a dude who hasn’t even filled a req in like five years, you just might learn something in the process.

Seriously. The only “best practices” are the ones that work for you in practice. So it’s probably time you stopped reading and started recruiting. If you avoid these most common recruiting and sourcing mistakes, chances are, you’ll probably be OK.

FOT Background Check

Matt Charney is the Executive Editor for Recruiting Daily, whose flagship property, RecruitingBlogs, is the world's largest social network and content sharing platform for recruiting and HR professionals. Matt oversees editorial strategy and content marketing for RecruitingDaily's portfolio of online properties. Prior to joining RecruitingBlogs, Matt served in marketing leadership roles at leading HR technology companies like Talemetry, CornerstoneOnDemand & Monster. Matt began his career as a corporate recruiter for such companies as Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Matt has been named as one of the top 25 influencers in recruiting by publications like the Huffington Post, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder and LinkedIn, and has been recognized as one of the 2015 HR Game Changers by HR Magazine adn SHRM, the 2015 HRO Superstar for Analyst Excellence and the 2014 Top Recruiting Blogger by Social Talent. His blog mattcharney.com was also named one of the top 15 business blogs to follow by Wordpress in 2014. Matt serves as a member of the advisory boards for the Candidate Experience Awards, Rolepoint, RecruitiFi, Take the Interview, HiringSolved, Universum and Textio. Follow him @MattCharney or connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattcharney).

5 Comments

  1. Ariane says:

    This is such a helpful article for me as a future recruiter! Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  2. NUMBER 1!!!! Is the most important. This is why there were like hundreds of Jedi with different strengths and weaknesses. Some people are good at boolean searches….some CRUSH user groups/professional associations. Some are awesome and getting referrals. Try them all…find your skills that deliver results and build on that. Great article…now I am going to ignore it and find some talent.

    Reply
  3. Ken Ward says:

    Ignored 😉

    Reply
  4. Great article. I’ve been contacted twice in the past two weeks – once for a CTO position and once for a VP position. The recruiters were generally pretty professional and did a good job of matching my experiences to the roles they were trying to fill. However, we probably could have saved their time and my time if during the initial contact they had mentioned where the roles were located. One was in Canada, the other in Kansas City [I live in Denver, CO]. At this stage in my life and career I have no interest in relocating, and these roles are tough to be remote given their scope. So my suggestion would also be for recruiters to lead in initial contact with location requirements to quickly rule out challenges in relocation.

    Reply

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