With talent shortage ranked as the number one worry for CEOs and 64 percent of HR professionals saying that the constant need for new talent continues to be a growing challenge, it’s more important than ever before to have a well-structured, and robust hiring process. However, we continue to see hiring managers and their teams make simple mistakes that are ultimately killing their ability to attract, hire, and retain the top talent they need to sustain and grow their organizations.
When we look at the roles within technology, it doesn’t matter what industry you are in; you will always rely on people with skills in software and IT to ensure your company is running smoothly. They simply possess a particular set of skills and knowledge that are required in today’s day and age of business. Because of their specific set of skills and the fact that every industry requires these individuals, they are in high-demand and are rare to find.
If you are going to compete with other companies and acquire top tech talent, you need to ensure your hiring process is as fine-tuned as possible. To help you do this, we have put together a list of the top seven mistakes we see hiring managers continue to make as they are trying to attract and hire top performers within the tech field.
In this article, we will take you through the top hiring mistakes that we continue to see and how you can avoid them.
1. Unclear Role Requirements
A hiring team that doesn’t have a clear idea of their ideal candidate can lead to disastrous hiring outcomes. Having clear and comprehensive requirements for any role that you’re looking to fill in your company is crucial to your ability to not only hire the right candidate at the end of your overall process, but also attract the right pool of candidates right from the beginning.
Hiring can be very time consuming and most hiring managers and their teams dread the idea of spending more time than they have to for any given hire. It’s common for them to seek the path that will get them their new hire as quickly as possible. However, this can often lead to rushing into interviews without establishing proper role requirements and vetting candidates through their resumes and phone interviews beforehand.
Imagine if we applied this logic to other business processes. Can you imagine starting to work on a client’s project without gathering any requirements? Or pushing a product to market without researching if there is a demographic interested in buying it? We see how illogical it is to commit our business’s time and money to poorly thought-out business ventures, but for some reason, the same logic isn’t always applied to hiring.
Ask some tough questions, plain and simple. Your first step in any hiring situation should be to review the skills the job requires, what previous experience the individual will be required to have, and finally, what personality type would be the best for a candidate to have in order to be set up for success in the role and in your company? Make sure all involved decision makers are in agreement on the information to ensure there are no areas of uncertainty as you are reviewing candidate possibilities.
If possible, discuss the role requirements with a current or past incumbent of the role. Often leaders might not be aware of what it’s like to actually perform in the role they are hiring for, or the more tactical duties that will be required. It’s a good reason to do exit interviews, but in a pinch talking to peers that will work alongside the new hire will help get the full picture of what is really needed to succeed.
In addition, you should also develop a list of key expectations and milestones that the new hire should achieve within the first 6-12 months. This will allow you to further vet the candidates in front of you while also allowing you to measure the new hire’s success as they progress in the role.
One key issue that often creates a false sense of a clear vision is for the hiring team to avoid using data in their initial role requirements discussion. Data can help break through assumptions, and correct a search before it gets off the rails. However, it’s important to keep a balanced approach. Relying strictly on data can cause the process to become too rigid, and cause equally impactful hiring problems.
Discuss the data with everyone involved, but don’t forget that hiring is often about a personal match between the candidate and hiring manager. Even if the data shows a candidate is a perfect fit, if the hiring manager doesn’t feel they could lead the candidate effectively, forcing the hire based on data will only create a tense situation and affect moral.
2. Interviewing Too Many Candidates
Our logic tells us that the more candidates we see, the more likely we are to find the one we’re looking for. This is far from the truth. It is quite the opposite. The average interview process takes 23.7 days. If you’re going after top talent, while they’re looking at your organization as an option for their next career move, they’re also most likely looking at other organizations. Therefore, the longer your interview process, the stronger the chance you are going to miss out on the candidate that could have a real impact on your company.
Confidence in a hire can be difficult, and many hiring managers think reviewing more candidates will help them feel more confident about a hire, and in turn, avoid making a bad hire. However, if you’re interviewing over a dozen candidates or more, it can be an indication that you’re struggling with the first mistake we raised in this article, which is being unclear about the role requirements. If you’re not able to interview a candidate and decide whether or not they’re a good fit, you may need to take a step back and make sure you know what you’re looking for.
Interviewing the first person who applies, and then wanting to meet a couple more is useful. However, interviewing 27 candidates, and feeling like maybe meeting ten more is a clear sign that you have taken the idea of options too far. Similar to a wedding dress, there is a limit to how many you need to try before you will confuse yourself.
Interview different profiles on the same day or over a short time period, versus interviewing multiple people with similar profiles. Having multiple profiles that are seemingly the same can cause confusion and make you feel like you can’t differentiate who is stronger than the other. But, by mixing up the profiles, you can make clear distinctions as they are fresh in your mind. Ultimately, this strategy will help you better compare gaps and strengths to really make sure you are getting what you need, not just want you want.
And finally, set a firm number of interviews that you are willing to conduct for the given role. This strategy will not only help you manage your time and quantify the time and effort being put into the hire, but it will also allow you to be more critical when it comes to the people you choose to interview. You will start to make sure that you are only bringing in the people you really want to speak with versus the people you may just be slightly curious about.
The more senior or key the role the more interviews you may want to do, but the key here is once you hit your target if you can’t make a confident hire then you need to change an aspect of the search and start again. Interviewing 20 more of the same after no success is just a waste of time.
3. Complicated Interview Process
Think about the hiring and interview process from the candidate’s perspective. This is something that hiring managers often forget to do as they are primarily focused on making sure that the person they choose to hire is the right fit for the company. But, the candidate is also in the process of finding out whether or not your company is the right decision for them. It is a two-way street that can often be one-sided, one side being the employer.
You are going after top performers. You only want the best of the best in your company. This also means that these candidates expect the best of the best from you. And, that means, right from the beginning. The application and interview process is their first impression of your company. It is your first opportunity to show them why they should join your organization and what kind of experiences they will have should they decide to join.
Another common mistake in technology hiring is creating technical tests with no relevance to the work that candidates will be doing. No software development work is done in a vacuum, so creating an academic coding test or stressful whiteboarding session will test the memory of candidates, but not capability in the real world environment where the work will be performed. These technical tests have largely been debunked as being inconsistent, and not a real indicator of performance. Worse are the ‘brain teasers’ tests, of which Google’s head of HR stated, a few years ago: “Brainteasers are a complete waste of time” and “test scores are worthless.”
If your interview process is complicated and drawn out, this may cause them to think that your company experiences these issues in other departments, processes, etc. It will cause them to think about what their days will look like, what kind of leadership they will experience, what kind of red tape they will have to go through to get things done, and so much more.
Needless to say, by having a complicated interview process, you are unintentionally driving candidates out the door:
“The hiring process has been breaking down for twenty years, but the pace of its devolution has been picking up lately. More and more employers are adopting pointless, expensive and time-consuming extra processes to make their recruiting pipelines even slower and more off-putting to candidates. They don’t realize that they are actively driving talented people into the arms of their competitors,” says Liz Ryan, Founder and CEO of Human Workplace and writer for Forbes.com
Understand that the interview process is a two-way street and treat it as such. While you are interested in this candidate, who is most likely in high-demand, they are interested in you. While you are vetting them, they are doing the same. This is a mutual interaction to discover whether or not the two of you are a good fit. By creating this two-way street between you and the candidate, you show them that you value their time and you are dedicated to finding out whether or not it’s going to be a good fit for the both of you.
Simplify your interview process. Go through all of the steps your interview process has and if there is anything that doesn’t 100% need to happen, chop it. Keep the crucial parts that help you and your team interview a candidate and get rid of the rest. This could mean that you eliminate an online questionnaire all together (or shorten it), remove one interviewer all together (perhaps an interview that is done by a decision maker that won’t be interacting with this new hire), and perhaps you even provide the candidate a roadmap of what the interview process will look like.
When it comes to testing, consider swapping outdated testing for ‘work sample tests’ which companies like Google have been championing. The key here is to give candidates a chance to demonstrate capabilities that will directly affect the chances of success in the role. The last few years have seen a testing renaissance in recruitment, so the new options to replace ineffective testing are countless. Helpful.com’s approach of ‘testing out’ new hires over the probationary period is an interesting concept, as are structured interviewing strategies. The best solution? Research shows that combinations of assessment techniques are better than any single technique. Choose a mix of evaluations that make sense for your needs, and don’t be afraid to ditch outdated testing approaches.
At the end of the day, if you can’t remember all the steps in your interview process, or the steps aren’t helping make better hires, it’s too complicated. Simplify it as much as you can so you can keep the attention and momentum of the candidates you have in play.
4. Too Many Decision Makers
As the saying goes “a camel is a horse designed by committee” implying that too many decision-makers will inevitably lead to failure. Having too many decision-makers in your hiring process will lead to the same results. Some of which include: slowing down the overall process due to the number of hands in the pot, added confusion to the candidate, additional opinions and biases that make it difficult to come to a decision, and much more.
The key to being successful in your hiring process is to only have the most crucial people involved. Any more than that and the process becomes convoluted and starts to breakdown. It’s common for companies to have more decision makers involved in the hiring process due to people simply wanting to be involved. However, every decision maker needs to serve a purpose, if they don’t, there is no need for them to be involved.
Hiring by Committee: Is it realistic to find a candidate that would please even two of these hiring managers? What about all 6?
According to Glassdoor, you should have your internal recruiting, the hiring manager, top performers from the team this new hire will be on, and the new hire’s direct manager. Keep your hiring team to these key players and these key players only. We have also seen both good and bad aspects to including peers in interviews. It’s important that if peers will be involved that they have been trained in interview best practices.
Make sure that the hiring team has had an open and frank discussion about the requirements of the role, and they have agreed to a UNIFIED profile. Everyone has to be on the same page. Bonus points if you can come to an agreement on what indicators you are looking for. (ie. When we say ‘intelligence’ what are some of the indicators candidates can provide that we want to see).
Be happy with a majority, not a consensus. The larger the hiring team, the less likely you will reach a consensus about the same person. Set realistic expectations, and be happy if you end up with a majority of the hiring team saying “yes” to the candidate.
5. Lack of Defined Culture
The most common reasons a hire goes bad is that neither the hiring manager nor the candidate really knows what they expect out of the arrangement. This goes back to some of the other mistakes we’ve raised, such as: unclear role requirements and a complicated interview process. Without having these two areas completely clear and laid out, you will be unable to outline what is expected of the candidate should they be chosen as the one for hire.
Top performers are looking for their next career moves. They make these decisions strategically and want to know, without a doubt, that when they make their next move, they will be successful in their new role. They will want to know things like: their responsibilities, how to measure their success, how other people are performing, what the compensation and bonus structures are like, what kind of company culture you have, any challenges you see happening during their first few weeks and months, and any other information that would directly impact whether or not they’re successful in the new role.
If you are unclear about this information, particularly around culture, you are at a high risk of making a bad hire simply because you have missed the opportunity to provide this top performer with the information they need to judge their own success potential. As previously stated, top talent won’t accept roles they know they won’t be successful in. Therefore, without providing the information needed to judge success probability, you may hire them into a role they could have told you wasn’t for them.
Talk to the team, manager, current employee in the role (if it’s a replacement), and flush out the day-to-day duties and job scope. Spend some time during the final interview with the candidate to review quantifiable goals for the first six months to make sure the candidate is up to the challenge. They will tell you whether or not they are.
Discuss both the positives and negatives of the corporate culture that has developed overtime. Start-ups often have fun casual environments, but can require candidates be comfortable owning larger and less linear job scopes. In reverse, larger companies might provide more linear roles, but have more bureaucracy to contend with. Understanding both your culture’s selling points and warts, will help you be able to set honest expectations for candidates.
Make sure you bring up some of the potential challenges they will experience and encourage them to be honest about whether or not they can handle those challenges. It’s also crucial to mention the kind of support they will receive in the event of these challenges.
And finally, ask thoughtful questions that are directly related to the skills that you feel are needed for the right person. Have a look at LinkedIn’s Interview Guide for more information.
6. No Onboarding Process
So you’ve hired your top performer and they are ready to be onboarded. Do you have a structured system in place to do that? If not, you could be putting your company at risk of damage to the overall employer brand. This reputation damage could in turn affect your chances to engage with top performing talent in the future.
The big mistake we see people make is thinking that once the contracts are signed and they have someone locked into an employment agreement, their job is done. This is incorrect. The job has only just begun. The recruitment process is only part of the task of bringing on a new employee. Once the recruiting is over, the onboarding starts. This is the process that makes or breaks your new employee’s ability to be successful in their role.
Many onboarding programs are just orientation in disguise, but in reality, orientation isn’t a real substitute. Onboarding should cover the candidate’s experience in a holistic approach, and not just touch on tactical issues like what to do in a fire alarm. Six out of 10 respondents say the primary purpose of onboarding is to integrate employees into the organization’s culture, however, culture makes up an average of just 30 percent in onboarding programs. Onboarding approaches should be considered carefully, and the goals should be measured so that onboarding can evolve as needed.
During the recruiting process, you and the candidate discussed the role and all of the expectations. The onboarding process is where you now put all of those aspects into action. Without an action plan, there is no clear direction for the new hire, which can cause confusion, decreases in productivity, and ultimately, cause them to quickly exit your company. Ultimately strong onboarding processes improve new-hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent, so it should be an integral part of your talent acquisition strategy.
When thinking about your onboarding process, consider if your team is applying the same thought that they have to other recruitment initiatives. More than half of businesses don’t measure the success of their onboarding programs. Revamp your onboarding process by starting to keep data, including surveys from new hires, and developing metrics to measure the effectiveness.
Onboarding is more than the first-day orientation. When developing an onboarding program consider including: mentorship planning, assessment of future training needs, online or self-paced training resources, and introductions with key leaders across the company. It’s equally important to create time and space for leadership and HR to properly manage onboarding. More than half of people surveyed said that lack of bandwidth was a major issue in leaders engaging with onboarding.
Avoid hokey ideas like forcing employees to take out new hires for lunches or show them around the office. Instead, consider asking employees to volunteer to rotate welcome duties. Create a ‘welcome team’ that will all be aware of the onboarding program, it’s goals, and are genuinely excited to help onboard new team members. Do the same for mentorships, and don’t be afraid to pair new hires with leaders from different business units. The true indicator of success will be the engagement, and the more you mandate current employees to participate the more likely the experience will be negative for a new hire.
7. Not Keeping Candidates In Mind For Future Hires
You will always have roles to fill. There will never come a point where you don’t have use for top talent. That’s why it’s so important to remember that you need to be looking at all the candidates who apply and come in for interviews as opportunities for hire down the road. This is called Building a Talent Community.
Essentially, it is a system that employers use to build up their pipeline of prospective candidates that they can use for recruitment in the future. It’s essentially a sales pipeline, but for candidates.
It’s common for hiring managers to look at resumes, bring in the people they want to interview, hire one person, and then put the resumes into a filing cabinet. Let’s be honest, those resumes will probably never be looked at again. However, what you need to keep in mind is that these candidates know your company, they have already shown interest, and are therefore likely to be interested should another role become available down the road. By not taking the time to nurture and cultivate these candidates, who would be compared to hot leads, you are wasting a ton of time on having to go out and find new candidates, put them through the application process, interview them, etc. Your entire hiring process could be expedited due to the fact that you and these existing candidates are already familiar with one another.
Stay in touch with these candidates. In an earlier blog post, we advocated building a talent community around candidates that could be future hires. You can send them email updates through a monthly newsletter to let them know about upcoming roles and events, or to send them tips on interviewing for new roles. The goal is to be a resource for them on all things employment.
If you have an Application Tracking System (ATS) make sure all your candidates are signed up through the portal. That way they will receive notifications when new roles become available.
Don’t wait until you need a talent community to care about it. The real secret to success is that your investment must be authentic and without obvious self-interest. If you’d like to learn more about how you can attract passive candidates, click here.
Stop Killing Your Hiring Strategy
At the end of the day, you could have the best hiring strategy possible, but if you’re making even one of the simple mistakes we’ve explained above, your strategy is not going to perform as well as it could. While some of these mistakes may seem simple, they have a huge impact on your ability to show top performers that making a move to your company is in their career’s best interest. With talent being one of the top challenges for businesses today, you need to be doing everything you can to put your best foot forward from a hiring perspective.
By taking the time to go through your hiring process to make sure you are eliminating these mistakes, you are significantly increasing your chances of attracting and hiring today’s top tech talent.