The Top 5 Dumb Things That Hiring Managers Do That Hurt Their Recruiting Results

The talent management practice with the highest business impact, by far, is recruiting. But, a significant part of that impact will be reduced if your hiring managers do dumb things.

Yes, hiring managers are the No. 1 contributing factor to hiring success, according to Bersin by Deloitte. Unfortunately, most hiring managers continue to hire using the same approach that was used when they were hired. Because few hiring managers are well-trained in modern recruiting approaches, a majority of them use practices that are based more on intuition than data. During my career, I have literally advised thousands of hiring managers. And I have been routinely amazed at their willingness to continually use antiquated hiring practices that damage hiring results and therefore the business results of their own team.

Even the best recruiters routinely have to work with hiring managers that put up artificial roadblocks that make it difficult for them to produce great recruiting results. In fact, hiring powerhouse Google avoids the many flaws of hiring managers by excluding them completely from the hiring process (Google instead uses a well-trained professional hiring committee and data-based hiring).

So, if you are a recruiting leader or a recruiter who wants to educate your hiring managers about their most common “dumb” things, here are the top ones.

The Top 5 Dumb Things That Hiring Managers Do

As part of any effort to educate your hiring managers, start by making them aware of the really dumb and damaging things that many hiring managers do. The most damaging errors are listed first.

  1. Requiring simply “a degree” in their job requirements  Google research has demonstrated that having a college degree is often not an accurate predictor of on-the-job success. However, many hiring managers insist that a degree be part of the job requirements for all of their open jobs. But the negative impacts of that practice are further exacerbated when they literally specify that all applicants need a bachelor’s degree. This “any-degree” designation is often unnecessary and damaging because the degree of an applicant could be 20 years old and the applicant with this ancient degree would still qualify for the job. In addition, the degree could be from a mediocre school. And the major could be in an area like physical education, that might be completely unrelated to the job. If the degree is antiquated and it’s from a weak school and an irrelevant major, it simply can’t be an accurate predictor of on-the-job success. A superior approach is to require specific knowledge or to specify a degree that is both recent and relevant.
  2. Insisting on assessing job or company fit — hiring managers are so enamored with hiring individuals who “fit” that many managers do the fit assessment themselves. Unfortunately, the very concept of hiring people who fit might be a huge mistake because fit essentially means sameness. And a high degree of sameness might actually hurt the team. Sameness might result in groupthink, an intolerance for differences, and a severe reduction in innovation. Data, in fact, shows that team diversity which reflects your customer base (the opposite of fit) has a huge positive business impact. There is no publicly available data that shows that managers consistently or accurately assess fit, because the assessment process is almost always subjective and inconsistent. If you are going to do it, accurate fit assessment is a critical determination because if a candidate fails the assessment, they are permanently ruled out. In addition, the underlying assumption of requiring fit is based on the premise that individuals are rigid and that they can’t change or adapt to a new culture (which in my experience is simply untrue). There is, of course, also a great deal of deception during most fit assessment, because candidates will strive to provide the “expected answers” covering what they think that the hiring manager wants to hear. Unfortunately, there is also never a feedback loop with the exit interview process, which would reveal how many new hires actually left because they didn’t fit. And finally, because fit is seldom clearly defined by hiring managers, recruiters consistently struggle to accurately screen out those who don’t fit.
  3. Routinely requiring an excessive number of years of experience — demanding that the job requirements include an unrealistically high number of “years of experience” is so common among hiring managers that I wonder if it’s an inherited genetic trait. Requiring an excessive number of years of experience also dramatically reduces the recruiting pool because only a small percentage of the available talent actually possesses that level of experience. Requiring more experience also means higher salary requirements, which many hiring managers are unwilling or unable to pay. In addition, I have frequently found that with the higher experience requirement, that the previous occupant of the job often wouldn’t even have qualified when they started the job. And also I frequently find that many other successful members of the current team often wouldn’t qualify under these excessive requirements. Unfortunately, most hiring managers are unwilling to reduce the years of experience required for their jobs, at least until a failed search reveals that the requirement was excessive, expensive and unnecessary. In one case where I was involved, the hiring manager insisted on qualifications so outrageously high that even the firm’s current CEO couldn’t meet them!
  4. Quickly dismissing innovators because of their criticism — the world’s most valuable firms by market cap (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon) have been wildly successful because they serially innovate. But unfortunately, in my experience, many hiring managers fail to hire most innovators because they instantly reject most innovators during the interview. First, innovators often challenge the status quo during the interview (e.g. no I wouldn’t do it that way). This instantly angers managers who overly defend the current approach (because they built it). Innovators often come across as having an attitude or even as arrogant because they cynically challenge almost everything. And that perceived arrogance literally threatens many hiring managers. And finally, many innovators look dramatically different. And with tattoos, body piercings, and unusual dress, many managers frequently dismiss them because they look and act so differently. Rather than seeking out innovators, many hiring managers hire in their own image and they hire only for their short-term needs (the two reasons why Google doesn’t let individual managers hire). The reality is that if you want innovators, one of the best ways to identify them is precisely because they are highly critical of the status quo and because they look and act differently.
  5. Not realizing that candidates often know the interview questions in advance  many hiring managers started hiring years ago when you could surprise candidates with your secret interview questions. But now with the Internet, candidates who are applying at even medium-size firms can obtain their likely interview questions and answers from sites like glassdoor.com. When candidates have the questions and answers in advance, they can and do practice intensively to the point where their answers aren’t accurate or genuine. Those hiring managers who do realize that their typical interview questions are public knowledge, often try to counter that knowledge by offering brand-new interview questions. Because they are brand new, there can’t be any proof demonstrating that these new questions predict on-the-job success.

Final Thoughts

If you want to dramatically improve your hiring results, because of their high impact, start with your hiring managers. Yes, they can be resistant to change and some even refuse to hire individuals who might threaten or challenge them. But when you encounter a hiring manager who is committed to hiring only A players. Start by making them aware of the above listed common hiring manager errors. If you really want to get the attention of hiring managers go a step further and quantify in dollars the negative impacts that their team will suffer as a result of using these five antiquated hiring practices.

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Finally, educate your hiring managers on the most powerful positive recruiting approaches like referrals, boomerang rehires, and assessing candidates by giving them real problems to solve. Minimizing these five negative factors and increase the use of practices that have proven to produce high-quality hires will guarantee a dramatic improvement in your volume of quality applicants, and the quality of your new hires.

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.