Top 8 worst hiring practices

Trotting out the same interview questions each time there is a vacancy will not deliver many insights about the candidates.

Two experts share their list of pet peeves in the recruitment process. Whether it’s a jobseeker suddenly dropping off the face of the earth or an employer asking a “vanilla question” – all are highly undesirable.

By Jessica Mudditt

1. Ghosting

“Ghosting” is a modern dating term that is now being applied to the workplace context. Ghosting occurs when someone vanishes into thin air and abruptly ends all contact. It could be a job candidate who agrees to an interview but fails to turn up, or does a no-show on what was supposed to be their first day of work. It could be a potential employer who goes silent and ignores repeated requests for an update. Ghosting is becoming more common and some say it is facilitated by digital communications, as it is relatively easy to disappear online.

“Your reputation is completely tarnished as a result of ghosting, both from a company standpoint and as an individual. I don’t understand how people could behave so poorly, but it’s become prevalent,” says Nicole Gorton, a director at specialised recruitment firm Robert Half.

2. Breadcrumbing

This no-no is another dating term. Being professionally breadcrumbed involves being led on by a trail of “crumbs” or false promises. In recruitment, it tends to be a job offer that never materialises, or a job that turns out to be substantially different.

“I like to think that it’s not intentional,” Gorton says. “Often, whoever is responsible for communicating with the candidate has moved too fast and then backtracked after realising that they don’t have internal alignment – they’ve made promises to the candidate that they can’t uphold. They think they’re keeping them ‘warm’ by saying nothing, but the person is getting colder because there is no follow-through.”

3. Too much reliance on psychometric testing

Psychometric testing is a useful way of measuring aptitude, intelligence and personality. It can be helpful in whittling down a large number of candidates.

However, there are limits to its usefulness, says Michael Fingland, managing director of corporate leadership firm Vantage Performance in Brisbane.

“One of the big mistakes that a lot of companies make is placing too much emphasis on test results. Psychometric testing isn’t always accurate, and it should only be used as a guide. It shouldn’t account for more than 15 per cent of the overall decision.”

4. Rushing 

Taking too long to decide to recruit a new team member can sabotage the entire process, warns Fingland.

“Firms often don’t hire until they’re already under-resourced. When you’re flat out, you’re more likely to rush the decision and make the wrong choice.” 

He recommends meeting a potential candidate at least three times and having them meet the entire team over an informal lunch. The natural flow of conversation will reveal a lot about the candidate’s values and whether they are aligned with the company.

“There’s a saying: ‘Fire quickly, hire slow’. You want to make sure you’ve got a really good cultural fit,” he says. 

5. Using a vague job description

“It’s such an easy mistake to make, but we come across this a lot with clients who are going through turnarounds or high growth. They haven’t put together proper job descriptions and when the candidate comes for an interview, the actual job isn’t at all what they expected,” Fingland says. 

This is a waste of everyone’s time, so it’s important to create a job description that is specific and comprehensive. Cut and pasting from similar jobs is sloppy and results in qualified candidates not applying.

6. Failing to do reference checks 

Reference checks are quick and easy to complete, yet all too often recruiters skip this vital step. They do so at their peril, says Fingland.

“When people are busy, they may think, ‘Oh, it all looks good – this person has references from two big-name firms’. It’s a mistake not to actually contact them,” Fingland says. 

Reference checks can save a lot of future hassle because sometimes a person may look great on paper, but could be challenging to work with. Alternatively, a glowing reference for someone who was having an off day during the interview may mean they deserve to be reconsidered.

7. A lack of preparation

It’s important for candidates to research not only the company, but also the people who will be interviewing them. This shows initiative and interest, and makes for a better conversation.

“Nowadays it isn’t difficult to ascertain a lot of information about individuals,” Gorton says. “There is LinkedIn and the company’s website. It’s not difficult to Google someone, but people often don’t do it.”

8. Asking vague interview questions

Trotting out the same interview questions each time there is a vacancy will not deliver many insights about the candidates.

“A lot of companies ask what I call ‘vanilla questions’ – they are so generic as to be meaningless. An example could be, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ This is hypothetical, fluffy stuff that doesn’t uncover whether the person can do the job,” Gorton says. 

She instead suggests asking a candidate to provide an example of how they dealt with a particular challenge at a previous company, and what the impact of their decisions was.


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