The Wrong Way to Hire

There are currently more jobs than there are people to fill them

“Businesses have never done as much hiring as they do today. They’ve never spent as much money doing it. And they’ve never done a worse job of it,” says Peter Cappelli in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR). And I must agree. This statement is a much-needed eye opener for everyone involved in recruitment.

In reviewing HBR’s reporting below, I’ll offer additional insight about hiring based on my experience working with middle-market companies.

To set the stage, I must point out what we’re all experiencing today: there are currently more jobs than there are people to fill them; and if you’re in the C-suite, hiring talent is your number one concern and the biggest threat to your business. In order to compete in this market, you must change the way you find and keep your people.

If you’re still relying on the old “post and pray” approach to recruitment  ̶  where you place an ad for a position and hope someone applies  ̶   that’s got to be your first change initiative. It no longer works.

Last year, the majority of people who changed jobs weren’t searching for one, according to HBR. Companies reached out and recruited these highly-valued, passive candidates before they even thought about checking ads.

Increasingly, companies prefer to hire externally, often in the mistaken belief that they’ll get experienced people who can hit the ground running and save the cost of training. In reality, the frequent cultural misfits and accompanying disruption can be equally or more costly than hiring from within, along with the possible loss of employees interested in advancement.

To attract the best possible hires, companies often use tactics like advertising jobs that don’t exist; hiring recruitment-process outsourcers to scour LinkedIn and social media for potential candidates; or turning to vendors who use smart-sounding tools to predict who will be the best candidate for the job. What is the cost of this? On average, the cost of hiring per job is $4,129, and many thousands more for higher level positions.

HBR says that “employers are obsessed with new technologies and driving down costs.” Yet, amazingly, it’s a rare few that carefully measure the results of their recruiting practices.

Yes, measuring this process can be hard, but you can start by focusing on the easiest things to measure — like absentee rates, results of performance reviews and retention levels — and branch out from there. One thing is for sure: you’ll quickly become addicted to the knowledge and payoffs.

What hiring should look like

HBR offers several ways that you can improve your hiring process. Below are a few of them as well as how to implement them effectively.

Don’t post phantom jobs

Posting fake jobs or leaving ads posted long after jobs are filled, is not a best practice. Recruitment is a sales process and you should always be cultivating for candidates, which eliminates the need to post jobs that don’t exist. Besides, there’s an ethics aspect to lying to candidates. Make sure your process matches your values and expect the same from your candidates: truth on both sides means better outcomes.

Design jobs with realistic requirements

Don’t rely on tracking software and keywords. You need a human component to post realistic expectations, requirements and compensation that attract the right candidates. At the same time, your job descriptions should be compelling and create excitement about working for you and contributing in a meaningful way to what you do.

Reconsider your focus on passive candidates

There are many good places to source candidates, and you should use a mix of them all: employee referrals, current employees, passive and active external people, job-boards, inside and outside recruiters and social and professional networks. One must consider alignment, timing and fit. Once they’re hired, make sure they are thoughtfully and successfully integrated, and tell them, specifically, how they fit into the success of your company.

Persuade fewer people to apply

HBR recommends that, rather than filling a funnel with candidates and then weeding them out, employers should create a smaller, higher-quality pool of applicants, each of whom have associated costs. I agree and would add that process is king in both attracting high quality candidates and avoiding astronomical costs.

You need a way to get objective observations of candidates and dig deep to see who fits best with your company culture. Processes allow you to gear up or gear down, to hire a great candidate on the spot or take a few weeks to compare and decide. The recruiting process is broken in most companies. It’s not one thing, it’s many things that bring better long-term results when you have the right systems and processes in place.

Revamp your interviewing process

Interviews are the most important factor in assessing cultural fit and can be difficult to measure. It’s critical that you understand your values and how they manifest in your current employees’ behavior. Then you can assess candidates against that insight. It requires discipline and consistency to build the data, especially when you’re fiercely competing for talent and tempted to bring in anyone with a pulse.


If “good” isn’t the right word to describe the candidates you are considering, the word “perfect” is downright dangerous. There is no perfect candidate, and no one will be a perfect fit for the job or your culture. Don’t even try to look for perfection. However, with the right processes in place you’ll get the best possible results.


Categories: Management & Leadership