Skip to main content

Why do some recruitment processes go wrong?

If recruiting is about finding the right people for a particular role, it’s the human elements that make recruitment processes difficult, and sometimes take much longer than is wanted or anticipated. Why is that? What can you do to avoid these issues?

The Protagonists

There are three main protagonists in most recruitment stories; the line manager (or “hirer”), the recruiter (either external or in-house) and the candidate (usually one of many in the process).

Inexperience kills recruitment processes

This usually manifests itself in one of two ways;

The recruiter is inexperienced in this area – When the recruiter is doing a lot of learning on the job, that usually means a lot of wasted time. Wasted time looking in the wrong places for candidates. Time spent interviewing and pursuing candidates unlikely to ever be strong enough. Missing sources of candidates because you don’t know the sector. It’s impossible for recruiters to be knowledgeable across all sectors, which is why it’s important that we specialise in particular sectors and functions.

Even a single sector like technology is pretty broad by its’ nature – comprising internet (typically B2C), enterprise software (B2B), hardware, tech-enabled services and so forth. It’s challenging enough talking about network infrastructure with a Cisco candidate one day and online fashion with Net-a-Porter the next, without even bigger industry and functional jumps. A generalist recruiter just manages a process, and without specialism cannot find and attract the best passive candidates.

The hirer chases the impossible dream – Perfect candidates are not usually the result of recruitment processes. Most hired candidates represent an 8 or 9 out of 10 from a fit perspective. This is because;

  • The best candidates are very scarce
  • The best candidates are in high demand
  • You may not be able to attract the strongest candidates

Furthermore, the early candidates into a recruitment process are often the strongest – the result of the best ideas and most obvious places to look for talent. If these candidates are rejected because of some objections (which are inevitable) – the result is often a fruitless search for better talent that isn’t out there, or likely to be attracted to your role.

Overly high expectations are fairly common amongst CEOs – and especially founders who have often become CEOs without having to hire many or any CFOs, CMOs, CPOs, CTOs or other functions before. They don’t often have a sense of what the market holds, or what quality of candidate their company can realistically attract.

Recruiters often don’t help this dynamic; many times too keen to tell the client what they want to hear to win the business; we’ll worry about that later. Recruiters also often lack the specialism to set the expectations of the client appropriately early and upfront. Instead, they sell the dream at pitch stage, and disappoint at delivery stage. Maybe it was harder to get that West Coast Google guy to relocate to Europe than we thought?!

Strong recruiters should be able to tell the client about likely trade-offs and issues before the project has even begun, rather than overselling the likely quality of candidates in the process.

Momentum is key

Slow, long processes with lots of stakeholders kill candidate interest. Getting a candidate “over the line” requires re-assuring them both rationally (is it the right role? Is the company successful? Is the remit and compensation attractive? etc.), and just as crucially emotionally. Overly long processes with too many stakeholders kill emotional buy-in dead.

I might love you very much initially, but if I have to visit every aunt, 2nd cousin, and acquaintance before I marry you, that affection will wear off quickly. Being bold, dynamic and certain is much more attractive to candidates than deferring to a plodding and overly consensual method of assessing candidates.

This risk is even greater when hirers recruit directly without a recruiter sitting in the middle. Your candidates are unlikely to tell you your process is too long as a recruiter should, they’ll just let you know in time by pulling out and taking other roles.

There are many different possible reasons as to why recruitment processes don’t work out, but perhaps the three most common are;

  • An inexperienced recruiter wasting time looking in the wrong places;
  • Unrealistic expectations on the part of the hirer;
  • Overly long processes killing your chance of attracting strong candidates.