Some of the most dangerous hiring mistakes an employer can make involve believing that workers need them more than they need workers. It can lead to huge blunders, keeping top talent from taking an interest in your organization at all or causing them to withdraw or get swooped up by another employer during the interview process.
We asked job candidates about hiring mistakes that caused them to ignore a job listing, back away during the interview process, or reject a job offer. Boy, did they deliver. Here are a few points to consider:
Never Made it Past the Application
“I’d like to say that I follow through on every application for every job I’m interested in, but some of these online processes are just too much. It makes me wonder how out-of-touch the organization is, and that prompts me to just lose interest,” one respondent told us.
Recruitment data provider Appcast found that a whopping 92% of people who click “Apply” on an online application never finish the process. It’s a reminder that not considering the very top of the candidate experience funnel—getting candidates to apply in the first place—might be the first of your hiring mistakes.
An audit by UX provider Inflight found that the average time to complete an application is just shy of 5 minutes. The more clicks, login setups, data gathering, and security steps involved, the worse the experience is. Karl Wierzbicki, vice president of marketing at InFlight, recommends testing out the process yourself to see how long and difficult it may be. The more complex your roles or processes are, the more it makes sense to bring in outside help from a recruiting firm that can lead candidates through the experience.
I Already Have a Family, Thanks
The most popular red flag among our respondents: The old “we’re like family” messaging. A business that operates “like a family” is usually molded that way under the best intentions, but it’s among the most significant hiring mistakes for many reasons.
“Lots of talk about ‘being a family’ is a HUGE red flag for me,” one respondent told us. “Anytime someone mentions ‘like a family,’ I stop right there. That just means overworked and undervalued,” another respondent added.
“Leaders who actually view their employees as ‘families’ expect more than just work from them,” this article from Workable explains. “They blur the lines between work and home, infringing upon the sanctity of real family relationships. This mindset also gets in the way of profitability.”
Just think of how often family relationships can be toxic. That’s what job seekers with healthy boundaries protect themselves from. Many job seekers have been burned within these cultures for many reasons.
“Numerous examples and research show that overly loyal people are more likely to participate in unethical acts to keep their jobs and are also more likely to be exploited by their employer,” explains Leadership Development Trainer Joshua A. Luna. “These could manifest as being asked to work unreasonable hours or on projects or assignments unrelated to your role, or keeping things under wraps because it is in the company’s (read: family) best interest. We’re all in this together, so you have to play your part, right?”
Suspicious & Shifting Terms
“My big red flag recently was a company that had put me through three interviews, then decided they wanted to do contact-to-hire,” a respondent told us. She acknowledges that shifting from full-time to contract-to-hire wasn’t necessarily a dealbreaker; rather, it’s the way they handled it. “After I submitted to them a pay rate, they ghosted me. Three emails were sent, all opened, but no replies. The bait-and-switch was bad, but the ghosting was even worse.”
We’ve talked about ghosting before. It’s part of a larger category of hiring mistakes involving trust, respect and transparency. And there doesn’t even need to be a sinister reason behind it. Poor communication, plain and simple, can feed the impression that an organization is up to no good and may even have something to hide. With 90% of job seekers stating it’s important to work for a company that embraces transparency, that’s a big deal.
“Poor communication, disrespect, and secretive tactics all spell RED FLAG to me,” a respondent told us, giving an example of an interview process she was involved with that went sideways thanks to the behavior of the top manager. “The offer fell apart when it was revealed the manager had withheld important details.”
“I have turned down two offers in the past because the interview process was so bad, [including] rude HR people, and even compensation that changed from what was said during the first interview to the time an offer was made,” another respondent added.
Additional Hiring Mistakes
Here are a few more notable tips given to us by job seekers, past and present:
- Be reasonable. “When I was a professor, I applied [to an] education non-profit. They wanted me to interview, but it was only one specific day…at the end of the semester…during work hours,” a respondent told us, adding that they refused to budge on the date and times. “I figured if they were in education and didn’t see a problem with canceling classes, it was just as well that it didn’t work out.”
- Hire for the right reasons. Another respondent told us that she was called in to interview under interesting pretenses. “They were looking to bring more ‘feminine’ energy into the business,” she told us. When pressed, the team members admitted they weren’t considering her for her talent and skills, “they were looking for a gentle referee between highly contentious and politicized…teams. Hard pass to the ‘team mom’ role.”
- Don’t be late. Multiple respondents told us this was a dealbreaker. Of course, life happens, but not offering an apology or explanation, or letting it happen multiple times throughout the interview process, is just plain rude. Reddit user techn9neiskod explains it best: “They don’t respect you before they hire you…what makes you think they would after?”
- Be self-reflective. “If the business seems to always be hiring for the same roles and they are not expanding, that is a sign of churn and toxic environments,” a respondent told us. If that’s happening to your organization, don’t just relist the roles. Take a good look at how you can stop the revolving door.
- Make sure your perks are for them more than for you. “A ton of ‘perks’ that really are just meant to encourage people not to leave the office can be a red flag, though I’ve seen a few companies that really just like their people that much,” one responded said.
- Seriously consider the homework. “Anytime someone asks you to do a bunch of work for what is supposedly part of the interview process, you should run, not walk, away,” a respondent writes. Take the opportunity to review our previous article on hiring assessments and their alternatives.
- Understand that a “fast-paced environment” has a transparent cultural undertone. As one respondent explains, many job seekers see the term and read, “It’s chaos here; we have no idea what we’re doing and rely on people working ridiculous hours to get anything completed…the road to our HQ is paved with burnt-out discarded staff.” Ouch.
- Maybe don’t badmouth your team and then attack the candidate? As one of our respondents interviewed for a business analyst role, the CEO flashed several red flags, including referring to the dev team as ‘propeller heads’ and moaning about heading home on time regularly. When they eventually declined the job, “the CEO phoned me to berate me for wasting his time and for not taking the role.”
- Watch your reviews. More than half of job seekers will avoid an employer with bad online reviews. We recommend keeping a close eye on Glassdoor and other review sites—try to keep an average of 4 or 5 stars and make sure you respond to all negative reviews correctly. “Almost everyone looks at Glassdoor before interviewing,” says The HT Group Founder and CEO Mark Turpin. “We’ve turned down clients with terrible Glassdoor reviews. If it’s a red flag for top talent, it’s a red flag for us.”
“Bottom line: treat your job seekers like your best customers,” a respondent writes. “They are interviewing you at the same time you are interviewing them, and the best talent will walk away. After all, if you can’t get the hiring process right, how well does the rest of the company operate?”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. For more insights on avoiding hiring mistakes, our recruiters a just a phone call away.