One of the most common questions that surfaces for growing businesses is how to make sure you are recruiting the right people. As with any highly complex process fraught with variables often beyond one’s control, sometimes the best way to approach these people operations challenges is by taking a look at what not to do.
1. Don’t Use (Some) Selection Assessments as Predictive Tools
You have probably been there as an applicant. The application process is running smoothly, and then a kind-hearted soul from recruiting asks you to complete one more item before bringing you in for an interview. “It’s just a little assessment,” she likely said without revealing just how much weight will be put on the outcome of your multiple choice guessing game.
As Human Resources professionals, we want to tell you that all assessments are extremely valid and reliable. However, as with all good things, trendiness and a penchant for the easy way out haunts recruiting processes. Two of the worst offenders in this space are handwriting analysis and reference checks.
These two commonly used selection methods are often cited as having the predictive ability slightly above horoscopes. On one hand, think of the time you could save by having a newspaper handy and asking an applicant their birth month. On the other, if assessments are part of your final process, make sure to focus more on assessments that have direct applicability to the future role like assessment centers or structured interviews.
2. Don’t Check References Early in Your Process
Despite the above guidance to not use references as predictive tools, reference checks do serve a very important purpose in the recruiting process. Basically, applicants have a tendency to lie. Some screening services report rates of lying about background, experience or schooling as high as 40 percent. As a hiring manager, save those references for the end of your process where they can serve as a part of your background check rather using them earlier as a determining factor in whether or not an applicant can successfully perform the role.
3. Don’t Oversell the Company
There is no faster way to ruin your employer brand than by trying to treat recruits as sales leads. The transparency afforded by online communities like LinkedIn and Glassdoor translate to clear, trustworthy information sharing when wearing your recruiting hat. Otherwise, the spillover from a process that doesn’t align with reality will have severe repercussions on the future growth of our early-stage company.
Instead, focus on maintaining a balance of personability while ensuring that the information you share is realistic and true. If you find yourself in the situation where you do not feel you can give a realistic preview of the company or the role, offer a creative alternative to your potential hires like a trial period or day-in-the-life so the experience can speak for itself.
4. Don’t Hit the Pause Button
Great candidates are usually very attractive to several companies simultaneously. Any delays once you have initiated the process can add unneeded risk into the recruiting equation. Competing offers, family issues, pre-planned vacations and even single-day delays can push a potential star to remove him or herself from the running. Treat your candidates with the same urgency as you would a strategic project, help them translate your urgency into a desire to work with them, and bring those stars onboard.
5. Don’t Ask These Questions
Apparently, all new hiring managers from every company in the United States attend a secret meeting where a list of inappropriate interview questions is passed on for the sole purpose of giving their HR teams severe panic attacks. A litany of legal decisions have paved the way for what interviewers can and cannot ask candidates, the majority of which are in place not only to save a candidate from discrimination but also to save you from McMansion-sized legal bills. Check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for more information on these laws.
In the meantime, and for the love of all that is recruiting, please refrain from asking any of the following questions:
- Were you born in America? While it is true this is currently as common as a presidential debate topic, asking your future employees Bruce Springsteen-style if they are born in the USA is a no-no. Instead, you can ask if they are authorized to work in the US.
- Do you belong to any clubs or social organizations? This is a tricky one, as it seems like an answer to this question could help you understand what this person does in their free time so you can understand them more as a person. What you are probably wanting to know, though, is if this person goes to a certain church or exercises a certain belief. Why risk it when you could simply ask a job-related version of this question like “Have you or do you hold membership in any professional groups that are relevant to this role?”
- What do your parents do for a living? The millennial generation is a strong force in the current available employment pool, and while there is a good chance about a quarter of your early-career candidates are living with their parents while saving and paying off those loans, it is best to steer clear of asking how their parents find the funds to continue to support them. Remember to keep the conversation focused on the job, and instead ask the candidate how he or she become interested in the profession for which your company is currently hiring.
If you find the candidate bringing up these or any of the other topics considered taboo in an interview, be sure to not pursue those conversations. Gently direct the focus of the interview back to the job and the company so you can be sure you have the right person for the job.