Are You the Weakest Link in Your Hiring System?

The best behavioral interview will not help hire top talent. Neither will the best applicant tracking system, or the best referral program. Even competency models won’t help. A great sticky website that nurtures passive candidate won’t do a thing to improve hiring results. A strong employee branding program that brings in a bunch of hot candidates might seem to be the new great solution, but will rarely result in any better hires. We’ve been fooled, and we’ve paid too much for our foolishness. How many of those inexpensive online ads that promised to eliminate recruiters actually resulted in great hires? We’re still spending too much money on the next great new hiring solution, and we’re still going to be disappointed. We’ve been trying all of this stuff for the past few years, and nothing works. The biggest problems ? the weakest links ? are the people involved in the hiring process: candidates, recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers. Effective hiring isn’t about installing some fancy new system. It’s about making sure that the fundamental problems are resolved first. These weakest links are the cause of our biggest problems, and as a rule we ignore them. If these problems aren’t solved first, everything else is just wasted activity. Not understanding their needs, what motivates them to act, how they make decisions, and their biases and prejudices, makes all of us the weakest links in the hiring process. And hiring processes will not improve until these issues are understood and addressed. Here’s how these issues affect the hiring process:

  • It’s too hard for the best candidates to apply for your job openings.
  • Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for different candidates.
  • Emotions, biases, prejudices and first impressions dominate the hiring decision.
  • The best candidates have different needs that aren’t addressed.

Without enough good candidates, nothing else matters. If you look closely at your hiring process you’ll see plenty of these weak links. Here’s a few I found on some recent rethinking of the hiring process exercises we conducted. It only takes one or two of these problems to negate everything else you’re doing. Do any of these common problems sound familiar?

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  1. Can’t find the ad. One of our clients was hiring 20 sales reps. The 30-day-old ad was on the 37th of 40 pages of listings. The top 20% won’t spend the time going through every ad. Listings must always be on the first one or two pages wherever they are posted.
  2. Boring ads. When I finally found the ad, it was boring, exclusionary and demeaning. Ads need to be compelling ? fun to read and inspiring. (For some examples, look at
  3. Skills-based ads that turn off the best. “Use your CPA to see the world,” is much better than, “Must have a CPA and be willing to travel 70%, including international.” Most ads ask for too many skills. It’s better if you include just a few, with more attention devoted to the challenges.
  4. Skills-based filters. The best candidates have 60%-70% of the skills, lots of potential, and the motivation to grow. You filter out the best if you ask for 100% of the skills. They won’t even apply if you insist upon them in the ad.
  5. Web-based applications that are negative or exclusionary. As a test, I applied for a customer service job the other day directly on my client’s website. The questions were sophomoric. Would I take a drug test? Would I be willing to work overtime? Would I be willing to travel? Did I live within 50 miles of the facility? They never asked if I wanted a great job, if I would be willing to put in extra effort if the company offered a challenging career opportunity, or if I would be willing to relocate for the chance to work with a company creating six sigma customer service.
  6. Incompetent recruiters. Passive or active, the best candidates always have more than one opportunity. Recruiters must be career consultants, not used car salesmen.
  7. Emotional assessments. You’ll never build a great, diverse team if assessments are filtered through first impressions, personality, stereotypes, and prejudices.
  8. A flawed voting system. Hiring the best is challenging enough. It’s impossible if one “no” vote based on a superficial interview can outweigh three or four solid “yes” votes.
  9. Selling too soon. In our haste, a great resume and a great first impression is often all it takes to begin the sales job on an apparently great candidate. A job has more value when it has to be earned. You’ll drive away the best if you give your jobs away too soon.
  10. No one knows the real job. The best candidates accept offers based on what they’ll be doing, learning, accomplishing, and becoming ? not on the use of their skills. Everyone on the interviewing team must agree to the deliverables upfront, and not worry about degrees, years of experience, and industry. The best can spot an unprofessional team during the first round of interviews. The clues: everyone describes a different job, nobody asks challenging questions, everyone is selling and no one’s listening.
  11. It’s not just about the money. If your close is more about the money and the benefits, and less about the comparison of career growth opportunities among various job alternatives, you’ve lost. For the best, compensation is always third or fourth on the list. A great career opportunity is always more important than everything else.

If you can eliminate these problems, you only need a pretty good applicant tracking system, a pretty good website, and a pretty good interviewing system. But you’ll still wind up with a great hiring system. The weakest link is people. Don’t ignore these problems. They won’t go away, even with the greatest technology money can buy.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


1 Comment on “Are You the Weakest Link in Your Hiring System?

  1. Congratulations, Lou!

    It’s refreshing to read such a succinct, let alone accurate, diagnosis of ‘what ails’ most organizations’ hiring efforts. In this day and age where cost, not ROI, is too often the primary measurement of hiring success, those ‘silver bullets’ just haven’t been the answer. You’re right. We need to address, it falls to us to fix, the issues you so clearly raise.

    Thanks for good counsel!

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