The Top 10 Mistakes Hiring Managers Make

Nicole Cox
Nicole Cox

It takes two to tango, but only one to tangle things up. Here’s my list of the top 10 mistakes hiring managers make during the candidate courtship:

1. Damaged goods? — Plenty of good talent was downsized during the recession, through no fault of their own. More important is what the candidate has been doing with that time off — it might be an eye opener. For example, a hiring manager looking for business development talent may discover that a candidate has been launching an online side business, demonstrating exactly the kind of entrepreneurial spirit the job requires.

2. Talking too much — Sure, hiring managers should talk about their expectations, management style, etc. But it’s just as important for them to listen, and then probe deeper based on the answers they hear.

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T —  I’ve heard stories of hiring managers (HMs) arriving late to in-person interviews and even no-showing for phone interviews. HMs are busy, just as we all are, but even a small slight can send the wrong signal.

4. Scare tactics — This amounts to self-sabotage. Every job has challenges, but there are ways of framing that information. I’m not saying HMs shouldn’t be up front, but they shouldn’t talk the candidate out of accepting!

5. Love ’em or leave ’em, but don’t lead ’em on — Pretending to be interested after the interview just to avoid being uncomfortable is spurious and, well, chicken. In fact, a couple of nuggets of feedback could prove to be golden for a candidate. For example, you might say, “Thanks for coming in, but I’m looking for someone with a stronger background in continuous improvement.”

6. What’s in it for them? —  Most HMs are quick to list what they need in a candidate, but they also need to be able to explain why the position is a good fit for the candidate.

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7. Show me the money — Some HMs think that as long as they know the salary range and the candidate’s salary history, they have enough to justify a low-ball offer. But hiring is a market transaction, and HMs need to consider market data as well.

8. Wouldn’t you like to know? –– Don’t ask, “What year did you graduate from college?” That’s right: it opens the door for accusations of age discrimination. Encourage HMs to represent their company with professionalism, and also to be aware of legal and risk management issues in interviewing and recruiting.

9. Too many dates and too little commitment —  That is a sure way to kill interest. HMs may want multiple people to interview a candidate, but they should try to schedule them all on the same day.

10. You said you’d call — If there is an unavoidable delay between the offer and the start date, HMs need to keep a new hire engaged. Recommend that the HM invite the candidate to a team event, or to meet for lunch.

Nicole Cox is Chief Recruitment Officer for Decision Toolbox, handling all corporate recruiting operations including quality, training, sourcing and advertising functions. She also serves as functional liaison between clients and Decision Toolbox's technology and delivery teams to design and implement best practice strategies. Contact her at


7 Comments on “The Top 10 Mistakes Hiring Managers Make

  1. I don’t know how many times HM fail to engage, it’s so poor. And why is it exceptable to keep the interviewee waiting?

    1. I work in talent attraction and management.Recently I had an interview with an allied health staffing firm where the Managing Partner was one half hour late.There was no explanation given.

  2. I agree with these points. Astute hiring managers realize that “interviewing” is a two way street. The old school, “I would be doing you a favor to hire you” arrogance makes people who do have other options just want to walk away.

  3. Great article Nicole. I’ve seen plea nth of all of these. But then you get those leaders who get it ant it’s magical!

  4. Thanks Nicole,
    Great piece!
    Hiring managers …so much can be said about them, but unfortunately many of them do not understand their job, the responsibility they carry along, the important role they have towards their client – being a coach in order to find the best candidate. Go outside the “box” and stop only look for candidates in the same industry.

    I fear that many good candidates are removed by hiring managers looking too much at the specification from the client.

    Show some guts and suggest something extraordinary outside the clients spec. It might be the best move you have made.

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