The #1 Recruiting Mistake: 10 Experts Weigh In

The Most Common Mistakes Made by RecruitersMost recruiters don’t send arrogant 3,000-word rejection letters to 900 applicants or enter into catty email exchanges with job seekers (even if they want to). Still, these missteps made us wonder:

“What is the most common mistake made by recruiters?”

We asked 10 experienced recruiters and HR pros to weigh in — here is what they had to say:

Top Recruiting Mistakes

“Not being high touch enough. I hear too many horror stories of candidates being left hanging even after having face-to-face interviews. Close the door. Candidates prefer to hear bad news versus no news. This is a reflection of your organization. If you want good talent, treat them right. Word gets around, especially in more intimate industries,”

Cathleen Faerber, Managing Director at The Wellesley Group, Inc.

“Not asking enough questions when receiving a job order. Having detailed information about the opportunity will save time for all parties and ensure the right match is made. When details are not discussed (e.g. Why is the position available? Would the company pay a higher salary for the right candidate? What makes the company culture unique?) then the recruiter will never have a firm grasp on the position. This will impact the quality of the candidates presented for the role and cause the client to question the recruiter’s ability to find the ideal placement,”

Mike Lee, Assistant Branch Manager at Randstad US

“To take a job description literally. Many recruiters refuse to be creative in their search for a candidate who can do the job well, but doesn’t have 100% of the experience required. Who wants to hire somebody who has already done it all — that person has retired in place. Hire somebody with 75 – 80% of the experience, somebody with enthusiasm, somebody who is excited about the profession or the industry, somebody who will be challenged and motivated and will do a great job for you,”

Bettina Seidman, President at SEIDBET Associates

“Berating clients/hiring managers for lousy interview technique instead of providing them advice and guidance many sorely need,”

Frank G. Risalvato, Recruiting Office at Inter-Regional Executive Search, Inc.

“Not finding out the impetus for why a candidates is looking for a new job opportunity. Recruiters can become so consumed with a skill-set match that they lose focus on why a candidate is looking for a new role. Often, when it comes down to the time for a candidate to make a decision, recruiters didn’t know about deciding factors such as family proximity, a certain type of industry the candidate wanted to work in, a technology that is centric to a certain portion of the country or other peripheral reasons. That lack of due diligence up front can help another company gain traction in helping a candidate with his/her search and could have saved you preventable work if you had more background information,”

Mike Barefoot, Senior Account Executive at Red Zone Resources

“Being too rigid with candidates during the interview process and making them feel nervous. The more comfortable you make a candidate feel, the more open and honest they will be with their answers during the interviewing process; which can really help in making a hiring decision,”

Shilonda Downing, Owner of Virtual Work Team LLC

“To over-promise to either client or candidate. Many recruiters work at a fast pace and it’s in their interests to get the candidate interested in the role and the client ready to receive excellent resumes. However, recruiters that over promise a role to candidates (e.g. ‘It’s contract, but it could go permanent,’ ‘The company culture is very family-friendly,’ ‘The scope of responsibility is much more than the job description suggests’) are setting the candidate and themselves up for failure. On the other end, recruiters that promise clients a batch of resumes within x number of hours are often locking themselves into either submitting a batch of substandard candidates or missing a deadline,”

Kelsey Berry, Associate at Mom Corps NYC

“Needing rather than Selecting. Too many times a recruiter will be desperate for a candidate which clouds his or her judgment. These recruiters tend to spend a great deal of time selling themselves, rather than requiring the candidate to do the selling,”

Todd Reid, General Agent at Intermountain Financial Group, LLC

“Recruiters rarely have a deep understanding of the industries and jobs they are pitching candidates for. They often send in multiple candidates representing a range of qualifications and personalities hoping that one will be a home-run; some check all of the boxes, others are outliers. When you don’t prepare your clients with basic information about the interviewers and job functions – as an interviewee – there is no way to know what to highlight and what to play down. Candidates will not be able to outshine and outlast the competition,”

Roy Cohen, Career Coach and Author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide

“Not focusing on the candidate experience through the entire process. Employer brand is the one recruiting program that lasts the life of the company. A candidate’s experience should be top of mind through every step in the recruitment process — they in turn will become brand ambassadors whether you hire them or not. Communicate with your team and ensure they know next steps to avoid redundancies, disorganization and confusion. First impressions are important for everyone — if you want to recruit a game changer, then start by changing your game,”

Kraig Docherty, Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Cedars Online Limited

What’s the #1 mistake you see recruiters making?

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  • Lynda Hallock, CEO LGH Recruitment

    All are excellent points. Kudos! My pet peeve with recruiters is sending resumes to clients and they have actually never spoken with the candidate. So often I will call a potential candidate and let them know they had already been submitted to the company. Really? “They never called me”. Some recruiters slam as many resumes as they can to the client. It will catch up with you! It is a small community. What is even worse is when the client does not care. I will not do business with clients who play that “time and date stamp” game when they no full well the recruiter never spoke with that candidate. It is disrespectful.
    Candidates, as with clients, should always be treated with respect and dignity through out the whole process. Always. You may need that candidate in the future.
    Recruiters should always send a detailed email (requiring a confirmation) with information regarding the interview. Who, What, When , Where…Dress Code..Directions…job description in full, Titles of who they are meeting, website( so they can do their homework), personalities of interviewers( if possible)the more info the will make for a better interview for the candidate and insure no “bad communication” regarding interview. It will insure your professional credibility as well as the candidates. If you can not take the time to do all of this…you are in the wrong business.

  • Rachel Dotson

    Once again, thanks for offering your expertise!

    “Candidates, as with clients, should always be treated with respect and dignity through out the whole process.” This is such a great point. Too often, people are treated as a means to and end, rather than given the respect they deserve.

  • Southpaw

    These are wonderful comments from (obvious) professional recruiters as some, as indicated above, are not. I’ve had people call me, leave me a message and their phone # to call them back. I call back, get their voice mail, leave a message that I’m returning their call and never hear back. These are the unprofessionals, throwing everything against the wall to see if something sticks. They need to find a new career. Thanks, again for this article.

  • Rachel Dotson

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Southpaw. Whatever the reason may be, I agree it’s disappointing when a recruiter leaves candidates hanging. It’s like Cathleen said, ” Close the door. Candidates prefer to hear bad news versus no news.”

  • Tamara R. Pearlman

    Good info. yet not rocket science if one has been in the recruiting field for any length of time! I have been recruiting for over 20 years and know how to recruit great candidates and develop relationships with great clients. I know how to juggle multiple openings, submissions, etc. and will follow up with in-house recruitment within 2 days.
    I have found that too many recruiters, as referenced above, will submit a candidate for a position, on a split and never speak to the candidate as well. I know I can sell a candidate well enough to get the company to speak with them; however less seasoned recruiters are almost afraid of their clients. We are providing a viable service to client companies as we are on the outside looking in and know what the market will bear.
    Than, there are the paper pushers who are not really recruiters at all. They are lacking in training and desperate to make a placement; thus they inundate client companies with resumes. And, without realizing they are building a client companies database with multiple resumes and cutting themselves out of the loop when openings occur and a viable candidate of theirs just may very well have been the the database for 1 yr. or more. Thus, the “recruiter” misses out on a real placement.
    My rule of thumb with a new client is one requisition and I will submit one candidate. I wait for their feedback and know how to discern how to proceed. Honestly, I’ve reached the stage in my career that I usually only submit one candidate per job and they hire that candidate. There is no reason to inundate in-house recruiters with resumes if you do your job right the first time around.
    Communication is very important, and I’m not talking about email, I’m stating pick up the phone and talk with your candidates voice to voice. There is much more reassurance, and credibility in taking a short amount of time and establishing that rapport. Rapport and success stories also lead to referrals to passive candidates. I know we all want those types of referrals.
    Do your job, do it well and you will not need articles such as the one I am responding to!

    • Rachel Dotson

      These are excellent points, Tamara (you could have written the post yourself!). Your approach to sending one resume and waiting for feedback is something that would serve many recruiters, new and old, very well. Thanks for sharing your expertise!