10 Things Employers Forget When Hiring

Employers make mistakes, too.

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Alison Green
In a tight job market like this one, it’s easy for employers to forget that they still need to be careful about the way they treat job candidates. If they’re not, they risk losing great candidates, alienating potential customers, and even starting their new hires out on the wrong foot.

Here are 10 things many employers forget when they’re hiring:

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1. Interviews aren’t a one-way street. Interviews aren’t just about determining whether the company wants to hire the candidate. They’re also about the candidate figuring out if he or she even wants the job. Don’t treat the process like a one-way interrogation.

2. Job postings shouldn’t read like an internal processes manual. Job postings are marketing tools that are supposed to get the right candidates excited about the role. But most job postings are filled with “bureaucratese” that takes all the life out of the role. Some are filled with so much jargon that they’re incomprehensible to anyone outside the organization.

3. The best candidates have options. This won’t be the only job that your strongest candidates are considering. If you make them go through seven interviews, or treat them poorly, or drag your feet when making a decision, you risk losing them to another offer.

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4. The goal of the hiring process is to make the best hires, not to make HR’s job easier. There’s nothing wrong with making your recruiting system more efficient, but be sure you’re not doing it at the expense of your candidates’ experience. For instance, requiring candidates to submit their Social Security numbers with their initial application is an invasion of privacy that isn’t justified by the small amount of time it might save HR down the road.

5. Employees start learning about your culture during the hiring process, not on their first day. By the time your new hire starts, he or she will have already picked up messages about “how we do things here.” If you move quickly, are responsive, and do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’ll do it, you’re sending important signals about your culture to your eventual new hire. On the other hand, if you’re do these things, your new hire will assume that disorganization is a hallmark of the culture.

6. Candidates will scrutinize your rejection notice, so be careful what you say. Getting rejected is an emotional experience for most people, and many rejected candidates will search the language of your rejection notice for hidden meaning. So don’t imply that rejected candidates didn’t meet your qualifications when in fact you simply had more qualified candidates than you could interview. And don’t say you’ll be in touch about future opportunities if you really won’t be.

7. You may lose your best candidates by making the hurdles to apply too high. More and more companies are switching to endlessly long online application forms that are often riddled with technical problems. If candidates have to spend an hour wrestling with an onerous application system simply to submit a resume, your best candidates with options may just not bother.

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8. It takes only seconds to send an automated response to candidates who didn’t get the job. Many companies never bother to notify candidates that they’re no longer under consideration, even after candidates have taken time off work to interview or traveled at their own expense. Candidates are often anxiously waiting to hear an answer—any answer—and end up waiting and waiting, long after a decision has been made. This is about simple respect and courtesy; it just doesn’t take that long to email a form letter.

9. Truth in advertising pays off down the road. Making the job sound more glamorous than it really is or downplaying less attractive aspects of the job—like long hours or a tyrannical boss—guarantees that you’ll end up with a resentful, unmotivated employee. Truth in advertising works to everyone’s advantage, because candidates who won’t thrive in the job or the culture can self-select out before they become disgruntled workers.

10. Your candidates are human beings, just like you, your sister, your dad, or your best friend. Treat them with dignity and respect, and be considerate of their time and appreciative of their interest. Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.