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The top 10 mistakes made in recruiting

Recruiting a new member of staff is an expensive and time-consuming business, so it pays to make sure you get the best person you possibly can.  Pressures on budgets and time mean that it can be tempting for organisations to cut corners when recruiting, but this rarely pays off in the long run.  Here are some of the most common (and fairly easily avoided) charity recruitment mistakes.

1.    Not asking the right interview questions

With many not for profit employees being asked to do more with fewer resources, it can be extremely difficult to take the time to prepare properly for interviews.  This means that interviewers can end up just asking superficial questions about previous experience and not really probing a candidate to see how well they will do in the job.  Not preparing detailed questions in advance also makes it much harder to establish a level playing field for multiple interviewees and avoid bias.

Read our past blogs on common interview mistakes and behavioural interviewing to make your interviews more effective. 

2.    Not recruiting for a cultural fit

While no organisation wants employees who are clones and all think in the same way, it is important that any new member of staff fits in with the rest of their team.  Their personality has to mesh with others and it’s important they have similar ethics and values, particularly in charities, where the organisation’s mission should be the primary staff motivator.

Find out how to determine your organisation’s working culture and choose new employees to fit.

3.    Relying solely on an interview

Although the interview is one of the most effective tools in an employer’s kit, decisions on hiring should not be made purely on that basis.  After all, according to a study done by the Chally Group, an interview only increases the chance of finding the best candidate by 2%.  You need to include as much supporting material as you can when shortlisting, including CVs, emails, covering letters, references, personal recommendations and their web presence and social media profiles.

Here’s some guidance on using cover letters to recruit effectively.

4.    Not checking references

A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management reports that 25 % of employers never check references and the Charity Commission estimates that only 23% of charities carry out checks on prospective trustees.

Not taking the time to check references leaves you entirely reliant on the candidate’s view of themselves, which can be accidentally or deliberately distorted.

Find out more about checking references here.

5.    Automatically rejecting overqualified candidates

When initially screening candidate CVs, it can be tempting to take out any candidates who exceed the required experience; dismissing them as ‘overqualified’ and not matching the person specification.  However, the advantages of taking on someone with more experience and extra skills can often outweigh any possible downsides.  In this candidate-heavy market, it seems strange that more employers are not taking advantage of being able to get more for less.

Read more about the potential benefits of 'overqualified' candidates.

6.    Recycling job descriptions and person specifications

Re-using the job description for your outgoing employee might be seen as a good way to save time, but cutting corners like this can definitely backfire.  Roles change over time and the job description might be out-of-date, meaning that you’ll be hiring against an incorrect set of criteria.  Recruiting is also a good time to review a role’s responsibilities – it may make more sense to reshuffle duties around the team, or to split up overstretched roles into more than one job.  Vague and imprecise job descriptions also make shortlisting difficult, as you’ll get many more unsuitable applicants.

Find out more about writing effective job descriptions and person specifications here.

7.    Missing the opportunity to sell your organisation

As there are so many jobseekers around looking for work at the moment, it can be easy for employers to assume that anyone would be grateful to work for them and that they don’t need to ‘sell’ the role or organisation.  In reality, there’s more competition than ever for the very best candidates and particularly in certain niche areas.  And even if they don’t end up with the job, anyone interested enough to interview with you could be an excellent potential advocate or supporter for your organisation.

Read more on selling your organisation at interview here.

8.    Waiting for the perfect candidate

In recruitment terminology, the elusive perfect candidate is referred to as a ‘purple squirrel’ and like their namesake, they can be very thin on the ground.  A candidate-rich market can leave organisations paralysed by choice, as they reason that there must be a jobseeker out there who matches every requirement on their list and they only have to find them.

In reality, perfect candidates are so rare that it is usually best to go for someone who meets all of the key requirements and can be trained in the “would-like-to-haves”.  Training up a candidate builds loyalty and productivity, and they might have other qualities that could come in useful in the future.  Leaving the role open risks drops in productivity and damaging morale as other employees struggle to cover the responsibilities.

Find out more about purple squirrels here.

9.    Asking ‘illegal’ interview questions

While some interview questions are obviously discriminatory and are easy to avoid, it is possible for employers to think they are innocently making conversation but they may actually be straying into potentially illegal areas, and making themselves open to litigation.

However, planning interview questions in advance, and being aware of exactly what you can and cannot ask, will help you avoid any problems.  Find out more about illegal interview questions here.

10.    Mishandling rejections and not supplying feedback

This is probably the most common mistake made, as employers find it hard to devote time to candidates who have not made it through the interview process.  But, as well as simply being polite to take the time to give feedback to a rejected candidate, it can also benefit your recruitment process and employer brand.

Discover the best way to handle rejections and give interview feedback here.