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The most common lies employers tell when recruiting

By Tracey George MIRP on 20 Jan 2015

Most employers go through stringent checks to make sure candidates aren’t lying on their CVs, but can themselves be guilty of stretching the truth when advertising their vacancies.

It’s very easy, particularly if you need to recruit in a hurry but can’t offer a market rate salary or aren’t a recognised brand, to embellish or overstate your role to attract a better class of candidate. While this is hardly ever done with ill will, but usually just from the desire to find the best person to fill the role, it can backfire once the chosen candidate starts in post. You may get the candidate you want, but once they realise you haven’t been entirely honest about the role, productivity is likely to nosedive and turnover increase.

In this month’s blog, we look at the most common little white lies told on job descriptions and why you need to be careful you’re not doing the same.

Fudging the location, travel required or potential to work from home

If your organisation is in an out-of-they-way location or has poor transport links, it can be very tempting to not mention that fact in job descriptions, in the hope that candidates will get interested in the role before they realise where it is based. But being up front about the location avoids disappointing potential candidates and giving them a negative impression of the role before they even reach interview stage. It also gives you an opportunity to point out any positive aspects of the neighbourhood, eg ‘green and peaceful rural location’, and point out transport alternatives.

If a candidate is likely to have a long commute, they may request the option to do some of the role from home. This must be investigated and agreed (or refused) before the candidate is offered the role – don’t just say you’ll look into it afterwards. If a new employee is under the impression they will be allowed to work from home, but subsequently finds out this is not possible, they are not likely to stay with the organisation long.

“Fun environment” or “amazing culture”

Employers love to talk up the culture at their place of work, especially in not for profit organisations which depend on the enthusiasm and passion of their employees, but the truth is in the details. Do you offer flexible working options? What opportunities for professional development or internal promotion are available? What are your internal politics like?

Make sure you do your research prior to recruiting; leavers are an especially good source of information on an origination’s state of health. Then you’ll be able to back up any statements about what makes your organisation a great place to work.

“The final salary or job description hasn’t been signed off yet”

This is a real red flag for candidates, as it usually means that someone in the organisation isn’t happy with the job description or salary and is likely to mean, at best, delays while things are signed off or , at worst, drastic changes to the role advertised.

Once a salary and responsibilities have been advertised, you need to stick to it, so make sure the job description and package has been agreed by all stakeholders prior to starting recruitment. Otherwise, you’ll most likely end up giving potential candidates a very poor impression of your organisation and will probably have to start recruiting all over again.

“Training will be given”

Many job descriptions include this as a matter of course, but don’t just assume it will happen. Make sure you have an internal resource or budget allocated to get your new starter up to speed.

If there’s realistically no budget for further professional development, don’t mention it at all. But training does not just mean being given a hand out and expected to work it out on their own – you need to have some sort of plan, however rough, for how they will be able to progress.

“Salary depends on experience”

It’s very tempting for employers to leave salaries unspecified, in the hopes that they can offer a lower salary to someone with less experience and save some money. However, they nearly always have a ballpark figure in mind, and there is usually budget allocated for that role. Candidates know this and are wary of jobs advertised with no salary information – it can dramatically cut down on the number of applications you receive.

Similarly, don’t advertise a role with a salary band unless have the budget to cover the whole range of salaries. If you are only able to make an offer based on the lower end of the band, a candidate is likely to feel that they have been misled about salary.

Negotiating a salary based on experience can also leave you open to allegations of discrimination against younger people, who may be completely able to handle the role but have not yet had the time to build up a great deal of experience. Anyone who has the abilities required to do the job advertised should be worth the same level of pay.

“We are still interviewing"

Sometimes this is completely true, but it’s often used by employers as a stalling tactic for candidates who they view as competent, but not necessarily perfect. The trouble with waiting for the perfect “purple squirrel” candidate, is that any other interviewees you are stringing along could get fed up or find another role in the meantime, leaving you back at square one. There are now fewer candidates and more jobs on the market than in the last few years, which makes stalling a particularly risky tactic.

Just because the front-running candidate does not tick every box in your job description, it doesn’t mean there’s someone else out there who will. It’s usually better to hire someone who can competently handle the role, ensuring there’s no drop in productivity, and grow them into the perfect employee you’re looking for.

“We offer excellent benefits”

Almost every organisation will claim this, and maybe even believe it, even when other similar organisations offer much more competitive packages. You need to benchmark your benefits against the market, to make sure you can back up this claim. Additionally, if your organisation offers a generous holiday allowance, make sure this isn’t a paper promise only and that employees are kept so overworked that they are not able to take their leave.

If you need any help benchmarking salaries or benefits packages, or advice on how best to attract the best candidates to your role, TPP can help.