April 4, 2016

The Truth Behind 5 Recruiting Urban Myths


Thanks to the viral, gossip-laden, and overloaded nature of today’s information ecosystem, much of what you take as truth in recruiting may actually be urban myth – and that could be undermining your search for talent.

By uncovering the truth behind these urban legends and making sure your hiring process is built on reality, you can create a more effective hiring process.

Here are the top 5 hiring urban legends that may be thwarting your recruiting efforts:

Myth No. 1: The Candidate With the Best Skills Will Be the Best Employee

There is a general feeling, particularly in technical fields, that the candidate with the best skills will be the best employee. If you follow this unsound, but widely accepted wisdom, you could be making a lot of bad hires.

The fact is that only 11 percent of new hires who fail do so because they lack the proper technical skills. The majority of new hires who fail (89 percent) do so because they lack the proper soft skills or attitude. If you want to improve your hiring process, you should give much greater priority to candidates’ attitudes and personalities in selection decisions.

Myth No. 2: It’s Possible to Find a Perfect Hire

It’s easy to believe that our recruiters and our recruiting processes are perfect, but that’s just not the case. Nothing is perfect – not even the most skilled recruiter or advanced recruiting strategy.

Research shows that our hiring processes are only about 60 percent reliable. That means that it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to make a perfect hire. Instead, you should treat new hires as works in progress. Once they come aboard, it’s your job to support them and help develop them into high-performing employees. Don’t expect them to be great from the start – but do expect them to reach greatness with help from the organization.

Myth No. 3: Unemployed Candidates Make Poor Employees

HandsResearch shows that there is a lot of prejudice against the unemployed – especially those who have been unemployed for six months or longer. Employers tend to see unemployed candidates as less than ideal, and they would often prefer to hire people who already have jobs.

There’s no basis in reality for the belief that unemployed candidates are somehow worse than their counterparts. Studies show that there is no difference in job performance between people who currently hold jobs and those who have been unemployed for long periods of time.

If you labor under the harmful delusion that unemployed workers are of inferior quality, you are not only bowing to prejudice, but you are also needlessly narrowing your talent pool and making it unnecessarily hard for your firm to find employees.

Myth No. 4: Passive Talent Is Better Than Active Talent

Given that two-thirds of the U.S. workforce is not engaged, odds are that the vast majority of candidates, whether passive or active, are not performing at their best. What really separates passive talent from active talent is not performance levels, but motivation: Active candidates are more motivated to make a change than passive candidates are. That’s it. That’s the whole story.

Viewing passive talent as intrinsically better than active talent is a dangerous generalization that could lead you to overlook the best person for the job simply because they were an active candidate. Not a very smart decision.

Myth No. 5: Employees Will Refer Their Friends to Your Company If You Offer Incentives

Many organizations have implemented employee referral programs (ERPs) in which cash bonuses are used to incentivize employees to refer their friends to the company. You may be surprised to learn, however, that money isn’t a great motivator when it comes to referrals.

Why is that? As it turns out, employees refer their friends to their companies when they like working there – not simply because they want bonuses.

Think about it: If a friend were looking for work, would you refer them to a workplace that you hate? Of course not. You wouldn’t be much of a friend.

LogsBy all means, continue using cash bonuses to incentivize participation in your ERP, but remember that the most important thing is ensuring that your business is an attractive place to work. If your employees aren’t happy at their jobs, they aren’t going to inflict that unhappiness on their friends, no matter how much money you offer them.

Unsound ideas and urban legends continue to masquerade as fact in the recruiting and hiring world, thanks in no small part to the ways in which information spreads on the Internet. That’s why it’s vital that we regularly check our hiring assumptions against the cold, hard facts. That’s the only way to ensure that we are making sound, reality-based hiring decisions – and, therefore, making the best decisions for our companies.

Read more in Recruitment Process

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.