5 mistakes recruiters make (and how to avoid them)

5 Mistakes Recruiters Make (And How to Avoid Them)

Recruitment is a fast-paced environment. Targets, deadlines and pressure can all lead to sloppy practice, even for the most experienced recruiter, and inevitably the same mistakes rear their ugly heads.

Here are five common mistakes made by recruiters and how to avoid making them yourself.


Mistake 1: Using bad job descriptions

We’ve all seen them. Vague, dry, generic. Bleurgh, it’s enough to scare off potential candidates.

How to avoid: Don’t rely 100% on the job description provided by the client. They are knowledgeable about their industry, not recruitment – that’s your job! Recruitment is as much about sales and marketing as it is about relationship building and getting people in jobs. Don’t be afraid to make the spec and advert more inclusive. Clearly define the specific qualities the recruiter is looking for in a candidate and try to avoid using generic statements. Your candidates are going to see hundreds of job adverts and yours has to stand out. Say something about the company culture, what the candidate will be working towards and the impact their work will have. You want to attract the right candidates and filter out the ones that are unsuitable, so make sure you get your job spec and advert right!

Mistake 2: Failing to learn from past successes and mistakes

‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ as the saying goes, and it’s no less relevant in recruitment.

How to avoid: Dedicate time to reflect on your work and your placements, even if it’s just once a quarter (this might be something you could do as a staff team exercise). David Kolb is an influential educational theorist who developed a model based on experiential learning.

Put simply, his model shows that you should have a concrete experience (the tasks you complete as part of your job), observation of and reflection on that experience (what worked well, it would be even better if…), formation of abstract concepts based on reflection (what will you do to improve your experience next time?), and finally testing the new concepts (putting them into practice and improving your work). Then start the process again.

The Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle, as it is known, is a model of continuous evaluation and development of how you work and can be used to improve your own performance.

Questions you might want to explore as part of the observation and reflection stage are: Who are your clients, where are they going, where are the gaps, who do you not know, what can you do to strengthen relationships with current clients? What jobs didn’t you fill, what could you do differently next time?

Making space to learn is the only way you and your organisation will grow, and can often mean you notice trends and adapt quicker than your competition!

Mistake 3: Taking the easier option and avoiding the phone

Shall I fire over an email and pick up any responses tomorrow morning or shall I stay behind and ring people up until I’ve got three good candidates?’ How often have you thought this yourself? Sometimes the easiest option is the most tempting, but it’s bad practice and could be losing you conversions.

How to avoid: Recruitment isn’t always a 9-5 job, and contacting candidates currently in employment can mean waiting until they are out of work to get in touch with them, or for them to get contact you. You will get a much quicker response – even if it’s negative – by picking up the phone and making that call. There are a number of reasons why some people may be hesitant to make the call: fear of failure, procrastination, being the only one on the phone at the time, or false logic (making excuses for not making the call). Don’t be afraid of failure or rejection, it’s a valuable learning experience. Only be worried if you aren’t learning anything from it and improving your performance. My personal tip for this is to set yourself a target of making five calls before you make that first cup of coffee. Coffee should be earned, not expected!

Mistake 4: Ignoring social media

Homo sapiens are social creatures – it’s in our genetics – so it’s only natural to form close bonds and seek out communities online as an extension this. If you ignore social media, you’re ignoring a lot of potential clients.

How to avoid: Lots of job seekers start their search on Twitter and LinkedIn and will connect with recruiters in their industry and in their locality. Make sure your profiles are set up and engage with people who get in touch with you and also make an effort so that your profile makes you look approachable – you don’t need the talk about what to include or exclude on your professional social platforms, but just make sure your posts are relevant to the industry you’re recruiting in. Also, don’t be afraid to create/curate new communities relevant to your niche – LinkedIn and Facebook groups are becoming increasingly popular ways of sharing information and crowdsourcing.

Mistake 5: Not knowing the sector you’re recruiting for

You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be able to tell the difference between the different job roles available in your sector.

How to avoid: The answer is simple: research. You need to know the position you’re recruiting for and only offer jobs to people who have the right experience or are looking for those types of roles. This is especially true in technical and digital recruitment where lots of languages and processes can look similar. Don’t send Java roles to job seekers who are experts in JavaScript, for example. They are different skills and not every Java developer will also be proficient in JavaScript. They’ll just be annoyed that you’ve told them about this fantastic opportunity that is not relevant to them. Be sure to ask the candidate what they are looking for, don’t assume you know based off of their CV.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone if you don’t understand jargon or industry-specific terminology – you’re a recruiter, not an industry expert, and this will improve your knowledge and job performance for next time. Your clients will feel far more trusting of someone that knows the basic roles of the industry they want employment in and if you have a good rapport with your candidates not only will they keep you in mind for next time but they will be more inclined to recommend you to their friends and colleagues which makes your recruitment pool even bigger.

Final thought: As a recruiter, you live and die by your reputation, make sure yours is in good standing and always use feedback and self-reflection to improve how you work. Pay attention to the details, take in as much information as you can and never stop learning.

Jamie Mercer

Jamie Mercer is a writer contributing on behalf of Pearson Frank, a niche recruitment agency specialising in Java, PHP and Web Technology permanent and freelance placements.

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