As notable playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” This rings especially true for recruiters and hiring professionals, who can learn a wealth of knowledge from one tiny mistake. In some cases, these mistakes could lead to poor hires, a loss of time and money or even public defamation.
I spoke with a few technical recruiters who were brave enough to share their biggest technical recruiting mistakes with me.
Tom Harvey, a Talent Sourcer at Stack Exchange, says, “I used to work for a large recruitment consultancy, with offices in the US and Europe. They weren't known in the UK tech scene at all, so I was constantly up against better-known companies. My company's solution to this was to spam as many developers as possible in the hopes that one of them would come back to us. In my early days of tech recruiting I got on the wrong side of one particular developer, who used my email and details as an example within the London Ruby user group of what 'terrible recruiters' there were in the market. It taught me a strong lesson about the importance of not spamming, as well as treating technical talent with respect and understanding.”
A frequent challenge of recruiters is dealing with location issues, such as looking for remote workers or candidates across the world. Gabriel Kuperman, Marketing Director at Huge Impact, learned from his mistake early on. “My biggest mistake was hiring freelancers [or remote workers] without testing their skills in a live environment. If they're in a different city, the solution is to use screen share software and watch them in action on a test project before hiring them. If you want to be sure you’re hiring a tech professional – from my own experiences, you must do a live test on the skill set requirement.”
Sanitha Jubin, HR Manager at Bridge Global IT Staffing, made a similar mistake to Gabriel’s, revealing “ One mistake I made was hiring candidates without seeing them directly. Interviews done through Skype or telephone will not help us to evaluate a candidate’s interpersonal skills, attitude, etc. You need one-on-one conversations to demonstrate them.” Jubin also made the mistake of “hiring candidates based on presentation skills for technical jobs, instead of asking detailed technical questions. Conversely, I also rejected technical candidates based on their soft skills who may have been an excellent fit.”
Shaharris Beh of HackerNest lists one of his biggest hiring mistakes as, “Discounting a coder who's a perfect fit in every regard except necessary code-language experience. A good coder is a good coder regardless of language -- and the best can pick up the skills they need in 2-3 months. If you're looking for long term, invest in the person, not the skill set, because that's easily picked up.”
Another mistake that I heard frequently was not hiring for culture fit. Ian Eyberg, Founder of DeferPanic, says, “We were desperate for help and we hired a few people that were horrible fits, mind you - they were technically competent - but just the worst qualities we didn't want in our organization at that time. These were the type of people that were all too eager to take advantage of our politic-less, introverted grand chaos that was doing well and inject their own little Washington cyanide into the mix.”
If any of these sound a little too familiar, it might be time to change your recruiting practices. Hiring and recruiting mistakes can be extremely costly, so prevention is crucial.