The Top 10 Hiring Mistakes of 2012 — The Biggest Blunders in Digital Advertising, Marketing and Sales Hiring

As an executive recruiter in the digital media, marketing and advertising space, I know from personal experience that there are lots of jobs out there that need to be filled in this particular vertical. In fact, according to the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), the ad supported Internet industry accounts for 5.1MM jobs in the United States, vs. just over 1MM five years ago. The problem is that, in digital media and marketing, while there’s tremendous growth that comes with innovation, there’s just not enough qualified talent. The disparity in demand vs. fill-rate is resulting in some serious blunders in hiring that are hopefully a blip in the process and not a reflection of long-term trends.

The national unemployment rate in November 2012 was 7.7%, compared to 8.7% in November 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In terms of actual head count, we, as a nation, went from 13.3MM unemployed to 12MM. Although the numbers suggest real progress, the job vacancy rate has not improved in direct correlation, and the scuttlebutt is that a percentage of this perceived growth is actually a reflection of an employment pool that has just plain given up. Reflecting on some of the hiring practices that I’ve seen in 2012, this does not surprise me.

2012 was the year of the assembly line hire. Recruiters and hiring managers moved through the interview process, losing sight of the individual on the other side of the desk. Instead of selling a candidate on a company’s virtues, the trend was to assume that the candidate should have intrinsically known that the company in question was the best place to work.

This hiring hubris caused many managers to lose out on talent and even jeopardized company reputations as candidates expressed their grievances verbally and virally in a world dominated by social media. In 2013, I’d like to see the recruiting industry get back on track and put some class back into a process that has been in decline. With that in mind, I’ve put together the following synopsis of the top 10 hiring mistakes of 2012. Because, afterall, the first step to positive change is awareness.

The Top 10 Hiring Mistakes of 2012

1) Making an Offer and Neglecting to Tell Runners Up

I wish I could take a poll among job seekers to see the sheer number who made it through multiple rounds of interviews only to have a dark shroud of silence descend upon them in the end. In 2013, for the New Year, I hope for contagious empathy in the hiring world. To all the hiring managers out there, after you’ve made your final decision, have a heart and let the runners up know that they did not get the position. If you could provide some constructive feedback as to why, all the better. It’s understandable that a recruiter or hiring manager can’t necessarily reply to every single resume that comes in the door. But, once a candidate goes thru the process of interviewing, feedback should be the norm, not the exception, which it seems to have become.

2) Extending Job Offers Too Soon

We’ve seen employers extend job offers after only one interview. This is nearly akin to asking someone to marry you after one date! You, as the hiring manager, may have been looking to hire for a long time and clearly know what you want. But, the candidate coming in to interview for the first time doesn’t have nearly enough information to decide so quickly. You both need to spend some time getting to know one-another before heading off to a Vegas chapel.

3) Jumping the Gun On References

Some companies are asking for references at the first meeting, when they should really be requesting them at the end of the interview process. A reference check is meant to provide the employer with external affirmation of a candidate’s abilities AFTER the candidate has successfully advanced through the interview process, not before.

4) Checking References For More Than One Candidate at a Time

Yes, it’s a competitive market. Yes, in digital marketing and advertising, candidates are receiving multiple offers and counter offers that make it challenging to successfully make a hire. But, this doesn’t mean that hiring managers should ask multiple candidates for references at one time. When candidates get to the reference stage, it’s reasonable for them to assume that, if the references check out, an offer will be put on the table. By asking for references from multiple candidates, hiring managers are, in effect, being dishonest to the candidate. AND, for many candidates, giving out references is a sensitive matter. They don’t want their references to be contacted multiple times, especially if it’s not the real deal. In fact, many candidates don’t want the word getting out that they are active in the job market unless an offer is imminent.

5) Neglecting to Sell the Opportunity

When interviewing, it’s a two-way sales effort. The candidate has to sell the interviewer on his or her skills and accomplishments as they relate to the job at hand. But, the hiring manager or internal HR department also has to make it clear as to why the candidate should choose their company over another. In 2013, egos have to be put in check and even the “hottest” of companies need to recognize that, to attract top talent, you’ve got to highlight the reasons why someone should choose you over someone else.

6) Writing a Job Description That is “Meh”

Too often, a job description is a string of bullets blandly listing what a particular opportunity entails from a responsibilities point of view. A job description should sell your company and make readers chomp at the bit to get an interview. It should be written in a voice that captures the culture and ambiance within the confines of your cubicles. It should highlight benefits and amenities as well as an overall company philosophy.

7) Cancelling Interviews and Just Not Showing Up

We all know that while you are staffing up, you’ve still got a job to do. The reality is, very often, the same holds true for the person you are interviewing. He is taking time out of his current job to meet with you. In 2012, I’ve had hiring managers cancel last minute on candidates for first round phone interviews. It’s been somewhat of an epidemic. Many candidates share an open space with their peers, so they make special arrangements for privacy to engage in these phone interviews. By not bothering to make the call, you’ve wasted the candidate’s time and given your company a bad rep.

The most egregious mistake I’ve seen this year has been incompetence on the worst level — the forgotten in-person interview. We all have calendars with alarms on them. There’s no reason to completely forget about an interview. Hiring managers need to slow down and be respectful of the interviewer’s time.

9) Making Candidates Wait for 20+ Minutes

Employed candidates are somewhat anxious about being out of their office for an interview. Too many hiring managers and human resources personnel leave these candidates waiting more than 20 minutes in a holding pen, which only elevates anxiety levels, especially if the candidate has only an hour to spare.

10) Dragging your Feet in Scheduling Interviews and Extending Job Offers

If you snooze, you lose. With such an active market, candidates in digital marketing and media often have multiple opportunities on the table. If you want to move someone to a second or third round, don’t wait longer than three business days to get back to the candidate with positive feedback. If you are interested in extending an offer and have intimated as such, then waiting more than a week to put together the terms of the package is too long. And incidentally, Fridays are a fantastic day for extending an offer. It’s a great way to end the week and it allows the candidate to review the proposed package an extra few days without any distractions associated with their current job.

1 Comment

  • Galfromdownunder
    February 11, 2013

    Is the distancing behaviour described in these 10 points have something to do with the apparently increasing litigiousness in the whole hiring and firing process? I’ve heard of past employersrefusing to give references other than stating that a person worked at a place for x amount of time; there are even go-between organizations that handle this interaction.
    Interview feedback would be most useful to a candidate, but unless it’s a specific lacking in a certain skill or experience area, one has to assume it was a “chemistry” thing which is a little gnarly to communicate. candidate (it could be a bad hairdo or nervous tic – something that even friends are loathe to point out. I do love the coaching company that said, “Your friends will never tell you what you’re doing wrong, but we’re not your friends, so we will.”). Simply acknowledging receipt of an application is #1 – I championed using an eloquent auto-responder here:
    A real opportunity for a savvy UX company is to design a really appealing job application platform that embodies a lot of what you mention above. Now there’s a digital opportunity.

Post a Comment