The Biggest Recruiting Mistake

The recruiting process for my first job was intense. The sales pitch began with shiny brochures and a promise that once I “graduated” from this “elite” and “intense” management training program, I could move to any aspect of the company. “It was a great start for HR, training, or frontline leadership.” From there the recruiting and interviewing continued; interviews, simulations, case studies, presentations, personality tests, cocktails with senior leaders.

I accepted the offer and graduated at the “top” of the class.

Then I was told I had no options, but I should be delighted that the finance track they had laid out for me was a prestigious one.

I left the company. Our mutual investment wasted.

Beyond the Benefits

When recruiting top talent, you must sell the benefits. It’s a competitive environment and employees want so much more than money. Convince them why you are the best.

Most recruiting efforts do that well.

Before you make the offer, get real.

Over the years, depending on the job I have said things such as,

  • “I am in intense boss with high-expectations”
  • “There are times when the pressure will feel crazy”
  • “You will start work on Black Friday at 3 am”
  • “You will spend much of your life in airports”
  • “You will likely have to move again.”
  • “…”

Get others involved

  • Let the candidate talk to seasoned employees.
  • Let her shadow and hang around
  • Encourage him to ask tough questions
  • Tell them all the downsides

I have talked one or two candidates out of the job. Thank goodness for all that saved time

Mostly, the “real deal” recruiting talk seems to have an opposite effect. The right candidates appreciate the candor and are invigorated by the challenge.

Posted in Career & Learning and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. I recruit around 30 seasonal staff every year to take care of other people’s children at summer camp. We aren’t having our doors beaten down by 18 to 24 year olds who want to work from 9am Sunday to 9pm Friday taking care of other people’s children for 10 weeks for about $2,000 for the summer….so, it’s challenging part of the gig.

    Over the years I learned a few things.

    1. I used to paint the picture with to many roses. I wasn’t being “real deal” enough.
    2. In regards to some concerns I might have had when making a decision to hire a person, I used to think…”Man, camp would be so great for them. I could really help them with this with the right training and guidance”, I thought I was Superleader. Now we simply hire for what’s best for camp and the campers.
    3. I was afraid of not having enough staff, so I’d compromise and hire “good enough” people to ensure we had the warm body. Now, I’d rather be understaffed than wrong-staffed, (that’s probably bad grammar, but I’ll beg your forgiveness).

    Today, we recruit totally different. I’m part of the process….not the process. I now focus on retention of potential returning staff over reaching new staff. For new staff, I use an interview team of my assistant director, returning staff and former staff. Which is helpful, because we hire international, so having alumni to interview in the countries we hire from is great. This year we are going to have a couple of our camper’s parents even do some interviews. The biggest lesson I learned…I can’t make the decision to hire alone. I need the insights of others. And for year round staff….my wife has major input. She’s amazing at interviewing.

  2. Wow, Eric… you have amazing insights here. Looks to me like you have your own post brewing. Yeah, understaffed is better that “wrong staffed”, in almost every context I can thinking of. It sounds like you have a robust process with a unique panel with different viewpoints. That’s fantastic. It sounds like you are really creating something special.

  3. Management spends too much time focusing on the candidate vs. asking, “What does the job want?” As I wrote this week in my own blog, I’m a proponent of job benchmarking.

    Zappos, I’m almost sure, uses some form of the benchmarking process.

    I’ve read they offer new hires $4K to leave after the first month. That’s right. They offer a bonus if they quit. Why? They’d rather cut their losses with an employee that won’t work out vs. flushing training dollars down the drain. Not to mention the bad karma the wrong employee has on the rest of the team and the customer experience.

  4. Steve, Thanks so much. It was cool to see we were on a similar wavelength with our posts today. I know several people who have visited Zappos… yup, they do that for sure. I love your thoughts on “what does this job want?” Such a useful view. I also think your job benchmarking tools sound fantastic.

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