Recruiting mistakes – Why recruiters make the wrong decisions and what helps to prevent them

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Recruiting mistakes – Why recruiters make the wrong decisions – and what helps to prevent them

Sources of error in the decision-making process

Did you know that a wrong personnel decision can cost you up to three years’ salary?
In the Pape Lab Recruiting Study 2016/ 2017, 3,000 HR managers from companies of various sizes were surveyed on current recruiting trends. 29% of those surveyed stated that wrong personnel decisions had been made in the past year. This resulted in costs of up to €100,000 per case. Most HR managers seem to be aware of this problem: in 2015, 200 HR managers were interviewed as part of a labor market study by Robert Half: 80% of them reported that an employee they had hired had failed to meet their expectations.

Wrong personnel decisions cost you more than just your money.

If, after some time of working together, it turns out that the employee and the position are not a good match, then the costs of such a bad decision are enormous, because far more costs are incurred than just the expenses for a second round of recruiting.
Training and, above all, the onboarding of an employee also cause costs: colleagues and superiors provide additional services during the onboarding process in order to familiarize the new employee and they take on additional work as the position is not yet fully filled. However, if it turns out after some time that the new employee is unsuitable for the position, his or her poorer performance causes unrest in the team because colleagues have to compensate for the employee’s poorer performance on an ongoing basis. This creates friction within the team; the team’s productivity drops, projects and decisions are delayed and there may even be dissatisfied customers. Nevertheless, the employee receives his or her salary, and possibly even a severance payment. And a lot of time passes before the next potentially suitable employee is found and trained… As you can see, a wrong personnel decision can get your company into serious trouble.
How nice it would be to find a suitable, competent and motivated employee right away. But how?


Statistics: What is your preference when it comes to receiving applications? | Statista
You can find more statistics at Statista


Why you won’t find good employees with a CV check and job interview.

How does your company actually look for new employees?

Perhaps the way most people have been doing it up to now? You post the vacant position online and collect the applications received by the deadline. The applications are then compared, interviews are held and a decision is made as to which of the applicants will take up the position in your company.
  • But what exactly is the basis for the decision to commit to an employee in the long term?
  • What criteria do you use to compare the application letters?
  • How can you tell whether the person behind the cover letter is a good fit for your company and actually meets the requirements?
  • Can you use a job interview to reliably find out whether an applicant is competent and will do a good job?
  • Are you sure that you have always made a good choice; that you have found the best person for the job?
  • Or has it ever happened to you that a newly hired employee has fallen short of your expectations?
It is then worth taking a look at where possible sources of error may lie in the decision-making process.

Why you should not rely on the CV check!

In front of you is a huge pile of application folders. Your task is to find out which of the applicants meets the requirements of the advertised position – and will do a good job for your company in the future. Use the ABC method to separate the wheat from the chaff. They weeded out faulty applications, found promising CVs interesting and tried to read between the lines.
Pile A now contains the most attractive CVs (curriculum vitae). And this is where the course can be set for a bad decision: Unfortunately, having a good CV does not mean that your professional achievements will be just as positive. At best, you can say that one of the applicant’s skills is the application itself. However, this is often not even the case: CVs can nowadays be prepared by professionals. Sometimes recruitment agencies or the employment office help to optimize the CV – or the applicant uses one of the many templates provided by job portals. And then there are the applicants who have always received rejections and have thus optimized and embellished their CV over time.
And what about all those talented people who are highly qualified, have a good job in another company and are only applying on the side? They often spend little time on creating a CV, so it may be discarded. Yet these applicants in particular had all the prerequisites. As you can see, the “viewing application folders” method has its weaknesses: It is not clear from the key points listed whether someone can fulfill the exact requirements of a job. One can only guess.

Statistics: The most common lies that can be found in CVs | Statista
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The job interview and its possible sources of error.

The time has come: the applicants who have created the most promising CVs will now be invited to an interview. The recruiter wants to get an idea of the applicant’s soft skills and competencies in a personal interview. However, every conversation is very different, which ultimately makes comparison difficult.
Although the recruiter has a list of questions in front of him that he would like everyone to answer, it is not possible to ask the questions in exactly the same way in a lively conversation. And so the recruiter – without wanting to – influences the interviewee’s response behavior. Because if a question is asked differently in each case, for example in a different context or with varying emphasis, the response behavior of the interviewees naturally also changes. So how do we compare?
And how do you deal with the fact that one applicant answers briefly and concisely, while the next is more comprehensive? Which is better – short or long? And which part of the answer does the recruiter assign to which competencies or soft skills? One or more? And in what weighting? According to which system?

The influence of the interviewee

A conversation is a human interaction that takes place on many levels and influences each other. It is well known that it is the often relatively unconscious levels of conversation such as posture, facial expressions, voice, intonation and gestures that have a decisive influence on the course of communication. And this is how the interviewee adapts to the interviewer: he observes what goes down well with the interviewer and reinforces this behavior in order to please.
Of course there are also “job interview” professionals. These are the applicants who have often been rejected and who gradually optimize their appearance through their experience in job interviews. They make a better impression than most at their first interview. But just because someone is more experienced in interviewing does not mean that they are automatically better suited to the advertised position.
Personal temperament also plays a role; extroverted, sociable applicants have an advantage over introverted or fact-oriented candidates because they can present themselves better. But perhaps the latter – the more reserved interviewees – have exactly the skills needed for the job.
As you can see, there are many extremely human sources of error in the job interview that stand in the way of a requirements-based and objective comparison.
So far, we have only dealt with the pitfalls of conducting a conversation; topics such as decision-making and the sympathy factor will be discussed next.

The decision-making process

Back to our fictitious recruiting process. They evaluated application letters and CVs, invited the most promising candidates and spoke to them. You have gotten an impression. What can you compare now? What are your valuation principles?
In most cases, we evaluate the obvious. For the documents sent to us, such as letters of application and CVs, we assess whether the cover letters meet the formal standards, whether the documents are complete and whether the German spelling requirements have been met. We look to see whether individual points in the CV sound interesting to us. And at the interview, we pay attention to appearance and demeanor, the way you express yourself and the way you respond to our questions.


Infographic: The path to a new job | Statista You can find more infographics at Statista


Recruiting error subjectivity

Sympathy factor

One thing is particularly important when assessing and ranking candidates: whether we like our counterpart and whether we like the person more or less than the other applicants. Sympathy is a fundamental factor in the often used “gut feeling”. Although you can make a gut feeling prediction as to whether you will get on well with each other in the future, this obscures your view of the applicant’s success-relevant skills. Popular figures and top performers are not necessarily the same. What a pity, really.

Psychological effects

There are numerous other well-researched psychological effects that prevent us from making objective decisions. As the topics of psychological effects and decision-making are very extensive, we have dedicated a separate article to them.

The gut feeling

As you can see, we should not necessarily rely on our impressions – as far as the competence of potential employees is concerned. The job interview is not a good opportunity to determine skills because there are too many psychological obstacles to an objective assessment of qualifications. Science has proven this repeatedly and very clearly: Our gut feeling can lead us to make decisions that are objectively suboptimal – and also stand in the way of equal opportunities – even if we are convinced of the opposite.
Don’t worry – of course our gut feeling is important! It is important and right when it comes to assessing whether the candidate fits into the team and the company on a personal level. It is precisely at this moment that human intuition is required. However, it should first be clearly established that the applicant has exactly the skills needed to do the advertised job well.


How you can avoid recruiting mistakes: Objectivity

How you can measure competence objectively and according to requirements

What to do now? What alternative is there to going through piles of application letters, conducting job interviews and then sooner or later making a decision that is perhaps not quite so objective? The answer is relatively simple: let software help you to determine qualifications and skills objectively and according to requirements before the likability factor comes into play at a meeting.
What could such a process look like in practice? –
  1. You feed a recruiting software with the exact requirements that the position entails.
  2. The software helps you to reach as many applicants as possible with your target group-specific reinforcement request.
  3. The recruiting tool checks online whether the applicant has the necessary qualifications.
  4. If so, it interviews the candidate online to assess and evaluate their skills – objectively, always the same and measurable.
  5. The tool provides you with a well-founded ranking.
  6. It automatically sends rejections to applicants who are unsuitable.
  7. It provides you with an individual interview guide for the interviews with selected applicants and thus supports you in their preparation.
  8. You only conduct a few well-prepared interviews – with the most competent candidates – and that’s when your gut feeling is needed. You and the colleagues who will potentially work with the applicant do a sympathy check.
This procedure finds the most competent applicants, secures their decisions and saves an enormous amount of working time.
This is by no means a vision of the future. Recruiting tools with these capabilities are already in use.

First date instead of job interview

If the potential of a candidate has already been determined, then a job interview is of course completely different than before. You can get to know each other in a relaxed way, like on a first date, and check whether you could be a good match.
It is recommended that one of the interviewers at such a meeting is someone who will be working with the new employee (e.g. the hiring manager) so that a sympathy check can take place. If both sides like each other, this makes onboarding and future collaboration easier. A peer meeting, i.e. a meeting with colleagues of equal standing, is also useful. In addition to the sympathy check, detailed technical questions from the applicant can be clarified here so that the applicant can also gain an impression.
Lean recruiting process

We summarize:

  • Many companies – especially large corporations – are concerned with equal opportunities.
  • Unconcious bias is also slowly becoming a term in Germany.
  • Psychological effects are already so well known that job seekers are given tips on how to use them manipulatively for their own benefit.
  • The media constantly report that women and people with foreign names are often disadvantaged; studies confirm this.
  • Many HR managers report costly mistakes.
  • It is obvious that sympathy checks carried out in job interviews do not say much about an applicant’s professional skills.

If it’s so easy, why are there still application letters and job interviews?

And yet letters of application are requested every day and job interviews take place every day. Why? When there are so many arguments against it – and even scientific evidence?
For one thing, the old application process seems cheaper in the short term: a recruiting tool incurs acquisition costs; application letters do not. The time spent reviewing hundreds of application folders and countless interviews and the costs of a wrong decision are not included.
Recruiters are also usually available. And after all, it has always been done this way.
And of course, many recruiters don’t want to let go of their powerful position at the interview. Many of them also fear for their jobs: What should I do if a program takes over my job? – We have written here about the fact that this concern is unnecessary – and how the recruiting profession will change in the future: Recruiting is going digital – Impact on the future of recruiters.
Another reason is, of course, that many companies are not yet aware of the possibilities that already exist or have difficulties finding the right tool.

Which tool is the right one?

Perhaps you have already researched recruiting tools on the Internet and realized that there are an endless number of them. In addition, you may not know the criteria according to which such software should be selected. We have looked into this. As this is a broad field, we have devoted several detailed articles to this topic:
Personnel diagnostics tools are based on three measurement methods. Only one of these – requirements-oriented aptitude diagnostics – is useful, as it actually identifies the aptitude for a specific job. In the following article, we explain how the various measurement methods work: Personnel diagnostics: How to find the right tool.
In the article Recruiting tools: How to find the right tool, we give you 8 questions you should ask when choosing the recruiting tool for your applicant management process and present various tools. We have gained an overview and compared the various recruiting tools in practice. Many tools only cover parts of the range of tasks. The recruiting tool that met all requirements is Lean Recruiting. It contains all of the functions mentioned above. We have described it in more detail here: Lean Recruiting: Finding the perfect employee in just 3 weeks!

Infographic: Job applications in Germany | Statista You can find more infographics at Statista

Recruiting mistakes and decision making – these are interesting topics you might want to learn more about.

We have compiled a list of relevant articles for you here.
  1. The First impressions study by US researchers Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov from Princeton University.
  2. 2012 study by the Italian research team led by Tessa Marzi from the University of Florence
  3. Alexander Todorov, Mapping the Social Space of the Face
  4. An interesting article on the subject of first impressions
  5. Here is an example of how psychological effects are traded as manipulation tricks for applicants:
  6. Here is the interview in Stern with Harvard professor Iris Bonet “In ten years, job interviews will no longer exist “:—bewerbungsgespraeche-gibt-es-in-zehn-jahren-nicht-mehr–7299926.html
  7. Iris Bonet talks at google. A video of approx. 55 min in English language
  8. Here is an article from Der Spiegel that evaluates the study, “Nobody wants an Ali in their team”
  9. Videos in the recruiting area :

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Anna Isabell Arendt
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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