Signs a Company’s Hiring Process is OvEr-EnGiNeErEd.


Many well meaning companies create logical hiring processes to screen out unqualified or ill-fitting candidates to mitigate the tremendous losses that come from hiring the wrong person for key position. It seems as though over time, the companies have added new filters and hoops for people to jump through in an effort to further reduce the likelihood of making a costly hiring mistake. Recent research shows the cost of a bad hire is roughly 15X the person’s annual salary. These costs include salary, benefits, loss of productivity, missed opportunity etc. We can all agree that making a mistake is mostly avoidable and always a very costly affair. But what happens when we summarily subject everyone to the gauntlet of exercises and interviews and re-interviews?

I have witnessed many occasions where the most talented and capable prospect in a search chose not to endure the arduous hiring processes or were filtered out due to erroneous conclusions made by a variety of voices in the company.

It is not uncommon for a person to grow weary of repeated interviews and long gaps between them. This is especially true when someone this person is not actively seeking a new position. This type of person should be evaluated and interviewed in a completely different manner than those candidates who respond to online job postings. This is fundamental and obvious to many, but too often, this is lost on HR. The problem for many companies is that they make no distinction between “recruited prospects” and “active candidates.” The differences between the two are enormous and the implications of treating them the same are often disastrous.

In many cases, if not most, the best person for the job is the one who isn’t an active candidate but rather the one who has their head down at the plow and working away. This person must be “tapped on the shoulder” and introduced to a new opportunity. There is an art to this and not everyone who call themselves a recruiter is proficient at compelling people to return their calls, let alone take an in depth look into a job with a competitor.

These true recruits in many cases will not have the patience for a long, drawn out screening process. They go through a range of emotions which have a definite sensitivity to time and process. They are essentially evaluating the company to see what their internal politics and policy are like and comparing it to their current company. Just know that if the process seems long, random, confusing, redundant, ineffective, or otherwise complicated, the recruited prospect will all too often ascribe these traits to the company in other areas which would effect them if they accepted an offer and began working there. These people all to often gracefully bow out and you never really know why.  In other cases, they will proceed with waining interest and ultimately be eliminated from the process due to a sense of indifference or lack of effort. Worse are the ones who play along only to get an offer that they can take back to their company and use it as leverage to improve their finances or career growth within their current company.

When a company has an “over-engineered” hiring process, in many cases the result is hiring someone who is willing to endure the labyrinth of the over-engineered hiring process. The company ultimately misses out on hiring the best prospects and is stuck with one who simply made it through.  I find this to be the case all too often when dealing with many mid-sized and larger corporations.  HR has necessarily become a key strategic leader in the growth of many large companies and it is assumed that because they are trained in Human Resources, that they also know all there is to know about recruiting and the process of interviewing and hiring.  To their credit, they know a great many things about hiring, however it is very rare that they can see this phenomenon when it is right in front of them. The irony is that when these companies develop these strategies, they typically use an HR consultant who was, a former corporate HR person.

The challenge for all companies today is attracting and hiring talent!  It was Steve Jobs who said, “hiring is your most important task.” Why then do executives pay so little attention to the process? The future of their company stands in the balance.I have only covered a small area that needs to be addressed in the blog post.

Where can you start to correct or simplify your hiring process to obtain a better outcome? I’m glad you asked.  You can start here.

To ensure that your process isn’t weeding out the BEST candidates, you need to ask yourself these questions.

1. Do we only have one way of processing all candidates, or do we consider the source? (active or passive)

2. Do we keep our hiring process tightly wrapped, or does it drag on due to scheduling conflicts and competing priorities?

3. Do we have too many people who need to sign off on the hire? (Hire by consensus)

4. Are we too narrow-minded on our compensation/offers?

These are just the most obvious indicators of having an over-engineered hiring process and the more of these your company has, the more you can expect to lose out on hiring the most talented people in your industry. The majority of great people will not endure a process that is overly complex or drawn out. It is remarkable that so many larger companies have developed such convoluted hiring processes. It is a mystery why they don’t see the pitfalls and change the way that they execute critical searches. This is certainly why I prefer to work with start-ups.

What about you? What are some other ways that you’ve seen your clients lose out on hiring the best people for their searches?

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2 thoughts on “Signs a Company’s Hiring Process is OvEr-EnGiNeErEd.

  1. Dru, companies lose out on hiring the best candidates when they don’t have a clear vision on what they really want that person to accomplish. They look at hiring someone from a competitor, same industry, etc but don’t have a strategic focus on outcome one year down the road, 5 yrs down the road. They key in on what they want the candidate to ‘have’ on their resume but can’t seem to answer the question ‘what successes do you want the person to have in their background’ or what are their expectations for that person to accomplish one year from now. There are times when the CEO does not even know the answer to that question. He is leaving the hiring process up to his management staff and or HR who are not in touch with the day to day business operations.

  2. Web based applications have made this complexity even WORSE!
    After years of seeing my application go down a black hole after spending hours filling out just one application with pages and pages of inapplicable, idiotic, or repetitive questions; I am now only sending paper resumes with a cover letter via the postal service directly to the actual manager or leader in my area of expertise, who would be my boss.
    At least a human *might* see it and with luck, look at it thoughtfully.

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