LinkedIn’s Heads of Recruiting and HR Share 3 of Their Biggest Recruiting Mistakes

July 27, 2017

From making a typo in your job description to asking a candidate a question that seems harmless but can get you in trouble, recruiting mistakes happen. And, they happen to even the most senior TA and HR professionals, including LinkedIn’s Pat Wadors and Brendan Browne.

In this week’s episode of Talent on Tap, Pat and Brendan talk about some of their most cringeworthy (and occasionally costly) hiring missteps. But rather than beating themselves up over them, they own their blunders as learning opportunities, and share advice to help recruiters avoid making the same mistakes. After all, learning from your mistakes can be incredibly rewarding.

Watch the episode and read on to find our their mistakes and what they learned from each:

Mistake 1: Pulling the wool over the candidate’s eyes

He might be VP of Global Talent Acquisition at LinkedIn now, but Brendan Browne’s career in recruiting stretches back 20 years—and he’s not afraid to admit that there were some bumps along the way.

One story in particular stands out in his mind. At one point, he was under an enormous amount of pressure to find someone to fill an important senior position. And, he found someone. Unfortunately, he had a hunch that they wouldn’t really be happy in the role…But he took the opportunity to hire them anyway.

Brendan’s realized his hunch that it wouldn't be a fit came to a head sometime later when he ran into the candidate’s sibling, who told Brendan that the candidate wasn’t happy after all. “He told me I had pulled the wool over [the candidate’s] eyes,” says Brendan. “I was really embarrassed.”

But because of this, Brendan had an aha! moment and realized he needed to find a way to make sure that never happened again. Since then, no matter how enthusiastic a candidate seems about the role, he takes the time to ensure they’re thoroughly informed. “I want [them] to walk in knowing exactly what to expect, so [they] don’t come back saying ‘Brendan, this isn’t what you promised.’”

To do this, he sets aside time with candidates to walk them through potential downsides of the job. He calls this “unselling the job” and this can make all the difference when talking to candidates because it builds trust, sets expectations, and forces candidates who won’t be happy to self-select out.

“Don’t focus on closing,” Brendan advises fellow recruiters to avoid history repeating itself. “Don’t focus on numbers. It really doesn’t matter, and it’s going to backfire for you.”

Mistake 2: Leaving candidates hanging

“I’ve lost critical, great talent by not keeping them in the loop and engaged in the process,” Pat laments.

In particular, she notes multiple instances where one of the first candidates she saw was ideal, but she lost out on them because she felt obligated to “go fishing” for more.

“I went on and fulfilled the process for the next two to three weeks, and when I circled back with the candidate I really wanted, they were gone. I had done that once and thought it was an anomaly. I did that two or three times and thought, I am screwing this up.”

Looking back at what went wrong, Pat feels she was too process-oriented. “I was ruled by my spreadsheet, not by the relationship.”

As a recruiter, you’re a vital part of a candidate’s decision making process. Rather than leaving them hanging for weeks on end and allowing their interest to stale, Pat encourages recruiters to check in with the candidate regularly to let them know what’s happening and keep them engaged.

“If you were my number one, I made a checklist—I was going to call you every two days,” she says. “Or if I say I’m calling you in three, I’m calling you in three.” Keep your promises, keep the candidate informed, and you’re on the right track.

Mistake 3: Rushing to get things done and not doing a quality check

Pat had one final horror story to share, this time about a mistake she made during her very first week at her first ever HR job.

She was tasked with emailing the CEO of the company to say a comp committee had approved the executives’ bonuses and pay—all the details of which were included. In her haste, she accidentally sent the email not to the CEO’s email address, but to “CEO Staff”... which included every member of the executive team.

Mortified, she frantically tried calling the CEO, but he didn’t pick up the phone. Running into him later, she was certain she’d be in the doghouse. But the CEO shrugged it off, telling her they’d all have found out eventually—and thanking her for telling him as soon as she knew what had happened.

“I was so anxious to… send it out, I didn’t do my quality check,” Pat recalls. But this oversight had a silver lining. Pat realized that being open and honest about your mistakes is vital both for building trust, and a chance to do better moving forward.

It’s all too easy to spell a candidate’s name wrong or make some similar factual slip up when you’re busy. Acknowledging it immediately and apologizing shows a level of respect and maturity that can go a long way.

“I never want to be asked the question ‘How long have you known this?’ if I’m bringing up an issue,” Brendan adds, “unless I can answer and say, it just happened, I’m letting you know right now, and here’s what I’m going to do about it.”

Embrace opportunities to learn

Mistakes make great teachers. And while they might leave you with a red face once in awhile, ignoring them won’t do you any good.

“Know that you’re going to make a mistake everyday, and that you have the skill set and ability to fix it,” Pat says. That proactive approach can make even the most bloodcurdling recruiting nightmares seem more manageable, and improve the overall experience for both you and your candidate.

Talent on Tap is a weekly series where Pat Wadors and Brendan Browne break down some of the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned each week for the latest.

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