Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Technology Talent

Time to Read: 8.4 minutes

Updated: December 19, 2022

Hiring the wrong person isn’t just time-consuming and frustrating. It is also expensive.

A survey from CareerBuilder found that 75 percent of employers have reported hiring someone who was a bad fit. The average cost of that mistake was around $17,000.

Recruiting the wrong tech personnel can cost even more. The Society for Human Resource Management says that replacing technical talent can cost up to several hundred percent of that person’s annual salary.

Bad fits might not become evident immediately, either. A study at Harvard Business Review (registration required) points out that as much as 80 percent of employee turnover is due to bad hiring.

Here are a few common mistakes people commit during the hiring process and what you can do to avoid them.

Their Application Processes Chase Off Good Candidates

Tech talent expects high-tech application methods. It seems like a no-brainer, but having a clunky online application process is a sure way to antagonize a workforce that favors agility, responsiveness, and speed.

Robert DelPonte is vice president and general manager of the human capital management practice group at Kronos Incorporated. Writing at Entrepreneur, he says those applying for roles want a seamless application experience. This means automatic emails and on-screen confirmations that signal a successful submission. Integrating ways to apply via social media and offering simple resume uploads is vital.

Part of a tech-savvy application, too, is being compatible with mobile. It will be a serious turnoff for applicants who cannot use their smartphones to submit their applications.

Their Response Times Aren’t Quick Enough

Tech applicants also expect responsive decision-making.

James Osborne, in an open letter to recruiters, says job seekers are always connected, which means the people doing the hiring need to be connected, too. A failure to engage very likely means losing top talent to another organization.

It’s not just a case of being connected, though. Business moves quickly. Time is precious and should be respected. But Lydia Dishman at Fast Company says the hiring process now takes longer than ever. So much time passes before applicants hear anything that they either pursue other jobs or settle back into their current roles.

Take too long and you lose out on potentially great candidates.

Being quick to reply is not just about telling successful applicants that you want them. It’s about being polite enough to acknowledge that, whether successful or unsuccessful, an applicant’s time is important.

Alexandra Levit says a company that proactively updates applicants and directly (but kindly) turns down unsuccessful candidates still wins favor. It registers that the company culture is one of respect and will encourage reapplications later.

They Don’t Check Whether Candidates Fit Into The Company Culture

Raza Naqvi at Business 2 Community writes how talent should have a chance, where possible, to spend time watching how your team operates. Is it fast and inclusive? What types of people gel here? What does it take to make it in the company? These are vital questions for candidates.

How a candidate responds will go a long way in helping you decide whether you want to take the relationship further. Not understanding what a company is about can make for an uncomfortable fit and, later, an expensive parting of ways.

The flipside of determining a candidate’s fit is helping a new hire fit in. That’s why organizations must invest in a robust onboarding process. According to DelPonte at Kronos, organizations with strong onboarding processes improve staff retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent. Organizations without strong onboarding processes risk higher rates of turnover.

They Limit the Search

Finding the right cultural fit does not mean fishing in familiar pools. Josh Althuser says recruiters must look beyond traditional hiring methods such as referrals and college career fairs. Recruiting candidates through social media, for example, is growing in popularity because it is responsive and a rapid way to broaden the talent search.

It’s good practice for hiring managers to be active about finding new talent that is not necessarily similar to themselves or existing staff. Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways, says not only could looking for similar people lead you to unwitting discriminatory hiring practices, but it’s just not good for business. People who work and think differently can often challenge one another’s perspectives and methods, driving them to new ways of seeing the world.

Changing how you think about your workforce is another way to broaden the search. Do you really need new hires to be in the physical office space? Or can you find a fit elsewhere in the country to work remotely? After all, remote employees might just be more productive, according to Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom.

They Fall Back on Cliches in the Job Listing

The sheer number of job search sites means that job descriptions really need to stand out from the rest. Part of writing a good job description, which we previously discussed here, depends on having a proper understanding of what the role entails.

Recruiters and hiring managers need to communicate with one another to highlight the salient features of the role.

Not only will writing a clear, engaging, lively, and honest job description entice better applicants to apply but doing so will also strengthen the hiring process. Indeed, as Tomasz Winter at Devskiller says, a good job description removes some of the manual work that comes later in the application process.

A comprehensive and accurate job description helps candidates manage their expectations and “self-select” for the position.

It’s fine to be conversational in your listing. Be fun if that fits your company culture. But don’t go overboard. Pedro Carmo Oliveira says words such as “superstar” or “Jedi” in job descriptions don’t help applicants understand the role. Instead, such words obscure what the job actually entails.

They Don’t Make Interviews Challenging Enough

Naqvi says that even if hiring managers are pursuing an informal approach, it is shortsighted not to hold structured and challenging interviews. He gives the example of a hiring manager meeting an interactive programmer at a tech conference. The manager may think he or she needs to act quickly or that, given the first interaction, a casual video call will suffice.

There’s nothing wrong with video interviews, but they need to be as structured and thorough as if the candidate were sitting in front of you. Challenging and in-depth interviews are effective in the screening process.

They Don’t Test Talent

Tied to structured interviews is the need to test candidates’ abilities. Perhaps they fit into the culture and have impressive resumes, but can they do the job? Winter at Devskiller cautions that if testing does not happen in the early phases, problems will likely arise. Again, more wasting time and resources. He suggests skill screening to test coding skills, for instance and checking their capabilities with regards to other technical knowledge.

Testing is essential because hiring tech staff isn’t about having a good feeling about them. Sure, that counts, but these days there is so much data available to assess candidates. It must be used correctly, DelPonte writes. Implementing rigorous data analysis can help eliminate candidates from getting through the first round or two without having the necessary skills.

They Don’t Look Beyond the Resume

A strong resume will remain fundamentally important to the hiring process. It acts as a standardized way of initially screening candidates. However, it is not always enough to determine whether the applicant is the right fit for the company.

There are plenty of highly skilled candidates with experience who may not have worked at well-known companies or attended celebrated colleges. They are often just as good or even better, but might never have had the chance to prove it.

Regina Hartley, vice president of human resources at UPS, addresses this topic. She divides candidates into two categories: the silver spoon who has had a life engineered toward success, and the scrapper who has lived a life full of challenges (and lacks a perfect resume).

Finding the right way to dig deeper than the impressive resume will perhaps deliver a scrapper to an organization that is willing to innovate and adapt to the challenges.

Hartley, who was a scrapper herself, says companies who hire candidates like her are more diverse, which also often leads to increased productivity. She’s not being egocentric, either. According to DiversityInc, the 50 most diverse companies outperform the S&P 500 by 25 percent.

They Don’t Loop Domain Expertise into the Hiring Process

One of the challenges when hiring highly technical applicants is the incongruency of knowledge between the hiring manager and the candidate. This makes it difficult to speak to or challenge candidates at the appropriate level. This could very likely dissuade applicants from joining the company. If they believe the hiring manager doesn’t understand their value, they might conclude that no one does.

Meghan M. Biro says companies should not be afraid to call in experts for tech hires. Tech talent tends to have very particular, specific, and measurable skill sets. It’s important that someone in the hiring decision knows what to ask about and test for.

Further, tech talent needs to be wooed. They need to be shown from the beginning that the company values their skills and their place in the organization. This requires openness in the hiring process. As Gianna Scorsone, vice president of sales operations and marketing at Mondo, says, the market is currently candidate-driven, not business-driven. Companies should not believe they have the power just because they make the offer. Talent is in the driving seat.

Make the Right Choice

Hiring tech talent is part science, part art. There are techniques and tools that can help make sure the new hire meets the technical demands of the job. The artistry comes in sensing the talent’s fit in the company culture.

Unfortunately, trial and error are inadequate and costly when it comes to hiring. Finding the right strategy for your company is essential for placing the best people. Avoiding these common mistakes is a solid foundation upon which to build.

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Shanil Kaderali

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and led recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for several Baker's Dozen RPO winners.

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