Buying Into These Myths Can Make for Bad Hiring Decisions

Every company can point to a hire or two — or several — gone wrong, but you shouldn’t let specific experiences cause you to generalize unfairly when weighing new job applicants.


5 min read

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Your people are your biggest asset, but when it comes to your recruitment and hiring processes, you may be suffering from a case of “once bitten, twice shy.” Maybe you took a chance on an inexperienced candidate, and it ended up being a costly mistake. Or you made a key hire, and the person only stuck around for six months. These instances stand out in your mind more than they should, and you end up treating them as axioms when weighing other job applicants.

When you buy into age-old “wisdom” suggesting you should assume certain things about people you haven’t even met, you’re shortchanging both the applicants and your business. While you likely can’t eliminate your skills gap tomorrow, you can improve your hiring success by forgetting a few persistent myths.

Related: 3 Ways to Identify, and Fill, the Skills Gap at Your Workplace

While there are plenty of problems with modern hiring, from the focus on outdated résumés to the persistent presence of unconscious bias in the interview process, many of the things you think are true about hiring probably aren’t. The next time you have an open position at your company, strike these myths from the record before you post a job opening.

Myth 1: Your job ad should focus on describing the position in detail.

A job description can make even the most exciting role sound like a real-life version of “Office Space.” “Must be able to fix unruly printer” or “Must come in and file TPS reports on occasional Saturdays” aren’t going to attract strong candidates with options. Candidates aren’t looking to apply to a position with a boring bulleted list of responsibilities. Your job ad should be just that — an advertisement.

Explain what qualities you’re looking for, but also highlight what’s in it for the prospective employee: “Expect to constantly learn and grow with the rest of our tight-knit marketing team” or “Passionate, driven candidates could earn bonuses and the flexibility to work from home two days each week” are much more enticing. Forget the self-assessments, too. Lazy candidates aren’t going to weed themselves out merely because you wrote “Must have a good work ethic.”

Myth 2: Job hopping is always a red flag.

You’re right to pay some attention to job hopping on a résumé. After all, employee turnover is expensive, and retention is critically important to your company’s success. But to be clear, while job hopping can be a red flag, you shouldn’t automatically assume it is. It could indicate a candidate who’s had to deal with incompetent management or poor working conditions, or it may be reflective of someone who has had a change of heart or is especially ambitious and unwilling to settle. It could spotlight someone working around family health problems or taking care of an elderly relative. Or it could be a combination of these things, one after the other. The point is that you won’t know until you ask, and you’re doing the candidate and yourself a disservice by making unwarranted assumptions.

According to the “2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey,” 43 percent of Millennials expect to leave their current role within the next two years. There’s a reason for this restlessness — Millennial employees are looking for a chance to learn and grow; they don’t want to stagnate. If you’re interviewing candidates who have changed jobs often because of their ambition, make it clear that you’re willing to invest in them and that you’re looking for the same kind of commitment in return. Having a robust professional development program can help, including things like reimbursements for conferences, in-office professional development days and time off for career education opportunities. In addition, a learning management system can help you track the progress of individual employees.

Related: Job-Hopping Is on the Rise — But That Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Thing

Myth 3: Vet for experience above all else.

The skills gap is affecting many industries, but STEM fields are among the most impacted. In fact, research from Code.org indicates there are more than half a million vacancies in computing jobs nationwide. Meanwhile, computer science programs graduated just under 64,000 people in 2018. To close this gap, LaunchCode, a workforce development nonprofit, argued in a recent announcement of its New Collar Coders initiative that companies should hire for passion and drive rather than overlook valuable candidates because they lack outdated credentials such as a traditional computer science degree.

Related: Age and Experience Don’t Matter. Mindset Does.

Instead of looking for the few individuals with niche experience to fill your vacancy, look instead for teachable candidates who have the passion to learn their way into a role in your company. Author Liz Wiseman found in her research that inexperienced workers actually outperformed veterans in knowledge industries. That’s because when people think they know their way around a problem, they’re less likely to think outside the box and discover innovative solutions. Instead of asking the same old questions about strengths and weaknesses, spice up your interview process with more abstract questions to help you pinpoint innovative thinkers. For example, ask a candidate to discuss a time when he or she persuaded a manager to accept an idea.

The above hiring myths didn’t appear out of nowhere — they’re just remnants of a different time when they might have been good advice. Now, they’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs, and if you buy into these myths, your company might do the same.

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