Throw candidates at the hiring process

Throw candidates at the hiring process

Recruitment is an easy part of the business to stifle and restrict using basic cost measures alone, but the side effect of trying to cheapen recruitment could be costing you way more in the long run.

For managers concerned with little more than costs it can be tempting to simply throw as many candidates at the hiring process as possible. Throw them at it, see who sticks and hire the best from that batch. It looks cost effective. It’s certainly cheaper in the short term than paying recruiters to find the best people. Just find lots of people (some qualified, some not. Some in line with the company mission, some not. Some who demonstrate positive behaviours, some who don’t) and then let the hiring team do the work of filtering out the better candidates.

This can work. But it relies on strong, caring and professional hiring managers who know what problems they have or opportunities they wish to take advantage of. It takes up hiring manager’s time. It costs money. It also requires that hiring managers know how to spot good candidates and interview with professionalism. Sadly, in my experience most managers have no idea how to hire good people.

Let’s hire them and then fire them if they don’t work out. That’s what the probation period is for.

This approach might work. But it’s not very cost effective in the long run, wastes significant time and is not a very pleasant experience for the candidates, nor the team who have to fire individuals.

When you focus merely on cost for recruitment it seems mad to have internal recruiters or to pay specialists to find good candidates. It’s much more appealing to reduce the costs in the recruitment fees (easy to measure) and ignore the hard to measure costs of hiring, recruiting, on-boarding and then potentially the costs of dealing with bad hires. Of course, many managers may justify higher recruitment costs for managers and execs – after all, they are more important, right? No. Get the wrong team working for the right exec and you’ve still got it wrong. You need the right exec. The right manager. The right team.

Of course, my view comes from the standpoint of somebody who knows that hiring good candidates builds a stronger company culture, and that if you get bad hires, it can literally tear apart a team. But if you don’t care about the culture you’re adding to and all you care about is people doing more with less then it doesn’t matter who you hire. Frankly. You could just grab someone off the street and hope for the best.

As a manager though, if you get the hiring process wrong and you hire the wrong people, you will be spending a lot of time putting that right – and that also costs money, and it means energy is not focused on your high performers.

If you’re an effective manager, the chances are you won’t hire badly in the first place. Ineffective managers will hide bad hires away, avoid tricky conversations or lean on HR to do their job for them. And they tend to hire badly too making the whole cycle ridiculous. But it’s often triggered and supported by well meaning execs who merely look at initial recruitment costs. Keep hiring costs low. Don’t measure anything past that.

Try not to be tempted with the easy to measure costs of hiring like Number of applications, hiring to application ratios and costs to hire. Look at longer running measures such as:

  • “How long do people stay at the company? Are there correlations between longevity and sourcing method?”
  • “Why do people leave the company? And how were the leavers sourced?”
  • “How were our high performers sourced?”
  • “Who doesn’t make it through probation? Why? And how were they sourced?”
  • “Who doesn’t perform well? How were they sourced? Who is managing them?”

And then work out who sourced those candidates, who hired them, who managed them, how much it cost to hire that person and for the success cases, why did it work? (is there anything we can replicate?)

And from this you’ll likely discover that the recruitment process built around throwing unqualified people at poor hiring managers has some long term negative effects. Versus a slower, steadier and more considered approach by hiring managers and recruiters who know how to find good people and hire them first time.

Of course, it might not work out that way. You may find that throwing candidates at weak hiring managers has a positive effect. If so, keep doing it.

But in my experience hiring is a strategic activity. And a recruitment and hiring strategy should rarely be executed in a slapdash manner of throwing candidates at a broken process.

It may appear cheaper to just throw people at hiring managers, and it may work. But look longer term and you may find you’re merely recruiting replacements – filling roles because people don’t stick around, because they were a bad hire in the first place (and a variety of other reasons). Why don’t they stick around? How much does replacing people cost you? How many people are being hidden away because the hiring team got it wrong?

Could you do something to stop this long term cost of bad hiring from happening?

Yes. Slow down and hire the right people first time with recruiters and hiring managers who know what they’re doing. And then work out how to make that effective hiring process more efficient.


If you’re interested I have a book outlining how I believe companies should hire and onboard technologists.