A hiring process does not fail suddenly and for completely mysterious reasons. Most searches fail for fairly predictable reasons, with quite a few warning signs along the way. Here are 10 common warning signs that signal your search is broken, or going off the rails. Most of these appear very early in the process, so if you pay attention, you have time to course-correct and improve your outcome.

  1. Undefined Business Outcomes. The hiring manager either never defines the desired business outcomes they are looking for, or key managers disagree on the desired business outcomes. A sure sign of trouble is an old, borrowed, or vague job description or one that is mostly a laundry list of qualifications.
  2. Ineffective Job Ads. The primary “recruiting” method involves posting a dull job description on job boards. Bad ads attract bad candidates.Look beyond job ads to assemble a strong candidate pool. If not using recruiters, be sure you at least reach out to the networks of your current employees.
  3. Slow Resume Response. Weeks of resume submissions pile up, with nobody looking at them consistently. Good people almost never stay on the job market very long. And you make a poor impression on candidates with a haphazard, sluggish, indecisive hiring process. Instead, be responsive and get back to people quickly.
  4. Too Focused on Perfection. Hiring managers often try to use the resume to make assumptions about the candidates rather than actually talking to the candidates.They screen resumes looking for “the perfect fit” or pre-judge candidates by their title alone instead of looking broadly at qualifications. But the resume never tells the whole story — sometimes a great resume hides a mediocre candidate or vice versa. Trying to save time by carefully screening resumes will only waste more time, and lowers the quality of your candidate pool.
  5. Not Enough Time for Interviews. Interview times are not pre-scheduled when planning the search timeline. So when a good candidate comes along, scheduling a first interview takes weeks. Likewise, long lags occur between first and second interviews. Schedule your hiring process like you would schedule any other project. When you cluster your interviews into one week, you can act decisively and move quickly from first interviews into second interviews.
  6. Too Focused on Salary. The salary budget is set ahead of time, with minimal consideration of the larger market for the position. Qualified, interested candidates are ruled out of consideration based on how much more they want than the budgeted salary. Ignoring market realities and hiring to fit the budget dooms a search right from the start — often leading to hiring the wrong people, chronic turnover and poor productivity. Smart hiring often requires the courage to stand up to internal politics and fight for the budget you need. It involves looking at the most qualified candidates, and paying the fair “market rate” for their skills (or having a clear and justifiable explanation for why you pay under-market).
  7. Unstructured Interview Process. Key hiring managers are not “on the same page” when evaluating candidates, agreeing ahead of time which factors will best demonstrate a candidate’s ability to deliver specific business outcomes. So busy executives with minimal structure and limited time to prepare give unstructured interviews. Research is pretty clear why this is a warning sign — the unstructured interview is only the 9th best way to predict job performance, but often the primary way that hiring managers make decisions.
  8. The Final Finalist Isn’t the One. At the end of a long, grueling interview sequence, only one finalist remains. Yet you may have serious reservations about their ability to do the job. Deciding to hire vs. not to hire is much more nerve-wracking than deciding which of two finalists to hire. Having the choice between two people tends to result in a much better decision.
  9. You Didn’t Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s. References are not checked, and/or background checks are not performed before making the job offer.
  10. Gambling on Salary Negotiations. Salary negotiations are left to chance, and not addressed early in the interview sequence. Never make an offer without knowing how it might be received.

If any of these 10 warning signs sound familiar, it’s time to judge your hiring process by a new, higher standard. Instead of settling for the results you’ve always gotten, download the Results-Based Hiring® Scorecard, and compare your performance against what hiring should look like.