Management Articles


How to Keep Top Candidates From Falling Through the Cracks

By: Andy Cox

Andy Cox is President of Cox Consulting Group LLC. He founded his firm in 1995 after extensive experience in leadership positions in Fortune 500 corporations. His focus is on helping clients select, develop, retain and enhance the performance of leaders and emerging leaders. He can be reached at or contact him at

Top people are scarce - just ask any organization how tough it is to attract the best, let alone select the best. At the same time, I'm willing to bet that more top people - the right people for the right jobs - slip through the cracks in the selection process than anyone could imagine or admit. After thousands of dollars in recruiting, interviewing, travel and all the other assorted expenses in time, effort and money associated with attracting top candidates, organization after organization drops the ball on top candidates. And they don't even know it!

Here are ten of the top, invisible ways those cracks occur:

Failure to understand that recruiting is as much a selling process as it is an evaluating process. To get top people requires as much selling as it does evaluating. And top people are doing just as much evaluating as they do selling. It's a two way street - but it's amazing how many people don't realize that, and take a "I've got something you want" approach. Top people slip right through the cracks when they see that behavior.

Organization's don't know a top candidate when they see one. That sounds funny, but it's not. It means time hasn't been taken at the front end of the process to identify and define what a top candidate will look like in terms of the really important things.

Superficial knockout factors: A manager I know will not hire a person who smokes cigars - period. I don't mean someone who insists on smoking cigars at work. I mean recreational cigar smoking - away from work. Apparently this manager had a bad thing happen with a cigar smoker early in his career. Everyone of us has biases about the strangest things - they can and do get in the way of hiring top people. The beard, the frayed collar, the wrong college, speech patterns - you name it - they are knockout factors in many organizations.

Poorly kept restrooms and break rooms and lunch/dining /meeting rooms. Nothing says a poor environment like a badly served public use area. Nothing can chase top people away more than the appearance of a poorly kept facility.

Lack of preparation. Nothing speaks to this more than unprepared interviewers, repetitive use of the same questions/scenarios from multiple interviewers - the "tell me about yourself" question. Holes in the interview schedule. Lack of interviewing skills and preparation. Bad choices of interviewers.

Secrecy. The " don't tell them anything that may tip them off to what we are looking for." If you treat a candidate as a mushroom, it speaks to how they will be treated as employees.

Poor follow up and lack of feedback. "What you do shouts so loudly I can't hear what you're saying." When that top candidate leaves the facility, how long before contact is made? It's amazing how often weeks can go by before a follow up call is made to the candidate. The excuse is often that the candidate - if truly interested - should get back to the organization. True - but failure to keep that communication door open on the part of the company lets top people fall through the cracks - without a sound.

Relying on staff people to maintain contact. If you're a candidate for a HR job, then a HR hiring manager should be the key communication link. But HR people should not be the key communication link for other functional areas. They can coordinate and pester and cajole hiring managers, but the Hiring Manager has to be the link.

Lack of respect for the candidate's time. I had the misfortune to work with a manager who, as a matter of practice, kept candidates waiting for hours beyond the time set up for an interview. The worst case was a General Manager candidate who waited four hours before finally bowing out. We never saw him again - even though we tried to reschedule him. What a waste - of everything.

Overly long process. There are so many pressing, proximate things that can keep pushing selection to the back of the line. Before anyone realizes it, months have gone by and no decision has been made. I suspect in many cases a fear of making a mistake in selection has a hand in this. In any case, top people don't have to wait around. They slip through the cracks - and then show up working for a competitor.

Take the time to audit your own process. If you see any of these ten invisible ways, take action to correct them. Top people are tough enough to get in the first place, without adding self inflicted conditions as a barrier.

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© Copyright 2008, Andy Cox

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The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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