CAse Study: Five Mistakes Employers Frequently Make During the Hiring Process

CAse Study: Five Mistakes Employers Frequently Make During the Hiring Process

Hiring new employees can be challenging but there are five common missteps employers routinely make that cause unnecessary confusion and frustration for everyone involved. In fact, these pitfalls actually increase the time it takes to recruit.


Not providing or even identifying a compensation range: The days of going out to market, asking what a candidate is making, and offering them $5000 more are long gone. Not only are candidates educating themselves on the market range for positions, but Salary History Ban laws enacted since 2017 have made the above practice illegal depending upon the city, county, state, and type of employee. Plus, an employer that posts a position without doing any compensation research may realize; after talking with a few candidates, they do not have the budget to be competitive.

Recognizing a position’s value within your company and local job market and then working with key internal stakeholders to identify a clear range that includes base, target bonus, and additional benefits is crucial. Research the position at other companies to understand the job duties, skills required, and the salary it commands. Get buy-in from internal decision makers as to the level of this position within your organization and the budget necessary to attract the caliber of candidate desired. This is where CA Search Advisors can help as our experience filling similar roles means we have real-time access to position information and compensation data, as well as insight from candidates.

Compensation is not always the main driver behind a candidate’s decision to explore other opportunities. If your compensation target is on the lower end of the market range, highlighting additional incentives such as reduced travel, clear opportunities to advance, tuition reimbursement, a shorter commute, a strong 401(k) plan, free parking, or a hybrid work environment may motivate a candidate looking for a different culture, to grow, for flexibility, or to cut commuting expenses. We work with our clients to establish a compensation range, draft detailed job descriptions, and craft a story around the company and position to include these inducements that augment compensation.


Lowballing an offer to create a negotiation: Nothing says, “We don’t value you as an employee,” from the start more than lowballing a candidate under the guise of, “We wanted to give them room to negotiate.” Again, Salary History Ban laws make it important for companies to provide a compensation range for each position, especially when a candidate asks. If a base range of $170,000-185,000 is communicated early in the interview process, a candidate may respond that they need to be at $185,000 for various reasons. That is in line with the budget, the interview process moves along successfully, the hiring manager is excited to make an offer, and the candidate is excited to receive it. The letter comes with a base of $175,000 leaving room to negotiate. Not surprisingly, the candidate comes back with $185,000, the hiring manger counters at $180,000, and the now frustrated candidate stands firm at $185,000 or decides to accept another offer during those extra days lost going back and forth.

Hiring managers use this tactic because they fear a candidate will counter even when their salary requirement is met. That is frustrating after so much time and energy spent interviewing. In order to reduce the chances of this happening, it is important to set clear expectations with candidates around the budgeted compensation range during the initial screening and reiterate that range throughout the process. This gives them ample time to disclose any concerns well before an offer is made.

Some candidates may still be interested even when the range is below or equal to their current compensation, and it is important to examine their reasons. Their company is being acquired causing concerns, or those additional incentives addressed earlier such as stronger healthcare benefits or opportunities for career growth may come into play.

As executive search professionals, we are forthright with candidates about compensation from the start, which they appreciate. Candidates will quickly tell you if it is in line with their expectations, too low, or comparable to their current salary. We identify for our clients which candidates are in range, were eliminated because they were above range, or shared the other motivators besides compensation that may keep them in the running. We also continuously remind our clients of each candidate’s compensation expectations. This transparency goes a long way to ensuring a strong offer is presented to the successful candidate with minimal need for negotiation.


Unicorn Syndrome: “I do not have time to train an employee so please find me someone currently doing this exact role in the exact same industry, who lives no more than 30 minutes from this office location, with a double major in Astrobiology and Accounting, that has a PGA Tour card, and whose MBA is from Harvard.” The specifications are so limiting that it is nearly impossible to find a candidate. The two people that meet those qualifications are being recruited heavily and know it. These unicorn candidates pose a few issues. They can demand higher compensation and it may be above the target range. The employer above is often more excited about the unicorn than the unicorn is about the opportunity. Unicorns that make a lateral move simply for a significant bump in base are often shorter-term employees continuing to seek career progression elsewhere.

While the employer is chasing that unicorn playing hard to get, some amazing candidates are being overlooked. Smart, scrappy candidates excited about your company and opportunity. We have witnessed employers turn down the candidate with the MBA from another Ivy League school, that was four-months shy of the required years of experience, that wanted to relocate to the area and was willing to move within 30 minutes of the office, or that had two of the three required modeling courses and was happy to take the third before starting. These disregarded candidates met every other qualification and, six months later, had been hired by competitors. The employer looking for the unicorn had not interviewed one candidate and was sitting on a very stale search.

When a client comes to us with a position that has been open for six months or more, we seek to understand why. If it is turns out to be Unicorn Syndrome, it is important to comb through that position and get to the bottom of what skills are truly important in order for someone to be highly successful in the role and which are personal biases or preferences that really do not affect an employee’s ability to perform. Does Harvard really make a difference, or will another top school do? Is the MBA even necessary? If everything else is perfect, would the client accept a candidate willing to relocate?

We also revisit the statement, “I do not have time to train.” Even the unicorn needs to be trained. They need to learn your business model, what makes you different from your competitors, how you interact with clients, your sales pitch, how you underwrite deals, and department dynamics. So which required skills are of specific concern, can these be taught quickly, and who is the right teacher? For example, if the candidate needs to learn a certain software, is the company willing to pay for a two-day immersive training course? Again, we seek to uncover what are necessary skills versus what are preferences holding the employer back from hiring.


The long, drawn-out interview process: Companies that are not organized in their interview process run the risk of losing top talent. Once a candidate gets the bug to explore new opportunities, they are more receptive to approaches from recruiters. A drawn-out process with too many one-on-one video screens over a period of weeks, asking a candidate to take multiple days off to fly around the country interviewing with each office director, or having a candidate wait weeks for the final in-person interview with that one executive who has the impossible calendar is inefficient and kills momentum. Candidates get frustrated with the process, the employer appears indecisive, and a competitor with a well-organized interview process will quickly scoop up that candidate.

A streamlined process allows you to effectively communicate with your team as well as set candidates’ expectations. We work with clients at the start of each search to structure that process so each interviewer understands their role and the desired interview schedule. It also allows for honest conversations with candidates about timing, especially candidates interviewing with other companies. If the newly presented candidate has two strong offers that need a decision by the end of this week and your process will take three weeks, moving that candidate forward to the next round of interviews may not make sense for either side.


Not staying in close contact with a candidate during the notice period: Once a candidate gives notice to their employer, it is common for them to receive ribbing from supervisors, colleagues, vendors, and even clients about leaving. The candidate may feel some panic about making a change, and even pressure to stay. Certain positions in financial securities, technology, and those that require security clearances expect employees to vacate the premises as soon as they resign, but those are far and few between. These days many companies insist employees in management and executive roles provide a 30-day notice. That is a long time to reconsider an offer and hiring managers that do not stay close to their candidates run the risk of them receiving a counter or giving in to the pressure of staying.

We encourage our clients to stay in close contact with candidates during the transition period. Send a welcome package of swag to their home, invite the candidate to join your team for Thursday Happy Hour, or encourage them to attend the employee picnic. Have HR send onboarding paperwork to keep the candidate focused on moving forward and set up a time to connect each week to answer any questions as well as tell the candidate how excited you are. This will help ease any guilt and remind the candidate why they decided to make the move.


With some awareness and a few adjustments, you can avoid these mistakes and create a more efficient and effective hiring process. A smoother process increases your ability to recruit strong talent to your organization. And remember, CA Search Advisors is here to help should you need support along the way.


Amy Bauer
Managing Principal & Co-Founder


Katie Becker
Managing Principal & Co-Founder