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Feb 14, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

The worst enemy of any recruiter or sourcer is not the candidate, hiring manager or competitor. Not even time is our biggest enemy. The worst enemy of every recruiter is a habit. Habits are far worse than any mistakes we make.

Our work habits determine how productive we are, and they affect how successful we are in finding and acquiring candidates. They also shape the type of strategies we use every time we get to work. But sometimes the habits we utilize become old and useless in the ever-changing and progressive world of recruitment. It’s usually at this point that recruiters become their own worst enemy, staying stuck in a never-ending loop of trying to catch up the latest trends.

As professionals, we sometimes find ourselves repeatedly doing things in a way that reaps us no rewards or that frustrates us over and over again. Because these things worked before, then we are expecting that they are going to work in the future.

Recruitment Habits

For better or worse, we are creatures of habit. We all have habits that help us in our life. But research from Duke University shows that 40% of what you do every day isn’t a decision—it’s a habit.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of bad habits, but there are a few habits that we should try to remove from our work day.

1) Only using email to contact prospects

When you saw the article “Cold calls are dead” you were probably the happiest person in the world, especially if you don’t like to make them. Call cold calling is hard and, in many cases, uncomfortable. It is still very effective and yields a higher response than email. When you stop calling, or you are trying to find out why the “cold calling” is not working, you are only supporting your habit not to call.  After a while, it won’t be easy to come back.

2) Focusing on the same metrics

Consistency is the key if you run recruitment reports, but focusing on the same metrics over five years and not adding any new ones or trying to update them so they can reflect the current market will hurt your recruitment activities.

If you are focusing only on WHERE your candidates are applying from and not concentrating on WHY they are applying, you could easily miss crucial information that could help you to be more efficient.

3) Working without passion

After five consecutive interviews with candidates, it is easy for a routine to kick in. You find yourself repeatedly asking the same questions, but you have stopped listening. The last interview of the day eventually becomes less exciting than the first interviews you had.

Over time, the primary functions of your job – like phone screening, scheduling, and conducting intake meetings – can become just a habit. You go to work, do your job and go back home. Our habits go on autopilot, and we are just repeating the same thing over and over again. Without being present in the moment, we are not focusing on what we are doing.

4) Generalizing candidates

It is essential for any candidate to have a successful work history, but it may not the most important thing. Some recruiters are in the habit of basing their judgment of a candidate on their previous work history. In turn, they find out soon that even the most successful applicants on paper may not be the correct fit for their unique positions. Instead, a recruiter should focus on uncovering skills and characteristics that will transfer well to their client’s company.

Recruiters should make it a habit to focus on potential and not perfection. Just because someone says they are an expert and work for a company that has a good reputation doesn’t mean they are good at what they do., In some cases, you won’t know till they are already hired, and you are working with them that they cannot deliver on what they promised.

5) Sourcing the same way

Most recruiters are using the same Boolean search strings that they created years ago, or they use the same string for every country where they are trying to search for candidates. Sometimes we continue with these same strings and methods just because it is the only “tried and trusted” way we know and understand. In cases like this, we suddenly discover that these work habits are stunting our sourcing activities, and thus our ability to learn and evolve diminishes day by day.

You can break your sourcing habits through

6) Subjective selection procedures

Never solely rely on “gut feeling” as a recruiter; utilize testing and assessment information to increase your confidence and predictive accuracy that a candidate can successfully perform the job. These methods can be used to identify individuals that possess true leadership talent.

An individual with a high level of talent but a slightly non-traditional background (e.g., comes from a different industry) could well make a much higher contribution than an individual that has performed the same job in the same industry but possesses modest leadership talent.

7) Delivering a poor candidate experience

A habit of offering a poor interview experience can contribute to a negative recruitment brand. The question is: In a time of scarce talent, why would you want to irritate quality candidates? Recruiters need to adopt a structured behavioral interview that is professional and job relevant.

8) Jumping to conclusions

Personal attitudes could affect our decisions and recruiters should not let their personal attitudes get in the way. It is important to treat every candidate the same way and give the applicant the time they deserve. And try not to allow personal bias to hurt the hiring process.

9) Deciding too quickly

The goal of every recruiter is to fill the role with the right candidate but also fill the role as quickly as possible. If the recruiters’ KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the most important metric for the company or the manager, recruiters will tend to rush the process. Instead of jumping at the first qualified applicant that comes through the door, a recruiter should also check other applications they received and not make a decision based on how quickly the candidate could start.

10) Resist change

“We’ve always done it this way,” is a dangerous mentality that appears after a few years at work. Recruiters resign to change anything or bring new ideas to the table if his/her manager is not open-minded and not open to new things. At that moment, the recruiter adopts the “We’ve always done it this way” mentality and prefers process instead of giving a candidate a unique, human-centered experience. Just because a hiring manager previously rejected this candidate, recruiters assume it’s going to happen again.



Breaking a habit is not easy. It requires strong willpower to change.

Howard Rachlin (behavioral economist) proposes an interesting trick for overcoming this problem. When you want to change a behavior, aim to reduce the variability in your behavior, not the behavior itself.

For example, try to check your Twitter or Facebook feed only twice during an hour and not twice per minute. This effort toward self-control can lead to a decrease in bad habits over time, unconsciously.

Making any conscious change takes up physical and mental resources. Trying to change everything all at once is only going to spread your resources, and you will not reach your goal. Try to start with the small things and focus on only one significant change at a time.

Searching for the best candidates for your clients is a challenging responsibility. One or more of these old recruitment habits have been made by even the most experienced recruiters unknowingly.

Although the list of unproductive and repetitive recruiting habits is long, there is always a chance to break the mold. The risk of falling behind will always exist, but being aware of bad habits and being willing to correct them should significantly improve your ability to recruit the right talent. Remember that continuous improvement is key to success


This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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