How many times has a recruiter uttered the words, “I’m looking for a really good candidate for this position?” It’s an interesting phrase for several reasons. First, no recruiter would ever say, “I’m looking for a mediocre candidate for this position.” Second, if every recruiter is looking for really good candidates, it’s safe to assume that actually finding them must be very difficult, simply given the competition. And third, really good candidates are very likely to be already happily employed—and, if they’re available, the reason why might make them not so good after all.

As if these weren’t reasons enough why you might be failing at recruiting those really good candidates, consider the following recruiting traps that are all too easy to fall into.

Making It All About You, Not Them

Many recruiters make the mistake of doing all of the talking during an interview, instead of letting the candidate tell them why they’re right for the job. Not only does this come off as rude to the candidates, but the recruiter also fails in his or her mission of finding out more about the candidate than what is in the resume. The interview should be about the candidate, not about the recruiter.

Relying Too Much on “Gut Feeling”

How important is that gut feeling that tells you a candidate is perfect for the job? Well, it’s very important, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Going on guts alone can backfire tremendously when you’re trying to recruit really good candidates. A charming candidate who wins you over may be charismatic and may give you a good gut feeling, but he might turn out to be pretty mediocre when it comes down to doing the job. Don’t ignore your gut, but base your decision on deeper reasoning.

Playing Too Hard to Get

You want really good candidates to want to work for your company, so you sell it very well. But there’s a difference between a good sell and coming off as standoffish and too hard to get. Of course you want to present your company in the best light possible, pointing out why working there is a great opportunity for the right candidate, but try not to go too far and make it seem like working there is the be-all and end-all of all jobs, or you may put some candidates off.

Forgetting You Need Them Too

Another easy mistake recruiters make is forgetting that they need the candidate just as much (if not more) as the candidate needs the job. This can lead recruiters to act too aloof and as if they don’t care whether the candidate takes the job or not, potentially driving really good candidates into the arms of competitors. If you find a really good candidate, don’t be afraid to express how much the company would like to have her on board.

Thinking They’re Too Good

Not unlike the dating world, rejecting a candidate because he’s perceived to be too good is a real roadblock in hiring really good candidates. Sure, all recruiters say they want really good candidates, but many end up feeling intimidated by top talent (whether consciously or subconsciously), and they wind up bypassing them. Don’t feel threatened by talented candidates; instead, focus on how much their expertise will help the company grow.

Making It All About the Money

Focusing too much on money can also be a turn off for candidates. Whether it’s asking what their current salary is, how much commission they get, or how much they would expect to make their first year if they’re hired at your company can all be a bit much for a first interview. This is especially true since really good candidates might be more interested in increased job responsibilities and growth opportunities, rather than money.

Misunderstanding the Generational Divide

Really good candidates may come in all shapes and sizes, and they also come from all different generations. Younger Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z candidates view the workplace completely different from Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Misunderstanding this divide can really cost you in acquiring talent, since a simple difference in perception can be all it takes for recruiters to dismiss a younger candidate, even if she is a really good—and maybe the best—candidate.

Having Too Great Expectations

Finally, looking for really good candidates can end up making you set the bar too high. Sure, you want the best talent out there, but what should really matter is finding someone who fits in well with your company culture, who brings a different set of perspectives and skills than everyone else, and who will succeed on the job over the long term. Expecting everything from a candidate right from the start is more likely to hinder your recruiting efforts than help you hire really good candidates.

Are there other reasons why you think you might be failing at recruiting really good candidates? In what ways have you adapted your recruiting strategies in order to attract and hire the best candidates?

Eric Friedman, Author

Eric Friedman

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills testing for pre-employment assessment and benchmarking. Eric has degrees in Psychology and Business, and a fascination with matching people with roles they’re best at, and that they enjoy.

A company built on exceptional talent from Internet technology, test development, and iterative product development, eSkill leads as an independent assessment company helping HR departments with relevant and accurate job-based tests.

To learn more about Eric and eSkill, visit the company website at, or contact him on LinkedIn.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick