4 mistakes to avoid when you’re hiring quality talent

Hiring quality talent is not easy. Talented professionals today are busier, more distracted and even scarcer. What used to work earlier, doesn’t work well now especially when you’re hiring for quality talent pool.

Here are the 4 mistakes we see recruiters making that hurt their results:

1. Making an overdemanding job description

Recently, we were discussing job descriptions on our LinkedIn page:

CutShort LinkedIn Page
and a user lamented how he sees bloated job descriptions like these:


  • MS/PhD (PhD preferred) in engineering or quantitative fields.
  • Minimum 7-10 yrs of experience. Must have strong Java programming skills. Must be proficient in C++. Must be the best in hadoop, spark, abnitio, informatica. Must be unparalleled in qlik sense, tableau, alteryx.
  • Must be a gold medalist in fullstack software development.
  • Must be NASA awarded Astrophysicist.
  • Must at least have been awarded by the prime minister of india once.
  • Preference will be given to candidates with a horn poking out of their forehead.

Thankfully, the user clarified further:

Yes, this is a hypothetical but this is what a data science job description in India looks like. Most job portals are a joke. CutShort, in contrast, does a wonderful job of collating requirements, however, HR professionals must put more effort into figuring this out and actually doing their research.

So what’s the way out?

In the product world, there is a concept of Minimum Viable Product. It basically means a product team needs to trim down the product to the most important feature set rather than keep adding more and more features. Similarly, your requirements in a job description need to be minimal and viable.  Your objective is not to make a super-set of all requirements, it’s quite the opposite — finding the minimum number of requirements a candidate *must* meet. Nice-to-have requirements should be kept separate.

Let me take an example. Recently I have seen companies insisting on finding candidates with “DevOps + strong programming experience” or the more common a “good designer who can code front end”.  While such overlaps would be great, you should try to see if you could hire for one core skill and the other could be learned by the candidate on the job.

2. Overemphasis on current skill versus learnability

Hard skills are definitely important, but in today’s extremely fast-paced professional world, they become obsolete very fast. Take mobile development. It’s hard to believe that Objective-C, which was hot in demand in 2014-15 has been replaced by Swift, which is a very different language. Even native Android development is being replaced by React Native for normal business apps. And the icing is that these apps can now be built by JavaScript developers with no previous Android experience. To take another example, tools such as Canva have made it possible for digital marketers to make decent creatives without needing a full-time designer.

The point is that in such fast-paced world, it’s important not to get fixated on just the current skills of the candidates. If you are not able to find enough good talent, do consider the alternatives.

For instance, Bilal Budhani, cofounder at Kiprosh was facing the same issue. “There aren’t enough Ruby on Rails developers out there so I’m planning to hire Php devs and then train them on RoR”.

It makes sense to look for strong fundamentals, capability and attitude to learn new skills fast are much more important.

3. Limiting your search to people with certain pedigree

A lot of companies (especially the hyper funded ones) restrict their search to only the people who studied at their preferred educational institutes or worked at some specific companies. Some companies get even more selective. I once heard about a company that said they will only consider developers with 10,000+ commits on GitHub!

I get the underlying reason here. Such companies want to minimize their risk and want to save them the time they would have to otherwise spend in selecting 1 good candidate from 100 mediocre ones.

The problem here is that these are not good qualification criteria. There are several smart developers who may come from backgrounds you never thought of. They don’t have time to contribute to open source on GitHub – they might be simply busy building awesome stuff that works like charm.

Blindly keeping such qualification criteria just limits the size of your talent pool and makes you chase the talent that is already discovered.

You might agree and ask back – but how do we discover that 1 % amidst so many others? Good question.  Some companies are already doing it. See the next point below.

4. Treating candidates as if they are desperate for jobs

I understand that as a busy recruitment professional, you can’t spend enough time on every candidate. You need them to prove their competence before you invest more time.

But if you’re sending tests or assignments before engaging with them, you might be losing good candidates.

Good talent today has many options. Expecting them to spend time on the assignments sent by each company is unrealistic, especially if they are not yet sold on your opportunity.

Assessing candidates is your problem, not theirs.

The right way is to develop an eye for talent. Glancing through the projects, external social profiles and test scores on platforms such as CutShort should help you avoid this screening test as far as possible.

If you are going to send a screening test, don’t ignore the candidate experience. Keep it super short need and give it only after warming up the candidates about the exciting opportunity you have to offer.


Things have changed significantly in our professional world in last few years. Attracting talent is hard, so it’s important that you plan your hiring process carefully. If not, it will hurt in two ways.  You will miss good candidates and worse, you might attract the wrong ones. And remember – there is no faster and surer way to destroy a company than hiring wrong people.

In a following post, we will look at how to refresh the way you conduct your interviews, schedule those interview, offer letter negotiations and engage with the candidate’s post-offer stage.

Have a viewpoint? Would love to hear from you in the comments!

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