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The fundamental recruitment error that recruiters need to watch out for

The fundamental recruitment error that recruiters need to watch out for


Mismatched expectations between job seekers and recruiters are the biggest impediment to placing the best talent in the best-fit roles.

Whether you are a job seeker or a hiring manager, have you ever wondered why it is often hard to find the best-matched position/candidate? This may be attributed to a “fundamental recruitment error”.

This phenomenon has been identified by the latest study conducted by Dai Xianchi, Associate Professor of the Department of Marketing at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School, and Professor Si Kao of the University of Macau. 

The study found that job candidates and recruiters have different focus areas – job candidates are career-minded and prefer innate talent over hard work, while recruiters are relatively position-driven and value the latter as more important. The mismatch between expectations can impede the efficient allocation of workers to their best-matched positions, which has adverse effects on their productivity and the company.

The study included participants from over 100 industries in the US and China for a series of experiments. These participants were divided into candidate and recruiter groups. The candidate group was asked to choose between two reference letters for job applications – one praising their innate talent and the other highlighting their hard work. The recruiter group then had to decide which candidate they would prefer.

The results indicated that more participants in the candidate group chose to submit the reference letter emphasising their innate talent. In contrast, more participants in the recruiter group preferred the hardworking candidate.

Professor Dai noted that the results provide evidence of the discrepancy between job candidates and recruiters in their valuation of innate talent versus hard work. The misalignment could lead job candidates to use ineffective strategies that reduce their chances of getting suitable jobs.

Researchers took the study further and found that people prioritised innate talent for career potential and hard work for current job performance. Similarly, when asked about their preferred qualities to secure a job, participants in the candidate group tend to prefer talent-related characteristics and select more pieces of assessment information about career potential, while the recruiter group have a relatively stronger focus on current position performance.

Professor Dai suggested that job candidates should put more effort into demonstrating their orientation toward hard work. For instance, individuals should emphasise and provide evidence of their hardworking personality when writing a cover letter or doing a job interview. Recruiters, on the other hand, should also take candidates’ career potential into account.

“The position-focused approach or mindset of recruiters could cause firms to suffer negative consequences in the long term, such as high turnover, low morale and lack of innovation,” said Professor Dai.

ALSO READ: Divergent expectations seen between Hong Kong employers and employees towards hybrid or remote work

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