Why Your Best Employees Are Quitting Before They Start

Is your interview process driving the best people away? The days of the all-powerful employer sitting back while the candidate tries to impress them are over. If you want top talent, they are going to interview you, just as much as you are interviewing them.

Here are three classic interview mistakes, that drive away the best people, and how you can avoid these traps:

  1. Over emphasizing the “stuff.”

An office tour is nice, particularly if you offer free espresso. But in today’s world, most organizations offer similar perks. Standing desks, pool tables, and an organic snack bar are less important than the job itself. Smart people know, the perks are window dressing, what really matters is the job and culture.

Top talent doesn’t care which company offers a better smoothie. Top performers want to work with excited positive people in a job where they can have a real impact. Instead of spotlighting the cool conference rooms, talk about how your products and services impact your clients. Showcase team members who are excited about their jobs. Talk about your values and purpose more than your latte machine.

  1. Keeping a candidate in quarantine.

If you’re serious about a candidate, have them talk to the people they will be working with. Ask them to have lunch with their would-be boss. Give them an honest representation of what it’s like to work for your organization. If you keep your candidate in the dark, they’ll probably think what you’re hiding is worse than it is.

Yes, you want to show your best self to the candidate. But you don’t want your new hire to show up for work delusional. You might be afraid of turning off a potential great hire, but the only thing worse than losing a great candidate is spending the time and money to hire and onboard them, only to have them quit after six (or three) months because the job wasn’t what they expected. Do yourself, and your candidate a favor, let them see a slice of your world and the people in it.

  1. Focusing entirely on skill.

Digging into a candidate’s resume is crucial: don’t be fooled by puffery. You need to find out if this person actually knows how to do the work. But if you limit your interview to a checklist of skills, you’re setting your candidate up to disengage. Focusing exclusively on job skills minimizes the candidate; you’re treating them like an asset instead of a human. It reduces the relationship to a transaction.

You’re better off checking off skills early in the interview process, then move into the second stage, the part most interviewers miss: Assessing cultural fit. You want to know, will this person be overwhelmed by your office dance party? Or if you don’t dance at work, is he or she a person who needs movement and fun in their day? Ask about their work friendships in previous jobs. Do they create trust and camaraderie, or are they a negative heads- down person who will take energy away from others? It’s your job as an interviewer to determine which candidate will be a good fit, who will add your energy, not just a warm body who can check the box “proficient in Excel.”  Everyone doesn’t have to be a cheerleader; quiet positive energy is good too.

Take a lesson from Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, who notes, “Our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.”