Talent Acquisition:

The 10 Lessons I learned from evaluating, testing and selecting over 56,000 applicants in the last 10 years.

Lesson 8


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Through the evaluation and selection of almost 60,000 candidates in the last 10 years, we at Hirebox learned many hard lessons. These became practical tips that we would use on a daily basis to separate the real performers from the talkers, and the honest applicants from the liars, the pretenders, the unscrupulous and the criminals. 

As a professional recruiter, I keep reminding myself that over 30% of all bankruptcies in America are due to employee dishonesty. Don't believe me, check the FBI statistics. It has always been for me a moral duty to ensure or at least to make everything possible so that my clients would avoid being part of that sad statistic.

Here you go!

  1. Hiring is Marketing
  2. The deadly power of social media
  3. The biggest mistake in hiring
  4. The second biggest mistake in hiring
  5. Dealing with candidate ghosting
  6. Why business owners must be great headhunters
  7. Never trust what they tell you
  8. Never offer the job before doing these 3 things
  9. 51% of hiring failures occur… AFTER the hire
  10. Hire for happiness: THE key to success.



You remember from lesson #4 that subjectivity is a deadly proposal in talent acquisition. From a technical & legal viewpoint, you need to ensure optimal objectivity throughout the hiring process. You can dramatically increase objectivity by including in your recruitment procedure three actions which act as “insurance policies” in order to optimize the odd of success in your selection:

  1. Test for soft skills
  2. Reference checks
  3. Background checks



I have written a multitude of articles on the subject of hard skills versus soft ones. Research conducted on more than 20,000 new hires and reported in Forbes magazine, demonstrated that 89% of all hire failures are due to a lack of needed soft skills. Only 11% of failures were attributed to lack of hard skills or technical competencies. In other words, attitude always prevails in the success/failure ratio of new hires.

 Good soft skills assessments can help you determine if a preselected applicant pocesses the right package of soft skills vitally needed to ensure success on a specific position.

As much as the laws may differ from one State to another, there are basic rules to consider if you want to use any type of pre-employment assessments to test applicants for soft skills. Such tools are supposed to evaluate non-technical, personality-related characteristics, which might be important on specific jobs, such as: honesty, loyalty, team spirit, perseverance, optimism, communications skills, tolerance, etc.

Tips on how to use soft skills assessments:

Used intelligently, good tests can provide valuable information, specifically about issues that were difficult to detect during interviews. We recommend the following dispositions in the use of any test:

  • Make sure that the suggested assessment has been validated by the provider and does not discriminate applicants based on race, gender, ethnicity, or other background factor.
  • Verify that the test was developed for job-related-only applications. Avoid tests which investigate private matters and other non-professional issues.
  • Tests are not the “ultimate weapon.” They can potentially increase the quality of hiring, assuming you make testing part of a well-designed and well-managed hiring process.
  • Measure the results. Test the test on your best employees. This will give you a better understanding of how a specific test functions and its limits.
  • Always question unexpected test results and take it up with the applicant. Most applicants will have something to say about bad results, which is often the most interesting part of testing.
  • Inform applicants that their test results might be discussed in case they are selected as finalists. Make them feel relaxed about it and always clearly state that a hiring decision is never made based on test results only.

Note: Our Hirebox testing platform offers a series of assessments guaranteed to help you detect what was apparently “invisible” during the interview process. Visit https://www.hirebox.com/testing for more information.


Interestingly, many employers have lost faith in the procedure of conducting reference checks. The main reason being the legal pessimism and concern behind such procedure. Many business owners are legally concerned that they could be sued by candidates for providing information which could be detrimental to employment.

Legal departments or counselors will always advice to say a minimum. They are not always aware that legally, they have to provide information that would allow a potential employer to determine if they are about to hire criminals – as per the Negligent Hiring laws.

One main reason you have difficulties to conduct reference checks is the lack of legal support you provide to a previous employer when asking questions. A simple way to solve that and to dramatically increase the success of your move is to do the following:


  1. Include in your standard job application form a specific waiver to be signed by the applicant whereby he or she allows you to contact prior employers in order to ask specific questions.
  2. Such waiver should include 6 to 8 questions that will be asked. And the questions should remain the same for each candidate being interviewed.
  3. Ensure that the candidate signs the waiver. This is critical as prior employers will be informed of the candidate’s approval on such procedure.
  4. Send the waiver by e-mail to the prior employer with a personal message stating that the candidate has specifically provided their name and contact data. Inform the prior employer that someone is going to contact them to ask the specific questions listed in the signed waiver.
  5. You can also invite the prior employer to answer the questions in writing by e-mail return.
  6. Doing so could increase your success rate by 300% to 500%.
  7. Advice: always use that waiver to write a previous employer’s answers, comments, or recommendations. You may have to show this document to the EEOC in the future, in case of an inspection or an EEOC visit - following a complaint.

Note: when working with our clients to hire someone, we use a standard job application that contains a waiver with specific questions. To know more about it, visit this link.


When making personnel hiring, retention, or promotion decisions, you may want to consider conducting background checks on applicants who made it to the final selection steps of the hiring process. Background checks can be an additional “insurance policy” to avoid hiring people who could mean trouble to your organization.

A very important consideration in using background checks is the compliance with federal laws that protect applicants and employees from discrimination.

That includes discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history) and age (40 or older). These laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

 In addition, when you run background checks through a company in the business of compiling background information, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FCRA. This publication explains how to comply with both the federal nondiscrimination laws and the FCRA. It's also a good idea to review the laws of your state and municipality regarding background reports or information because some states and municipalities regulate the use of that information for employment purposes. (Source)

Also remember that over 90% of criminals never get caught up and so their crimes would not appear in the background check. This constitutes a serious limit to the accuracy of information obtained through background checks. However, it can constitute a legal protection as employers are responsible for making sure they do not hire criminals. For example, negligent hiring, as well as negligent retention, can lead you to serious legal trouble.

What can be revealed in a background check?

  • Identity verification
  • Credit report
  • Criminal records
  • Driving records
  • Education history
  • Work history
  • Military records

Typically, employers use background checks not for knowing who to hire but most often for knowing who not to hire. The purpose being most often to avoid a lawsuit. Here are some tips you should keep in mind during the hiring process, using background checks:

  • Check for potential trouble from the start. Review applications with a critical eye. 
  • Use a standard job application form.
  • Verify that the candidate signed the application and any waiver or release form.
  • Request in the job application that candidates provide past employers contact data.
  • Inform the candidate that you are systematically conducting background checks prior to offering any position.
  • Use an accredited background checking company.
  • Be aware of the “ban-the-box” laws, whereby some states, counties or municipalities may prohibit employers from asking about criminal history on job applications.
  • Be aware that credit reports may also be prohibited in some states for hiring decisions. Some States and local laws even ban or limit questions about salary history.


At Hirebox we always advise that you conduct background checks only on the candidates to whom you are extending a formal job offer. Always make your job offer conditional to background check results. Note that if you decide to take adverse action based on the background check results, such as cancel a job offer, you will need to provide a notice that includes:

  • The name, address, and phone number of the company that supplied the report
  • A statement that the company who supplied the report did not make the decision to take the unfavorable action and can’t give specific reasons for it
  • The applicant’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information the reporting company furnished or get an additional free report from the company within 60 days.

When we hire for our clients, we always conduct background checks – once the selected candidate is being offered and has accepted the position. We exclusively use accredited background check firms. Visit www.hirebox.com to find out how we you help you hire the best fit.


Best success!

Patrick Valtin,

CEO Hirebox