Weeds. Those pesky seeds that opportunistically land in your garden and just start to grow. But if you want fruit, you don't grow weeds, you grow plants. You seek out the seeds you want, plant them with care, and then nurture them over time--pulling the weeds out when they appear so the good plants can grow.

We get it when it comes to gardens but often mess up when it comes to our organizations.

Highly productive organizations are built like gardens, by first being deliberate and careful with our candidates. They are the seeds of our future. But sometimes we drive the best candidates away, often unintentionally, as we try to systematize the hiring process for our own convenience or compensate for our own unpreparedness.

Here are four ways you may be driving away your best candidates and filling your organization with weeds.

1. Poor first impressions

This is often the unfortunate byproduct of our never-ending search for efficiency. We're so focused on making the process scalable that we create an industrialist, factory-style experience for our candidates.

We don't treat them like the potential employees they might be, but see them only as the next resume that happens to be moving through an interviewing assembly line.

But candidates cue into this quickly and can conclude that it might be representative of how the company treats its employees.

What's more, the first impression might just be made where you least expect it to. Did you know that 78% of candidates say the professionalism of a company's career portal impacts their decision to even apply?

It might be beneficial to map the points at which a candidate might engage your brand, inside and outside your doors, and be sure those touch-points create a strong, carefully crafted employment brand.

2. Unreasonable requirements

Usually born of our own indecision, lack of clarity about what we're actually looking for or how to identify it, we often impose unduly burdensome requirements on our candidates.

We somehow conclude that if a rising tide will lift all ships, then a more requirement-laden process will result in an overall lift in candidate competency.

But the candidates you really want are often those who need the opportunity the least, and instead of creating a quality filter, you're simply turning away candidates who are busy creating value elsewhere.

There are, of course, instances where it makes sense to impose on the candidate, to give them an assignment or raise expectations. Just be careful to not impose that barrier prematurely. Be selective, and nurture them a bit before you do. You'll get greater work as a result--and from the candidates you'll care the most about.

3. Attitudes of superiority

A hectic hiring schedule amidst an already busy day can cause you to go into an interview feeling burdened by having to be there. Or sometimes you've simply seen so many candidates that what you see before you is just another candidate, not the human being they are--taking a risk, expressing interest and wanting to join your company.

An interviewer can be highly emotive, especially to a candidate already under stress. And like sympathetic resonance you can create an in-kind response from the candidate, unintentionally skewing their performance and masking their true potential.

It's important to let go of the weight you're bearing before an interview. Go in feeling refreshed and ready to represent an engagement style that will inevitably be seen as a template for what it'll be like to work with you.

Be sure to take the time to treat your candidate like an individual. When candidates come into the office, don't just shuffle them into the interview room and simply escort them out when they're finished. Give them a tour! Introduce them to people they'll work with. Observe how they interact. You may be able to weed out people who aren't culture fits (which is the largest reason new hires fail).

4. Low-ball offers

Being cost-conscious is crucial to every company, but it can bite you. If you've handled the candidate experience well, you'll find a candidate who wants the company just as much as the company wants them.

But the entire investment can be a wash if you suddenly sabotage it by undercutting your candidate's estimation of their own value. The story you're telling the candidate is that it's all about the company. They will feel undervalued, taken advantage of and even strung along. And your best candidates will understand their own value enough to simply walk away.

Even if they don't walk, you'll end up with begrudging employees--employees walking around feeling like you owe them. We've seen this be one of the leading causes of employee disengagement, dissatisfaction, and inevitably, turnover.

Instead, have honest discussions up front about pay. Ensuring alignment early is the easiest way to prevent offer time let-downs. And when you do make an offer, make an offer that inspires them, makes them want to perform, buys them into the company and creates long-lasting loyalty.

Getting these four things right can go a long way toward planting that fruitful garden you're relying on to produce high-quality business outcomes.

Published on: Mar 26, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.