In the U.S., the battle to attract better employees stretches from Silicon Valley to New York City. Even the Army is fighting in the war for talent.

After failing to meet its 2018 recruiting goal, the Army started a new campaign with the #WarriorsWanted hashtag. The goal of the campaign is to attract valuable candidates -- not just people who see the Army as a last resort -- which pits the Army against popular civilian employers.

The Army is not alone in its struggles to communicate with top talent. For every company with a compelling recruitment pitch, there are dozens of businesses that fail to make their case.

Missing the Mark

According to the numbers, companies with poor talent acquisition and retention strategies suffer heavy financial consequences.

One CareerBuilder survey found that 74 percent of employers have been negatively affected by bad hires. The same survey found retention to be even more valuable than attraction. While a bad hire costs a company around $15,000, the loss of a good hire costs twice that.

No company makes a bad hire on purpose, of course. The survey found the biggest reason for bad hires was overestimating an employee's ability to learn on the job. Other compromising factors included pressure to fill a role quickly and a focus on skills over attitude.

Businesses know they need to change their tactics to avoid bad hires. In a survey from PwC, 93 percent of CEOs acknowledged that they should change their strategies. However, 61 percent admitted that they hadn't begun that process.

The war for talent doesn't allow companies to sit on the sidelines. Only businesses that take direct, immediate action to execute better recruitment strategies can attract (and retain) the best employees.

Crafting a Plan of Attack

Rather than learn how to spot a bad hire, skip the headache and learn how to attract better candidates in the first place. Consider these common mistakes and how to correct them.

1. Your employer brand isn't right.

How can businesses attract the right candidates if no one knows what it's like to work there? Short answer: They can't.

Companies that consistently attract great talent rely heavily on their employer brand to do so. Unlike a consumer brand, which faces prospective buyers, the employer brand tells prospective applicants what life is like inside company walls. This brand is less about salaries and more about the company's mission and the role employees play in that mission.

GE famously made fun of itself in a series of commercials about a misunderstood software developer named Owen. The commercials didn't just tell audiences that GE hires more than machinists, though -- it also communicated GE's vision to change the world through innovative solutions. That message appeals to everyone, not just developers, and it helped GE reposition its employer brand.

Employer branding videos, external announcements about exciting benefits, or social posts about a day in the life of an employee can paint a picture of what it's like behind the desk in your company.

2. You're not telling the whole truth.

No one likes a liar. Ideal employees--who have their pick of several opportunities--want nothing to do with companies that mislead them during the recruitment process.

Different employees want different things. Some are fine with working long hours and weekends to earn more pay. Some are more interested in a better work-life balance. Both situations are perfectly acceptable, but when an employer promises one thing and delivers another, employees get rightfully upset. That negativity can spread through word of mouth and give the offending company a bad reputation.

Katie Turrel, director of talent acquisition at menswear brand Bonobos, agrees. At the Fast Company Innovation Festival, Turrel suggested that candidates who have bad hiring experiences are more likely to encourage people in their circles to avoid doing business with the brand at fault--either as customers or as applicants.

3. You don't evaluate candidates' work.

Résumés only tell part of the story. Smart companies use pre-hire assessments to gauge candidates' level of competency and working style. In addition to giving an indication of the quality of a candidate's work, an assessment should keep the best workers engaged in the hiring process.

"A bad candidate experience can weaken your brand and drive away top talent, while a quality experience can get candidates excited about the company and the job," says Sandra Hartog, head of global assessment practices at professional services firm BTS.

Hartog advises companies to design pre-hire assessments that reflect the actual duties the employee would perform. She recommends that recruiters have existing employees take the tests and provide feedback before giving them to new candidates. The best assessments not only give recruiters a better idea of candidates' abilities, but they also show candidates that the company will make good use of their skills. If the assessment doesn't go well, it's likely that both parties will feel good about moving on.

Don't let the confusion of the hiring battlefield lead to poor decisions. Before making another bad hire, use these lessons to proactively improve the recruiting process and attract better candidates.

Published on: Dec 18, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.