Ideal vs. best: Rethink assumptions about the right candidate
Friday, August 03, 2018
Fit is like the F-word of hiring: it can mean so many different things and using it can get you in trouble. Yet, when determining which candidate to hire, how they mesh with the rest of the team is a critical component of success.
The problem is we do not always focus on the right characteristics when determining fit. We can end up distracted by the things we think are important as opposed to focusing on the things we need.
Here are a few tips to help rethink assumptions and hire the right candidate, right now.
6 degrees of separation
Does every job require an Ivy League grad with oodles of experience? Of course not.
Yet, we all seem to have these assumptions that we carry with us through the screening process. Whether it is a certain school, minimum years of experience or a specific career path, the first thing we need to do is check our assumptions before moving forward.
To do so, we must realize that even if the previous requirements worked wonders, are the current team composition and focus exactly as they were the last time we hired? If this is to replace an employee, do we need the same employee as they were when they were hired or when they left? If this is a new position, do we need a clone of someone already on the team or would we benefit from a different approach?
While it is not necessary to try to hire opposites, consider expanding the scope to a broader spectrum of candidates. Stanford may not be an Ivy League school, but I am guessing you could still find qualified candidates from among their graduates.
Once we open ourselves up, even a little bit, to reconsidering our core assumptions, it becomes easy to see the benefits. For example, one of my clients was looking to fill an accounting role and noted in the posting they preferred a CPA.
After their initial screen they found that all the CPA applicants were looking for salaries well above the salary range and seemed to have an attitude of entitlement. Instead of stretching the budget, they went back to the pool and looked at candidates who were in the process of taking the exam.
By expanding the pool, they found applicants who were hungry for more responsibility and looking for less compensation.
The top candidates were also working outside normal working hours to study and pass the exams and had the ambition, drive and organization skills to manage all of it. They also noticed most of the applicants had followed a less direct career path, were more mature approaching problems and had a well-rounded, broad perspective.
They ended up hiring a candidate who had taken three of his exams for much less than his CPA counterparts. He was grateful for the opportunity to prove himself, earned his CPA shortly after starting and was extremely successful in the role.
Have you ever read a job posting that called for someone who is a bit socially awkward, introverted and intensely focused? Probably not.
Yet, we have all seen calls for dynamic personalities, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate clearly. But does every job really require those skills?
With the preponderance of tech jobs and the rise of the nerd, most of us realize that not every job requires a great personality. However, we have not all updated our postings or assumptions to account for that outside of the engineering department.
Consider the difference between the receptionist at a large, expensive day spa and one at a national law firm. Or note the delta between the stereotypical personality of writers as introverted and the need of high-energy marketing departments for content creators.
Every team can benefit from different approaches, learning styles and work habits. Take a look at the language used to filter out candidates before they even apply and delete or expand it.
The bottom line is, when looking at teams, it is critical to consider balance. Fit becomes a problem when we use it as an excuse to exclude people who are different.
Well-rounded teams provide diverse perspectives which leads to improved solutions, greater productivity and more creativity. Rethink assumptions about the right candidate and everyone will benefit.
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