Hiring the right candidates for any organization is a challenge. While most companies are in search of the ‘perfect hire’ for their open roles, the notion that a candidate can be perfect is a myth. The perfect hire doesn’t exist, says Senior Recruiting Manager Jan Tegze (Perfect Hires Don’t Exist). No one is perfect. Not employees and not managers. Unfortunately, as companies continue to hold out for the ‘perfect hire,’ many positions remain unfilled, which can negatively impact planning and business results.
Not only are many employers continuing to look for the perfect candidates who meet every single criterion in the job description, they are also expanding their requirements beyond what was expected in the past for a similar job. A Harvard Business School study found that employers have increased their job requirements substantially through what study authors call “degree inflation.” Many employers now require a four-year college degree for jobs which never used to require one, and as many as three in five employers often reject people who have qualified, relevant experience in favor of recent college graduates.
Career journalist Eric Reed (Employers Can’t Find Workers, So They’re Making It Harder to Get a Job) points out that degree inflation seems to be especially true in middle skill jobs, which historically placed more emphasis on specific skills than on level of education. In one field, production supervisors, the Harvard study showed that only 16% of current production workers had bachelor’s degrees, while two-thirds of new job postings required one. The irony of degree inflation in today’s employment environment is that as employers are asking for more than ever from job candidates, they also say that it’s harder than ever to fill their job openings.
The hunt for the perfect hire can also be driven by the fact that often companies have an unclear or unrealistic picture of what is required to be successful in a job. Lack of clarity is often a factor when trying to fill newly-created roles, according to Sarah Rhodes (Great Expectations: Are Employers Demanding Too Much of Candidates?). New roles often change organically and adapt to business needs over time, but adapting roles can be hard to anticipate, which often drives hiring managers to turn job descriptions into a long wish list of everything they think might be required. In their uncertainty, hiring managers think “the broader the better” and expect the perfect candidate to magically appear.
Another situation that can lead to unrealistic expectations of candidates is when employers are trying to replace exceptional and valued employees who leave the company. While it’s understandable for hiring managers to want candidates of the same caliber, it’s easy to forget that former employees had the opportunity to learn and grow on the job and to develop their skills and expertise over time. Most new candidates won’t rise to the level of “perfection” of former employees without some of their own time on the job to grow and develop.
Although the idea of a ‘perfect’ hire is a myth, as an employer you must make the best hiring decisions you can from the pool of candidates who apply for your job openings. How do you hire the right staff of strong performers who will be engaged in their work and help grow your organization? The following ideas could be helpful in your hiring process:
Check your wish list against reality.
If you have included a long wish list of “must haves” in your job description, step back and analyze what’s really needed for a candidate to succeed in the job. Compare your list to the real-world skills and qualifications of other employees in comparable positions in your company and hone your list down to the essential requirements of the job.
Ask the right questions.
The job interview is still the best hiring tool. Asking questions that help reveal a candidate’s motivations and ambition and uncover soft skills such as communication and teamwork that are critical to success will help steer your hiring decisions in the right direction.
Try to uncover the candidate’s work ethic.
Technical skills can be acquired through learning and training, but the right work ethic is an innate quality that can’t easily be taught. Someone with the right attitude who also seems passionate about their work will likely be more successful than someone who has the best skills but is more motivated by a paycheck.
Help your new hires adapt to your company culture.
While you always want team players who will be a positive addition to the company culture, a perfect fit is not guaranteed even if your new hires seem to have the right mindset and values. An effective onboarding process can help new hires understand your company culture by showing them what they can expect and what is expected of them, allowing them to grow in an environment they understand.
Understand that employees might make mistakes.
Part of being a leader is allowing your hires to make mistakes and to learn from them, which will help them unlock their potential and continue to grow both professionally and personally. Progress should be the goal of every organization, not perfection.
Provide support and training.
Hiring the right employees is possible when you understand what your candidates will need to be successful before you hire them and then provide support and training to help them succeed. Work with them on a plan to improve their skills and encourage them to grow and progress in their roles. Provide feedback so employees know what they’ve done right and what they need to improve.
Motivate employees to progress in their current skills.
Encourage employees to think on their own, to move beyond their comfort level and to bring new ideas to the table. Even if you are content with most of the people you have hired so far, remember that continuous improvement is key to success.
Hire from within your company by promoting current trusted employees.
Don’t overlook current employees who already have a good understanding of your company and the role they would be stepping into. Internal candidates who have the requisite skills and have demonstrated loyalty and commitment are likely to stay on board when they see that there is room for them to move up in your organization. The right hire for the job may already be working for you.
When employers and hiring managers start to understand that the ‘perfect hire’ doesn’t exist, they might be less likely to pass up talented candidates who are right for the job and who, with the right support, could become their next great hires.