Over the past several years the economy has created two common themes that prevent companies from finding appropriate candidates.
- Companies create job specifications that are too narrowly focused. This is due to a perception that many people are unemployed and the company should have the pick of the litter. These specifications are virtually impossible to fill.
- Companies are not understanding how their opportunity is perceived to the market and therefore misjudging the type of candidates that respond.
Every client wants and deserves to hire the best possible candidate. They should never compromise. However, companies need to attract the right candidate for them and not some engineered “perfect” candidate. When it comes time to hire it is important for a company to conduct a realistic self assessment on their culture, the opportunity they have to offer, and the technical requirements needed to fill the job. Sounds obvious, right? Well not really. What ends up happening is several people sit around a table throwing out “nice to have” skills, the perfect industry background, and specific years of experience to create the perfect candidate. Much like Gary and Wyatt did when they created Lisa in Weird Science. (Yes I grew up the 80’s)
Before you know it they have tasked their recruiting department to search for the perfect candidate not realizing that even if this candidate exists, they may not be interested or appropriate for the job! This creates a disconnect between who the company wants to hire and which candidates are actually interested in the job.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Understand your true opportunity and be flexible: Consider if you will, a small widget manufacturer that needs someone to build internal applications on a somewhat dated technology stack that will have to last a few more years. The candidate coming out of a software company using the latest cutting edge technology may be easy to get excited about, but the candidate may not be attracted to that type of position or company. The misconception of how the market views their opportunity can make this role go unfilled longer than it should. Sound familiar? Please don’t misunderstand me; there is always a candidate out there that will add value for years to come. You just need to do a little homework and conduct an honest self assessment.
The best talent for your specific company and job could come in many forms – so be open to that. If longevity is a real concern, a candidate that is a bit “light” for the role could be the answer. Someone at this point in their career may be more concerned with an employer where they can learn and grow. If you provide them an opportunity to learn, grow, and even lead a project a sense of loyalty will kick in and the likelihood they stay grows exponentially. You may be a flat organization and a self assessment might lead you to conclude that although you provide a great work environment with interesting projects, there is limited upward mobility. This could be an example where a highly experienced candidate may be a good fit. It is common for companies to shy away from someone with too much experience but be flexible. This candidate may be willing to take a bit less in pay or responsibility for an improved commute or a more stable environment. Because of these concessions they can provide overall bench strength at a price tag that might be more affordable than you think.
Good people will learn fast: I see job descriptions written so specific (i.e. 7-9 years experience) that you are virtually recruiting 0.5% of the population in your area. Yet again and again we hear: “she only has 3 years not 4” or “he has only worked with SQL 2008 not 2010”. I remind my clients of this all the time – you hire people – not resumes. A company will pass up on a quality individual that hits 75% of the requirements (including cultural fit) because they are using SQL 2008 not SQL 2010. Think of it this way: Is it easier to teach someone how to fit in your corporate culture or the new features of SQL 2010? The extra 2 months that you take to search for the “perfect” candidate could have been used for the candidate with the right cultural fit to get up to speed on the technology. Furthermore, there is the probability that 2 months doesn’t net you a better candidate.
Remember when you were a candidate? : Clients eventually become candidates and candidates become clients; it’s the natural order of life. Many times I have told a client turned candidate that I was not able to secure them an interview because, for example, “you have Oracle and not SAP.” Inevitably I hear some version of the following: “I managed large ERP’s my whole career, if you can manage one the principles are the same. I bring all the other intangibles they are looking for.”
My response is: “YOU’RE RIGHT! BUT YOU DID THE SAME THING WHEN YOU WERE HIRING!” If you feel this way and truly believe this, then apply the same logic when you are hiring again.
What can’t you live without? We all agree that some skills are not negotiable and are needed to do the job effectively. However, instead of creating job specs from a predefined wish list, ask yourself this question: “What are the 3 or 4 things I can’t live without.” I have seen the following happen consistently over 20 years when you do this:
- One of these things you think of will not be listed in your original formal job spec.
- At least one of these will be cultural in nature.
What does this mean? Up until this moment of clarity, the Hiring Manager couldn’t understand why they weren’t seeing the right candidates or why candidates weren’t interested in the role. Once the free themselves of recruiting to an impossible list of skills the process gets more fluid.
In short we all understand that candidates need to have certain core skills to get the job done. The real key to managing adequate candidate flow and hiring the right person is a simultaneous juggling act. Avoid the age old ritual of preparing a long list of arbitrary skills. Create simple expectations around what it takes to perform the job and marry that to the known skills in your market. A strong local recruiter can lend guidance on the market place even if you don’t retain their services.