Looking Beyond the Obvious to Uncover Right-Fit Candidates

June 15, 2016 – A hiring manager posts an opening, describes the ideal candidate, and resumes come flooding in. After doing some interviews, the manager has to decide who the best person is for the job. Research from MRINetwork, the executive search subsidiary of CDI Corp., shows that more often than not, hiring executives pick someone whose qualifications most closely match the exact criteria for the job or whose background is similar to theirs.

Using this process, frequently poor hires are made, and competent and qualified people don’t get the job – or sometimes even an interview – because they do not fit the preconceived notion of the right fit. This reality presents a great opportunity for companies to reconsider and potentially improve how they view, screen, interview and engage with talent.

Blind to Red Flags

“People with responsibility for hiring have a tendency to see what they’re looking for, especially when they are primed and ready to look for specific things,” said Nancy Halverson, vice president of global operations for MRINetwork. “Focusing too much on set criteria for the ideal candidate or being blind to red flags can lead to serious hiring mistakes, especially when everybody on the hiring team is looking at applicants through the same lens.”

Cultivating the ability to identify and recognize the right people for the job, even individuals with non-traditional backgrounds or with skills outside the exact criteria, can be a tremendous advantage for a business. “You get multiple perspectives for problems or challenges, and fresh perspectives in your day-to-day operations,” said Ms. Halverson. “Although there are instances when hiring candidates who don’t fit the exact profile isn’t feasible, that is less of an issue than many hiring managers may think.”


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However, there’s a reason many companies don’t take risks when hiring new talent. Employees with traditional backgrounds and similar skill sets yield predictable results. The tricky part about expanding the hiring horizon is finding the right fit even if the candidate’s background falls outside the range of the safe, defined criteria.

How to Avoid Making Hiring Mistakes

Ms. Halverson suggests several ways to avoid mistakes while widening the candidate pool:

  • Focus on the candidate’s potential. Pay close attention to the personality of the prospective new hire. While having the right skill set may seem essential, skills can be acquired, but personalities cannot. Social intelligence – being able to navigate social situations and work well with others – should be under scrutiny during the interview. Don’t become pigeonholed into thinking the person with the exact necessary experience is the right person for the role. Give equal consideration to communication skills, thought processes and emotional intelligence.
  • Ask the right kinds of questions. While your interview format should retain some standard questions, you can uncover good candidates by adding non-traditional questions into the mix. Asking candidates what they see as the most effective approaches for managing them, for example, can provide insight on both cultural fit and working style – whether they’re low-maintenance and function best with minimal guidance, or perform well under detailed direction and support. Depending on the existing managerial style at your organization, the response may signal an ideal fit or a potential problem aligning with your leadership.
  • Provide personal insight about the company culture. To help both the organization and prospective candidates determine if they are right for your company and the particular position, it’s important to discuss the company’s work environment. Be open and honest about what it’s like to work at the organization, and talk about the positive aspects or even perks that have personally made your job more enjoyable. Replacing canned corporate responses with insight about your individual experience allows you to connect better with candidates, and both parties can more clearly ascertain if the applicant will thrive in the company culture.
  • Cover All the Bases. Probably the most important step in deciding to extend an offer to a candidate who has a different type of experience or education from the set criteria, is making sure the company has covered all its bases. This includes determining the business rationale behind the hire, what skills and qualifications the candidate has to offer the company, and if the decision will ultimately produce the desired result.

“In today’s competitive world of business, no organization can risk the expense and productivity drain that a bad hire brings, and yet bad hires are surprisingly common,” said Ms. Halverson. “Being open-minded to looking outside of your defined criteria or even your industry can yield a more diverse but equally qualified short list, and may result in a better fit between the successful candidate and your organization.”

Finding the Best Candidates

According to CareerBuilder‘s just released ‘2016 Candidate Behavior’ study, 48 percent of employers can’t seem to find the workers they need to fill their job vacancies.

CareerBuilder offers hiring companies this advice about finding the best candidate:

  • Candidates are less likely to jump through hoops. The market has become more employee-centric and candidates are quicker to drop off if the application seems too cumbersome. One in five candidates said they are not willing to complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more, and 76 percent want to know how long it will take them to finish an application before it starts. However, the majority of job seekers said they would be willing to endure a lengthy application process if the company is offering a higher base salary.
  • Candidates move on quickly. An inefficient, slow-moving hiring process will kill your recruiting efforts. Sixty-six percent of job seekers said they will wait less than two weeks to hear back from the employer before considering the opportunity a lost cause and moving on to another.
  • If you’re hard to find online, candidates will be too. Most candidates (64 percent) said after reading a job posting, they will spend time researching before applying. If they can’t find the info they need on the company, 37 percent of all candidates will just move on to the next company or job listing. Your company career site and social presence must be strong.
  • Candidates expect more information in the job listing. It’s not enough to describe the company and job. The top things candidates said they want to see in a job posting include: Salary (74 percent); total benefits package (61 percent); employee ratings (46 percent); contact info of hiring manager (40 percent); work from home options (39 percent); how the company provides work/life balance (35 percent); photos/videos of the work environment (31 percent); and team structure and hierarchy of the role (27 percent).
  • Millennials may swipe left if your mobile capabilities are weak. One in 10 Millennials said they would drop a company out of consideration if they couldn’t apply to a job via their mobile device. So if your site isn’t mobile ready, your pages take too long to load or you have poor navigation through mobile, you could be losing fresh new talent.
  • You may not be covering all your bases. Consumer’s audiences are very fragmented. Job seekers use up to 16 sources in their job search. Are you everywhere they are?
  • You may not know how good or bad your process is in the eyes of candidates. Only 31 percent of employers claim to have tried applying to one of their company’s open jobs to see what the process is like. Put on that job seeker hat and go to one of your jobs, and go to your career site, and interact with your company through the eyes of the job seeker so you can make improvements where needed.

“For employers, it’s important to remember that the candidate experience starts from the very first click and can impact how effectively a company is able to recruit quality candidates, the popularity of its employer brand, the strength and quality of its referrals, and even its bottom line,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer (CHRO) for CareerBuilder.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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