Advice to Hiring Managers: A great candidate is more than their resume

Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article on companies that claim to be having difficulty finding skilled workers and are overlooking the employees who are on the market. This is a sad truth that we have been experiencing for years.

“In this economy, you must be overrun with great candidates!” I get this a lot but sadly the definition on a “great candidate” is defined by the ones doing the hiring. Hiring managers at the majority of our client firms have dramatically raised their standards. Candidates who we could have placed a few years ago will not make it through the first round screening today. The high unemployment rate gives hiring managers the impression that there is an abundance of high quality candidates willing to work for low rates. This is untrue on several counts – those candidates who have stellar resumes are less likely to make a move in this market and are staying put. When they are on the market, their availability doesn’t last long and they generally have a choice in offers so they are not likely to be undercut on salary.

The author suggests that we have an affordability problem as opposed to a skill shortage. I see some merit there but I agree with him that the greater problem is managers who equate technical experience to job success. This is a common fallacy, but just because someone knows how to do something or has done it before does not mean they will do it well. I have experience running a marathon and have competed in many races, yet I am not a good or particularly disciplined runner. On paper, I am an accomplished runner. We have all encountered people with a very specific skill set who are just horrible to work with. Additionally we have known people who have taken a job they were not qualified for and have been wildly successful.

With consulting positions the desire to get an “exact match” with the right background is stressed even more than with direct hire positions. Though I understand the logic I believe it to be flawed. A skill match will tell a manager if a candidate can be successful but it will not tell them if someone will be successful. In order to determine the likelihood of a candidate’s success the manager will need to look beyond the resume and look at the characteristics of the candidate.

This can be a time-consuming process, yet it does not necessarily require managers to take more time to evaluate candidates if they take some steps to strengthen their relationship with their vendors. What is more, if managers relied on their vendors to do more attribute screening they would spend less time doing their own screening.

In order to accomplish this, hiring managers would need to spend a little time creating partnerships with their vendors. They would need to identify firms that have an understanding of their particular niche and the values of the department. They would also need to take some time to educate their vendors on what attributes make a successful candidate in that particular group. In my experience this can be accomplished in a few conference calls.

Yes, this does take some more time initially, but in the very short term the amount of time a manager can save in the reduction in screening, coupled with the productivity enhancements that are possible with candidates who are a better cultural fit are a significant return on the initial investment. The result: candidates that are more productive and have more to contribute to the organization as a whole.

Until next week,

Peter Laughter
Wall Street Services