The Perfect Candidate

by: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

So I’m in technical recruiting.  And we get positions from clients in a variety of technology areas.  As everyone in IT understands, one person’s experiences in a specific technology can be much different than another’s, even if their core skill is very similar.  I understand the need to make sure the candidate has the right background for the environment into which they are being hired.  This can be especially true if someone has quit, and left open a position that the company desperately needs to fill. 

But, and I emphasize this, it is a mistake to try and hire someone who has exactly the same technology background as whomever vacated the role!

First and foremost, (and this is the point I think many hiring managers miss), very often, the person vacating the role didn’t come into that role with those exact skills.   They grew into the position, bringing some skills with them, but learning new things as well, once in that position.  The simple fact that most IT environments are different means it will be very difficult to find someone who has the exact same experience as the person who left.  Yet that’s precisely what many hiring managers try to do!

A quick example: I was meeting with a hiring manager who was telling me about an integration developer role he wanted to fill.  There were a variety of skills he wanted in this next hire, primarily SharePoint development and HL7.  I pointed out that SharePoint developers don’t often know HL7, and integration developers working with HL7 don’t often know SharePoint, and that it would be very difficult to find someone who was good with both skills.  He said, “Well, I know SharePoint and HL7,” to which I replied, “Yes, but did you know them both before you started here at your current employer?”  He replied that he didn’t, and then I think my point sunk in.  I don’t think most hiring managers give it thought; they simply look at their environment and put together a skills list for someone coming in.  But they don’t think about the fact that candidates are coming from wildly different IT environments, and may not have the exact mix of skills that exist at the hiring company.

Second, do you, hiring managers, really want to hire someone with the exact same skillset and exact same personality profile as everyone else in your company?  Wouldn’t it make good sense to get someone in who has the core skills you need and the aptitude and attitude to grow, but who possess some other skills?  I think that might bring some fresh thinking, new ideas, and perhaps some new ways of doing things to your company.

Third, and finally, I have seen positions remain open for literally months while the hiring manager waits for the “perfect candidate.”  Months, really?  Imagine all that lost productivity!!  I think it would have made a lot more sense to hire that person early on in the process, the one who had 75% of the skills, and had the core skills down cold and possessed the aptitude to learn.  Don’t you think that person could have learned the other 25% of the job over the six months that the job remained unfilled, had they been there working the entire time?  And think of everything extra that could have gotten finished earlier with that extra person on staff.

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