How to Stop Trying to Find the Perfect Candidate and Hire One That Is Close Enough

Sam Rogal
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Anyone who has ever looked for an apartment in New York City has heard the old adage that “you shouldn’t look for the perfect apartment, you should look for the one that works.” This idea stems from the fact that there really is no such thing as a “perfect apartment.” Everyone makes their list of the 10 or 15 “must haves” for where they want to live and they can spend months looking for the place that has it all, when they found a place that worked ten apartments ago and let it slip by because it didn’t have some relatively unimportant luxury that they were looking for. I’ve personally lived in eight apartments in NYC and none of them were “perfect” but they all worked for me and I never moved because I hated an apartment. They worked for me not because they were perfect but because they were close enough and I put in the time to make them perfect after I signed the lease.

This same idea can be applied to modern hiring. Every recruiter has this imaginary candidate in mind for a position. One that has the perfect education, references, and experience. Someone who is magically free of any possible red flags and sails through the interview process with charm and wit. Someone who the recruiter knows without a shadow of a doubt will fit perfectly into the corporate culture, will never be late, will consistently go above and beyond any given task, in other words the “perfect candidate.” Well, unfortunately this person does not exist. You have the same odds of this person walking into an interview as you do a unicorn.

The person you will meet though is the candidate who is close enough. The candidate who meets most of your standards but maybe not all. The person who may take some time to get used to your corporate culture but will over time become the perfect employee. So how do you avoid letting this candidate slip through your fingers because you were looking for someone better?

The first tip is to not only make a list of what you need from a candidate but order that list from most to least important. You could also give a numerical weight to each aspect you're looking for. For example, you want a person with a BA in your given field, if that’s a must assign it 100 points. If you want a person who has 5 years of experience but you're willing to read a resume of someone with 3 years then weigh that slightly less at 80 points. Maybe for each program they know relative to the position you give them 10 points, and so on. Then say you won’t interview anyone below 250 points. Now you at least know that each person you look at has SOME of what you are looking for even if they don’t have ALL.

Another strategy is to stop scheduling interviews once you find someone that works. If the right, but not quite perfect, person walks in, hire them. If you spend weeks scouring for the perfect person, odds are you already missed the candidate that works. Understand that a person you hire may become perfect once they get the job and have some experience at your company. The fear of committing to a person will cost you more dearly than hiring someone and having them not be perfect.

The quest for perfection is long and arduous, and it will end up hurting you more than trusting your instincts and just hiring someone who you know will work.


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