There Are No PhDs Standing on a Street Corner

While the US unemployment rate falls to a postrecession low, and economists had expected the US economy to add 180,000 jobs, I think that most of us can agree that businesses are increasing their hiring to keep up with market demand. It’s a very tight labor market. While this trend is in many ways positive, it also means hiring managers can’t afford to be as picky — there aren’t as many unemployed PhDs desperate for part-time minimum wage jobs as there were six years ago. With the availability of top talent so limited, being too picky can actually hurt your recruitment efforts and cause delays in filling key positions. When you adopt highly selective standards or a strange interview gauntlet, it can be a bad idea for few reasons.

You’ll Lose Qualified Candidates

If my father is reading this, he just called me “Captain Obvious.” But, maybe it’s not so obvious. Just like time, Talent doesn’t wait. No matter what kind of business your company is in, dragging out the hiring process while you search for the ideal candidate can mean that you lose top candidates. When you wait too long to make a decision, some candidates will accept other positions.

You’re Tarnishing Your Reputation

True Story: Job seekers pay attention when companies post the same ad month after month. They start to wonder why your company is having such a hard time filling the position.

Based on limited information, they start making up a lot of things about you:

  • Do you have impossible expectations?
  • Do they want to work there?
  • Do you know what you are looking for or are you just looking around?
  • Do you have a high turnover rate? Are you always hiring for this role?
  • Does your company know how to make decisions?
  • Do those Glassdoor reviews tell an accurate story?

Candidates will notice when your pickiness results in inaction, which may affect their impression of your company.

Being Forced To Settle For Second Best

When the top candidates accept other positions, you’re left with a pool of candidates who don’t have as much experience or as many skills. Eventually, you may be forced to choose from these applicants because the job must be filled. Although your intention is to find the perfect candidate, now you have to settle for a “good enough” applicant.

Who really wants their second choice? No one. Don’t get to the point where the work is so important that you’ll eventually be forced to accept less qualified candidates. I mean really, do you want a less qualified person handling your source code, project implementation, or product launch?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, put the keys down and walk away from your responsibilities. They’ll be better off without you.

Recruitment Costs Will Increase

When looking for the perfect candidate, it makes sense to use every available medium to advertise. If you don’t find the ideal person, you may continue to place more ads and spend even more money. Those costs add up, but they aren’t the only costs involved.

Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania discussed the issue of costs in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton. He believes that internal accounting systems in most organizations are very poor. As a result, companies don’t understand the true costs of keeping a position vacant and mistakenly believe that they can save money if a position remains unfilled for a long period of time.

Stopping the Bleeding

If you wait long enough, the ideal candidate may eventually appear, or you may realize that you missed opportunities to hire people who had many of the skills you need. If insisting on perfection has cost you qualified job candidates, there are a few things you can do.

Determine what is fundamental. Identify the skills that are absolutely necessary to perform the job and those that would be helpful. Be happy if a candidate possesses skills in both categories, but don’t reject an applicant because he or she is missing skills that are merely helpful.

Make training a priority. Don’t overlook candidates who could be top performers with a little coaching or training. Cappelli notes that many businesses don’t know how much it costs to train employees versus hiring employees already doing the same kind of work for a competitor. Comparing those costs may make hiring an employee with less experience a more attractive option, particularly if you follow his suggestion and initially offer a lower salary while new employees receive the training they need. Also, training typically makes employees stick around a little bit longer.

Change your image. If you’ve gotten a reputation as a company that only hires superheroes, it’s time to make changes to your brand messaging. Shorten the hiring process and emphasize your desire to find employees willing to grow with the company on your HR website and social media sites.

Every business wants perfect employees, but few people can attain perfection without a little help. If you use realistic standards when hiring and are willing to train employees, you just might discover that it’s easier to find quality employees who can help your company grow.

As a member of Relus’ recruiting team, Brian Fink focuses on driving talent towards opportunity. Whether helping startups ascend or enterprises adapt to the unknown, Fink works with innovators who can handle ambiguity of a constantly changing technology landscapes. His career includes 10+ years of successfully scaling IT, Recruiting, Big Data, Product, and Executive Leadership teams across North America. As an active keynote speaker and national commentator on recruiting trends and talent acquisition tactics, Fink focuses on client development, candidate engagement, organizational transformation, and recruiter education. Follow him on Brian Fink



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Brian Fink

Executive Recruiter. ✈ #ATL ↔ #SF ✈ Building companies is my favorite. Opinions are my own. Responsibility is freedom. 🖖