How employers might be overlooking the perfect candidate

By February 24, 2014 Hiring & Recruiting
A selection of smiling business candidates

Employers love to complain that they just can’t find good help these days. But are you actually overlooking the perfect candidates?

Going through piles of resumes can be exhausting. You’ve got to cull the herd. We do this by immediately rejecting certain people. Typo in the resume? That goes straight into the trash. The guy’s been out of work for a year? Well, you’re not going to be the one to hire him.

Unfortunately, this knee jerk rejection method might be costing you.

I recently gave you a list of the five people you should never hire under any circumstances. Now, to follow up, here’s a list of the candidates you shouldn’t immediately overlook, because you might miss someone great.

The unemployed person: The bias against the unemployed has gotten a little out of hand, with almost half of employers saying in a recent survey that they prefer job seekers who are currently employed. I get it. You don’t want what no one else wants, and maybe there is a good reason that someone is unemployed. But it’s unfair to leave people lurching in a vicious cycle where they can’t find a job because they don’t already have one. And if that doesn’t sway you – because, who are you? Gandhi? -– consider how grateful someone might be if you gave them a job when no one else would. I was in this position years ago, and when I finally did find work, I bet I worked harder than anyone ever had at that company, because there was no way I was going back to being unemployed. If someone is unemployed, ask about it. But don’t throw out their resume right away.

The person who doesn’t have five years of experience in your industry: You’re busy. You want someone who knows your business. But you might wind up waiting a long time for someone who fits all your skills requirements and has five years of experience in dietary supplement marketing or construction apparel product development. Matching skills in another industry can be more than enough if a candidate is willing to learn what they need to know. You might find that investing in their training is well worth it.

The person with a typo in their cover letter: This comes up again and again, whenever I poll hiring managers for reasons they immediately dismiss candidates. A typo supposedly indicates that the person doesn’t pay attention to detail. But, be realistic. You know what happens when you’re sending out resumes and cover letters. You spend hours modifying them for specific jobs, going over them again and again, and trying to see the impression you’re making. Your eyes start to cross. Finally, you hit send, and realize your letter says, “I working in dietary supplement marketing for five years….” Dammit.

I can understand skipping typo people if you’re hiring an editor. But otherwise, you might want to give them a break. It’s a typo. How many have you made over the course of your career?

The person who doesn’t list a university degree: Yes, if they don’t list a degree there’s a pretty good chance they don’t have one. But do they need one? Maybe if you’re hiring a surgeon. But people are self-taught in all kinds of fields these days, or have learned on the job. I know college teachers, researchers, fundraisers, business managers, software developers, editors, designers, and people in many other positions who either don’t have degrees or whose degrees are in something completely different from what they do.

There was a time when a lot of information was only available in a school or library setting. Now, you can learn literally everything you need to know online. Just because someone doesn’t have a degree in something doesn’t mean they’re not an expert. Steve Jobs didn’t have a degree. Neither does Richard Branson.

The person whose resume doesn’t match the job description exactly: Employers ask a lot these days in the job descriptions, often demanding skills and experience far beyond what should be expected of any single person. Peter Cappelli, author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, says, “For every story about an employer who can’t find qualified applicants, there’s a counterbalancing tale about an employer with ridiculous hiring requirements.”

The takeaway: If you’ve been through 20 interviews and can’t find the person with the right combination of skills and qualifications, maybe the problem isn’t them, maybe it’s you.

The next time you’re about to immediately reject a candidate for one of these reasons, take another look. You might be glad you did.


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