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Ditch the Shopping List and Find the Real Talent



ditch your shopping list

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that hiring managers nowadays have a heck of a lot more choice when it comes to candidates than they did five years ago. If you’ve been hiring staff for long enough to remember the days when your HR team’s lovingly crafted job ad produced a sum total of one response, or when both the candidates you finally managed to find for an interview got offers from your competitors before they even left your offices, you can be excused for feeling a little giddy when faced with what seems to be a huge selection of well-qualified candidates.

As a result, the temptation is to really go to town with your shopping list of requirements. Previous ‘nice to haves’ morph into ‘must haves’, and before you know it, you’re looking for ‘a qualified Financial Accountant with between 4 ½ and 6 ¾ years experience in an international retailer, experience using [insert obscure system here], ability to speak fluent Farsi, and red hair’.

I jest. But only a little (I haven’t had a client specify hair colour. Yet).  Now, there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations. It’s a great time to capitalise on a job market that’s working in your favour and populate your ranks with some really top notch talent. But here’s the thing: Just because you can demand everything under the sun, doesn’t mean you should.

Focusing on the details of experience (years, industry background, systems skills and so on) might cause you to miss the bigger picture. Remember that creative approach to hiring you mastered back when talent was scarce? You considered not only what the candidate had already done, but what they had the potential to do. You really honed in on the important, intangible stuff – team fit, shared values, career goals that align with the progression path on offer, a track record of progression, ‘soft skills’.

That approach is as relevant as ever. It shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘needs must’ reaction to a tough labour market, but as hiring best practice, whatever the market’s doing.

Without that approach, you run the very real risk of hiring someone for the job who ticks all the experience boxes, but who is completely wrong for your company culture, or who leaves as soon as the market turns because they’re not challenged enough. You’ll be doing yourself the huge disservice of overlooking the real talent.

Of course, none of this good stuff can be divined from a CV, so what’s a hard-pressed hiring manager without the time to phone screen hundreds of applicants to do? Take the time before you start hiring to think long and hard about what ‘intangibles’ someone who will succeed in your role will possess, then take recommendations from employees, past colleagues and recruitment partners who really understand you and your business – they’re all more likely to really ‘get’ what you’re looking for. Keep an open mind and ask the right questions.

Ditch the shopping list and I bet you’ll be pleased you did.

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Ellen Williams

About Ellen Williams

Ellen started in the recruitment game in 2003 and is a Senior Consultant with Consult Recruitment, a specialist accounting recruitment firm.  She has two little kids, a serious caffeine problem (no coincidence) and gets a ridiculous amount of pleasure out of helping people make great career and hiring decisions.

View all posts by Ellen Williams →

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