Recruiters Screening for the “Perfect” Candidate

By: Kevin Gorham
Additional Comments by: Fred Coon, CEO

Last week I attended the Arizona Society for Human Resources Management Conference (SHRM) in Phoenix, Arizona. This multiple day event brings together human resources professionals, subject matter experts, and nationally renowned keynote speakers. I took the opportunity to attend a number of sessions on recruiting strategy and to speak with several recruiters to learn how corporate recruiters and executive recruiters are approaching the search process.

Several trends were consistent throughout the conference. Candidates with the right skills continue to be scarce. Internal recruiting staffs are taxed with finding people with the right skills in a timely manner. As a result many are using specialized external recruiters to help with their most challenging positions.

In spite of the dwindling qualified candidate pools and insufficient recruiting staffs, there was a consistent message. “Don’t lower your standards and don’t compromise on candidates.”

Companies want the following from the “perfect candidate” and seem resistant to hiring someone with 80% of the qualifications: candidates who can get up-to-speed as quickly as possible, minimizing the time and expense of training or even assimilating the new hire into the organization.

HR is very leery of recommending any candidate who isn’t a perfect match for fear they will be held accountable for the bad hire. Hiring managers at the conference seem to share this fear universally. As a result, they are making “safe” choices by promoting someone internally rather than take a chance on an external hire.

Scott Smith of Tower Hunter, an executive search firm based in Phoenix, stated, “Our job is to eliminate candidates, not find them.” He feels that there are usually sufficient candidates for a position, but they must invest their efforts in eliminating all but that perfect candidate.

Fred Coon is often heard saying, “If a candidate feels that the recruiter is working for or with them, they are sadly mistaken. It is just not true.” The candidate is just one of many who will be considered in the selection/elimination process as the recruiter seeks to find that “perfect” person for the position.

The new and shocking news from the meeting is that in three separate presentations, the speakers, in consensus during the conference, said that “89% of an employee’s success is due to cultural fit.” They went even further and suggested that if the culture of the candidate’s last company isn’t the same as the company they are applying to, they should not be considered. My conclusion is that job seekers can expect employers to ask more questions about their previous company’s culture during the interview process.

What is the protocol for interviewing, given these developments?

  1. Analyze the job requirements carefully. Try to understand what they are asking for.
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  3. Address each job requirement separately and develop a SHARE© story for each one. Each SHARE© story must describe the following if you wish to be seen as a job applicant who can solve specific problems the company is facing (remember, they want problem solvers):
    • describe the situation or challenge you were addressing
    • describe the difficulty level to overcome that challenge
    • describe how you solved it
    • in one sentence, state the results (numerical value) of your actions
    • describe the EQ of “you” that allowed that solution to be successful
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  5. If you do not have a skill or experience, be able to articulate a plan for acquiring that skill/experience and how quickly you will be able to use it.
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  7. Be able to describe the culture of your previous employers and try to draw parallels to the company where you are interviewing. If you left your last company because of a negative culture or the company’s culture is nothing like the company where you are now interviewing, then you must seriously think about your answer. Consulting a professional at this point would be a wise move. You may be too close to the tree to see the forest. Always be prepared to detail what it is about the new company’s culture that attracted you and will allow you to excel and contribute to their culture and their growth objectives.
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  9. Create your own assimilation plan. Show HR and the hiring manager that you have already thought this out and they will have to expend little to no energy to support this plan. Prepare a 30-day and 60-day plan for learning the company’s 5-C’s: customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors and conditions. Also consider using a New Manager Assimilation Program, a process pioneered by GE.

By taking these actions as well as constantly communicating your value to the organization, recruiters are more likely to see you as the “perfect fit.”