When to Take a Chance on an Imperfect Job Candidate

By Kaitlin Hurtado on May 20, 2024

Even the most seasoned job recruiters can face difficulty filling up an open position. If you find yourself ruling every hiring decision by a long and strict list of criteria, you may find yourself facing little to no options for candidates to hire. Rather than setting off to find the perfect employee from the get-go, focus on potential as you work with candidates to see if they can be the right fit for the position.

Photo: Pexels

Sort your priorities from the “wishes”

For applicants, job postings can be daunting. A long, exhaustive list of “requirements” can discourage an applicant if there’s even just one requirement they cannot meet with their current experience and skill set. The longer your list of requirements, the higher the risk of it looking unrealistic to prospective job candidates.

It may be too late to rework your job posting, but you can definitely alter the way you evaluate your current pool of candidates. Rather than checking to see if any candidate fits the long list of requirements and qualifications, look at a candidate’s qualifications to see how they match up to what you are looking for in an employee.

What qualifications and skills do you consider essential for a candidate to be successful? What qualifications would be great, but could also be learned on the jobs for candidates that demonstrate potential for growth? Consider the current team’s top performers – what do they have in common? How can potential new hires demonstrate an ability to be the same type of employee as your top performers?

Understand the circumstances around the open position

Every hiring situation is unique. You may be hiring for a position where the expectation is for the new hire to hit the ground running and be able to meet the job expectations with little to no training. In these situations, you may be prioritizing a job candidate who fits your list of requirements from the get-go. In other situations, you may be looking to fill a position in a growing team, where the potential is going to be something heavily valued in any new hire. In this situation, you may be more likely to pick a candidate that doesn’t exactly fit your list of requirements.

Employees who display room for growth can give the team and company a chance to train employees with habits and skills they value greatly, making them successful employees.

Let interviews do the talking

There’s only so much information that a candidate can present in a resume or cover letter. With that being said, try to avoid making hiring decisions solely on your first impression of a cover letter and resume – interviews are an essential part of the job hiring process for a reason. An applicant may not highlight specific skills or experience in their resume and cover letter that you could discover through more thorough job interviews.

Come into interviews with an open mind and a readiness to learn more about the candidate and their potential to fit the role, rather than being set on evaluating if they meet a set list of criteria. Of course, use the information presented in their cover letter and resume to help guide the conversation, but use it as more of a stepping stone to see where your candidate has room to grow or where there are “holes” in information you want to learn more about.

This can be especially helpful with candidates who do not have as much experience in the field you are hiring for. Use the interview as an opportunity to ask questions about their prior experience to evaluate what skills are transferrable and how their past experience can help them in the position you are hiring for.

Evaluate growth and potential

At the end of the day, you want to hire someone who will be successful in the position you are looking to fill. While an imperfect job candidate may not be successful from the moment of hiring, they have the potential to grow on the job and become successful. Look for qualities in candidates that could make them a great asset to the company – agility, dependability, and positivity are just a few of the many qualities successful employees have.

If a job candidate demonstrates a positive attitude and is a fast learner, they can become a valuable employee with some time and training on the job. Knowledge is always something that can be acquired – do not let a candidate’s lack of it make you lose out on a potentially great employee.

When you come across an application that doesn’t meet all your requirements, don’t be so quick to dismiss the candidate. Instead, take some time to consider the potential the candidate brings to the table – they may just end up being the type of job candidate you are looking for after all.

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