Stop Waiting For the Perfect Candidate

job interview competition


In this New York Times piece, Katherine Rampell describes the plight of job candidates being asked to return for 7 and 8 rounds of interviews before being offered (or, more often, denied) positions by their desired employers. With open positions in such short supply, many employers are taking advantage of the fact that job-seekers are willing to put up with extreme hiring scenarios and turn their pursuit of the perfect candidate into an all-out marathon.

These companies, though, are not improving their hiring or doing a better job bringing in candidates. Instead, they’re wasting their time, their candidates’ time, and they’re hurting their brand’s image.

Plenty of hiring managers have to learn to battle the feeling that if they just keep interviewing, their perfect candidate will walk through the door. Many fall into the trap of bringing in more and more qualified candidates, and always finding one reason or another to send them packing.

But hiring is just like dating – the perfect candidate is never going to arrive, because they don’t exist. Every person you interview for a job is going to have strengths and weaknesses. Smart hiring managers know you have to stop looking for the person with no weaknesses and start looking for the person who has the right strengths.

Even excellent job candidates will have slightly different experience than you had hoped for, but it doesn’t mean they can’t perform the job up to – or even exceeding – your expectations. Outstanding hiring should focus on finding the best people, not holding out for every specification in a job description.

And if you feel like you need a ton of interviews to determine if someone will be a good fit? That means your process is broken. No one needs 8 interviews to parse whether or not a candidate is a good fit, and anyone who does need that many really needs to rethink the quality of their interviewers. A day of on-site interviews – for just about any role – should suffice, and quality debrief meetings should help everyone get on the same page in an hour or less.

If your interviewers can’t make a yes-or-no decision after an hour with a candidate, they need to be coached on improving their interview questions and assessments. If your interview team can’t come to a conclusion after a day of interviews, they need a leader to keep debriefs on track and clarify company needs.

On top of being inefficient for your team and your candidates, excessive interviewing is bad PR for your company, too. Unless you’re one of a very select few companies, running candidates through a wringer of endless callbacks, interviews, phone screens, and long waits is going to make people frustrated. On the other hand, moving candidates swiftly through the hiring track and getting back to everyone promptly, no matter what, makes people think of you fondly.

Being a candidate is stressful, and people take notice when you make an effort to relieve that stress and treat them (and their time) with respect.

Next time you’re tempted to skip making a decision and bring a candidate in for another round of interviews, ask yourself – why? Is it because you don’t have enough information to make a decision, or are you unwilling to hire someone in hopes someone better comes along? Get used to the idea that you’re hiring people, then go with the best fit.

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