Why You Won’t Find Your Ideal Candidate


Even though the recession is fading into somewhat of a bad memory, some effects of the global downturn still linger in the practices of many companies. Nowhere is this recession mindset stronger than with hiring. Many companies had to make tough staffing decisions during the recession and, needless to say,they were more worried about the bottom line than finding great talent.

But now that the dust has settled, a new problem has emerged and that problem has to do with hiring.

The Endless Quest for the Ideal Candidate

Instead of hiring to make things easier on their shorthanded staff, many hiring managers continue to turn down any applicant that isn’t the absolute picture of perfection, AKA their “Ideal Candidate.” While this sitting-on-your-hands approach to hiring might have been viable back when the sky was falling, passing up great candidates simply because they don’t live up to your “ideal candidate” is plain foolish.

Perhaps of the reasons that employee engagement is at an all time low is that these companies continue to sail on with a skeleton crew when they really need to stop at the nearest port and invest in a few good hands.

But enough with the sailing metaphors. The bottom line is that there is a hiring problem in the United States. One of the most common complaints that we hear from employers in the recruiting industry is that they can’t seem to find any qualified candidates. Not exceptional candidates. Not superstar talent. Qualified, as in “competent or knowledgeable to do something; capable.”

While there may indeed be a skill gap that exists in this country’s job market, I find it impossible to believe that with just over 10 million Americans out of work, that these people can’t find a single person who is even qualified for the job. It just doesn’t add up.

The problem, as I see it, isn’t a lack of skilled professionals out there, it’s inflation. Now, that’s not economic inflation I’m talking about, it’s the inflation of the expectations of employers. While having high hiring standards is nothing new, the scarcity mindset of the recession has mutated what was a healthy defense mechanism for organizations against unqualified candidates into a gauntlet which hardly any job seekers can run.

You want the best in your next hire, so why are you turning down the best applicant that came in without a second thought?

Your Ideal Candidate Doesn’t Exist

If you think that holding out for your ideal candidate is the way to go, I’ve got news for you: your ideal candidate doesn’t exist. You need to have expectations, but you also need to make sure that those expectations aren’t excluding 99% of the professionals out there.

Instead of your ideal candidate being a detriment to your hiring, use that ideal to your advantage. Instead of your job description being an impossibly long list of required skills and experience,  gear your job description toward what you think your ideal candidate wants out of their next job.

The opportunities for professional growth that the work and your company offer, the highly driven team that they’ll be leading. By marketing your next job in this way, you increase the likelihood that someone similar to your ideal will end up applying.

Yes, comparing candidates against your ideal hire can be a useful evaluation tool, just don’t let what you consider to be “qualified” stray too far from what’s realistic or necessary for performing well in that role. Remember, you want to attract Mr./Ms. right, not discourage everyone from applying in the first place.


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