Too many modern recruiters behave as though they think that filling an open position is the business equivalent to replacing an auto part. You have a list of qualifications, and you simply look for the one candidate that fits all of your criteria.

But what happens when that perfect candidate just doesn’t appear? The Career Advisory Board, in its 2014 study on Job Preparedness Indicators, reports that this occurs more and more often. In fact, only 7 percent of all hiring managers say that most of their applicants are good fits vis-à-vis hiring criteria. For example, an applicant may fit most criteria, but may be a non-native English speaker who lacks some needed communication skills. Another candidate may be an excellent communicator, but comes up short in one or more other categories.

So, where does that leave you? Too often, hiring managers give up their search because they can’t find a candidate who matches every aspect of the job description. Meanwhile, suitable, talented applicants go without work, or continue to be underemployed. This indicates that there may be an opportunity for a win–win, instead of the current lose–lose situation. Why not consider highly qualified – but not perfect – candidates for a position that will otherwise go unfilled?

To help overcome the rough spots in resumes and skill sets, establish a pre-employment assessment program for candidates that look “close,” but not quite right. This requires a slight change in strategy for the hiring manager. It’s worthwhile when skills assessments and more extensive interviewing reveal important qualities that were overlooked initially, when job criteria alone were used as the sole filter of incoming talent.

Rather than looking at the totality of the traits required and allowing a single empty “check box” on your list of needed qualities to trigger an automatic disqualification, why not prioritize those traits, with essential qualities being weighted more heavily than non-essential ones? Candidates who can supply all or most of the essential qualities would then be assessed for job preparedness.

Creative thinking is sure to provide other strategies that could prevent the months-long fruitless searches that often end as a permanent vacancy on a company’s job roster. By viewing candidates as humans with potential, instead of static “parts” of the corporate machine, hiring managers can leave some room for candidates to grow and surprise them. Meanwhile, companies can benefit from “close enough” hires who develop on the job, as they fill vacancies and help to maximize the potential of their teams.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.


  • Avatar Lily White says:

    From my point of view, there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate – it’s something ephemeral and mythical to me, because every person is an individual with unique character. People weren’t specifically brought up to match your requirements.

  • Avatar Mandy L. says:

    Sometimes recruiters forget that they are dealing with human beings who can’t meet every recruiter’s expectations because one simply can’t please everyone. It’s not worth wasting a really good candidate over a small drawbacks or gaps in a resume.

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