Top Reasons to Hire Someone Who Doesn’t Fit the Job Description

Is your hiring strategy open enough? There are plenty of candidates who can be a strong fit, even if they don’t fit the job description perfectly.

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Top Reasons To Hire Someone Who Doesn’t Fit the Job Description

Here's what you need to know:

  • Job fit can be a bigger factor in hiring success than ability or length of experience
  • Assess a candidate's fit by giving them real problems to solve in the roles they are applying for
  • Looks for self-motivated individuals who can prove they're successful, driven, and have a strong work ethic

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has made labor shortages that existed previously even worse. Millions of vacancies are causing employers to raise rates and look outside strict job description checkpoints to try to fill openings. Economists attribute these shortages to various factors. Border closures are curbing immigration. Large numbers of older workers are taking early retirement, and fewer younger workers are entering the workforce.

Hiring managers want to avoid hiring the wrong person for the job, and they try to find the candidate that meets every point on the job description. Unfortunately, in today’s labor market, the perfect match may not be out there. But plenty of candidates would fit your company culture, make valuable contributions, and grow into the role. It pays to change your hiring strategy and consider someone who doesn’t exactly fit the job description you created.

3 reasons to hire someone who doesn’t fit the job description

It’s a judgment call to hire for experience vs. hiring for potential. How can you know when to take a chance on an imperfect candidate?

According to experienced HR professionals like Kyle Cupp, certain situations make hiring an inexperienced candidate a good choice. Candidates with shared values, ability and willingness to learn, and translatable skills make experience less urgent. Here are some reasons why hiring “outside the box” can work out well.

Job fit matters more 

Someone who has solved similar business problems can be a great fit even without an exact experience match.

According to HR and hiring experts like Lou Adler, job fit is a bigger factor in hiring success than ability or length of experience. Adler emphasizes that good fit makes the best hires — fit with company culture, hiring manager’s style, and with the job. Look for candidates with proven track records of accomplishing what’s necessary in the new role. Someone who has solved similar business problems can be a great fit even without an exact experience match.

Adler recommends not hiring based on a strict list of skills and experiences in a job description — he advises using job fit for successful diversity hiring. Here’s how:

  • Find out if candidates have motivation to do the work in the role.
  • Discover how candidates want to be managed and if that fits with your organization’s managerial style.
  • Learn how candidates perceive the culture and pace of your organization.

A good fit with these factors can make for a good hire, even when the candidate doesn’t fit the job description.

Fit is important to candidates as well, as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes. SHRM recommends candidates consider good job fit over a great title, top salary, benefits, and incentives. Work that an employee enjoys and is challenging is better than work that wasn’t expected or isn’t supported. Ignoring poor fit can lead to frustration, job loss, and loss of referrals. Candidates who know their career goals and how they want to work will work for a good job fit while looking for a new position.

Experience doesn’t equal performance

HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan gives good reasons for not “demanding exaggerated levels of experience.” Studies show that experience doesn’t predict new hire success. Sullivan notes that high experience level requirements raise new-hire salary costs and reduce diversity in hiring.

He adds that highly experienced candidates may not be as flexible as those who are less experienced and eager to learn and grow in their roles. Experienced hires may have difficulty adjusting to a new company culture. They may not be happy with any loss of prestige or status. Additionally, years of experience may mean the candidate has not had to adjust to any major change for a while. A new employer, work environment, and management style will require adjustments in a new role. If those adjustments are difficult to make, it will affect productivity.

Years of experience are only valuable if they included high performance, growth, and continuous learning. They don’t automatically equate to performance in a new role. Sullivan suggests that, instead of reviewing past experience with candidates, hiring managers should assess their fit by giving them real problems to solve in the roles they are applying for.

Years of experience are only valuable if they included high performance, growth, and continuous learning.

Skills can be taught, but self-motivation can’t

Your hiring strategies should include hiring someone who doesn’t fit the job description because while skills can be taught, you generally can’t teach self-motivation. Dr. Sullivan recommends hiring self-motivated people for the long-term benefits it brings. That includes consistent high productivity and the good example they set for others around them. He describes self-motivated individuals as successful, driven, and having a strong work ethic. Hiring managers should look for referrals that describe them this way.

Ultimately, self-motivated individuals don’t need a lot of external rewards or monitoring. This saves you a lot of time and effort as they find their own motivation to continuously work and succeed. There’s no need for regular check-ins, constant reviews, or frequent correction. There’s no reason to search for more ways to get them to push harder or produce more. Even better? You can expect more productivity from the coworkers around them.

Look for “self-motivated” in resumes and cover letters. Ask candidates about self-motivation at work and in their personal life. Sullivan even recommends adding “self-motivation” in the job description. He says to request that candidates present proof of the trait in their application and interview.

Don’t limit your talent pool

HR and hiring professionals know that in a marketplace struggling to recover from a worldwide pandemic, ongoing recruiting difficulties require new and alternative hiring strategies. One of those is hiring people who don’t fit every part of the job description.

Has your organization been negatively impacted by pandemic-related hiring challenges? Is your company looking to improve diversity in hiring? Take a chance on candidates new to the field or type of role. Hire for potential rather than experience, as it can pay big dividends. In the modern competitive hiring market, don’t limit your talent pool by overlooking candidates who don’t fit the job description.

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