Why You Should Consider Imperfect Candidates

Find out why imperfect candidates may be a better fit for your company than you think.

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Why You Should Consider Imperfect Candidates

Every hiring manager wants to find the absolute best candidate that they can for an open position at their company. But is the best way to do that by finding someone who meets as many of the job’s requirements as possible? The answer is actually no.

If you want to find the best new hires for your company, you should be strongly considering “imperfect” candidates. What does that mean and why on Earth would anyone do that? Here are a few compelling reasons why.

The perfect candidate doesn’t exist

When it comes down to it, a completely perfect candidate simply doesn’t exist. Even if you do find someone with exactly the skills and experience you’re looking for, who says they’re going to take your offer? Maybe they want a certain amount of money and it simply isn’t in the budget for the company right now.

Even if someone meets every criterion of a job posting, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be a perfect employee. So why not back some flexibility and room for surprise into the process?

Looking for perfect candidates will drive down your diversity

You’ve probably heard somewhere that men apply to a job when they meet an average of 60% of the criteria while women hold out for much closer to 100% of the qualifications. As Tara Sophia Mohr wrote in Harvard Business Review, she found through survey results that 22% of women avoided applying to a job if they didn’t meet all of the qualifications. They felt like they would be putting themselves out there just to fail. Just 13% of men cited the same reason.

Further, Mohr found that 15% of the women who responded to her survey said they strictly follow a job posting’s guidelines about who should apply. Only 8% of men, she found, do the same. “Unsurprisingly,” Mohr wrote, “given how much girls are socialized to follow the rules, a habit of ‘following the guidelines’ was a more significant barrier to applying for women than men.”

When hiring managers look for perfect candidates, chances are the pool is going to have many more men — and probably white men. If you want to increase your company’s diversity, then start looking at applicants who don’t meet every single bullet on a job posting.

Imperfect candidates can bring something new to your company

There’s a reason that businesses are beginning to look for candidates who are a “culture add” rather than a culture fit. It makes sense that companies want to hire for culture fit — someone who fits into the way you do things, especially when it comes to values. But the problem is that when everyone is the same or similar, they’ll tend to see things the same way too.

Innovation relies on people seeing things differently than everyone else. Especially if your company values disruption and doing things differently, employees who are different from each other support that. The same is true with candidates and job postings. If you’re only looking at candidates who meet all the requirements, you’ll be looking at a pool of candidates who are all the same.

If you’re only looking at candidates who meet all the requirements, you’ll be looking at a pool of candidates who are all the same.

Plus, at the application stage, you’re just looking for the right people to interview. It’s in the interview stage that you really learn about a candidate. This is when you’ll get a chance to ask them about their skills and experience and how they see themselves applying those things at your company or in their particular role. Give people the chance to explain themselves and you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

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Capacity and potential can mean more than skills and experience

Relying on perfect candidates who bring all the skills and experience you need to the table can actually cover up a serious managerial problem.

Rather than looking strictly at skills and experience, find ways to assess a candidate’s capacity for learning and potential for growth.

It’s the job of managers to develop and coach employees. Managers help the people on their teams become not only better at their jobs, but develop professionally as well. If you have a manager who relies on everyone coming in and knowing exactly what they’re doing, you could be missing the bigger picture.

Effective managers and leaders know how to develop people. That means that with the right capacity and potential, even “imperfect” candidates can become amazing employees. Rather than looking strictly at skills and experience, find ways to assess a candidate’s capacity for learning and potential for growth.

Not only does this mean that they’ll be able to learn the hard skills necessary for the job, but that they’ll be able to grow beyond that position as well. Someone who has spent their entire career excelling at 1 or 2 things might meet all your criteria, but that could be where their contributions end.

It’s not that hiring imperfect candidates isn’t daunting or scary — it’s always a challenge to deviate from the way things have always been done. But, from a homogenous company to a lack of innovation, there’s a lot that you lose when you don’t consider “imperfect” candidates.

Making a change doesn’t mean diving into the deep end. Try adding just 1 or 2 imperfect candidates to the interview queue and take it from there. There’s a good chance that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

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