The 2014 Job Preparedness Indicator study conducted by the Career Advisory Board confirmed previous reports that a skills gap exists at all levels of U.S. employment. Only 7 percent of hiring managers said that “nearly all” or “most” job seekers have the right combination of skills and traits that their companies need to fill open positions. This belief causes them to spend months interviewing candidates, often walking away without having hired anyone at all.
What’s interesting, though, is that the hiring managers in the study also said that they commonly see essential, individual skills – such as accountability, problem-solving, and time management – among candidates.
What does this mean? I’d speculate that although hiring managers recognize stellar traits when they see them, they won’t settle for anyone who isn’t the perfect package.
I think that sometimes, hiring managers forget that they are dealing with human beings. And human beings simply aren’t equipped to be all things to all people all the time. For example, you could bring in a candidate who has the exact experience you’re looking for and appears to have a strong work ethic, but her verbal communication isn’t top-notch because she’s not a native English speaker. Or maybe you get that native English-speaker who uses correct grammar in everyday conversation and has the best employment track record you’ve ever seen, but her experience isn’t in your industry.
I’d argue that given the skills gap, you ought to seriously consider both of these individuals. And yet more often than not, hiring managers don’t. They remove them from consideration because in an endless series of qualification boxes, one isn’t checked. They don’t hire anyone because candidates for which every single box is checked don’t exist. The expectation that they do is unreasonable.
What’s a Hiring Manager to Do?
The first step is to perform the usual hiring due diligence. Talk with internal stakeholders who will interface with the person in the new position and get a consensus on the most essential skills and traits the successful candidate should have. Rank order these in order of importance, and make sure you communicate them clearly when you advertise the position.
Second, create rating sheets for your interviewers so that candidates are evaluated by the same criteria, and so that everyone understands what’s a “deal-breaker” versus a “nice-to-have.” For instance, your rating sheets should indicate that it’s critical for a candidate to have technical skills (let’s say with a particular software program), and you’d prefer if s/he has an understanding of general accounting practices. The software skill is a must-have for hiring, general accounting knowledge is not.
Keep an Open Mind
Third, be amenable to molding promising candidates into ideal employees. Research illustrates that today’s employers don’t want to spend time and money training people, but this is silly. Instead of insisting that a candidate come to you with every skill polished and ready to go, evaluate how easy or difficult it will be to get that person up to speed on the job. Industry-specific knowledge, for example, can be taught if someone has already mastered the basics of a role. However, important traits like accountability and integrity tend to be more innate and are not so easily acquired.
Finally, be aware of your own unconscious biases. It’s a natural impulse to want to hire people who are like us, but you won’t find a clone of yourself no matter how hard you try. And sorry, but this is probably for the best. Diversity is essential to an organization’s well-being and innovation, and sometimes, the best contributions come from new hires with the skillsets you weren’t expecting or looking for.
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