It’s tough to hire people. Everyone is giving you their very best face and their very best accomplishments on a piece of paper, and there are no high reliability methods for weeding out the best candidate. Unless it is someone with whom you worked in the past, you don’t really know any of the candidates, and usually they will all be total strangers. You can try to vet them through a background check and references, but a background check won’t really tell you if they are organized, skilled, or frankly competent. Their previous employer may have, um, issues (they are probably just as much of a stranger as the candidate, and you know even less about that manager since you don’t even have their resume). I can’t really give an answer that will make those problems go away – after all, we’re dealing with people here, and the variety is astounding – but I will be so presumptuous as to give a suggestion: Hire the one who really wants to work for you AND can do it well.
Why focus on the person who really wants to work for you? Well, you don’t want someone who isn’t enthusiastic about your company, your products, and your customers. Enthusiasm cannot be taught. It really can’t. It can be stirred up (think “Win one for the Gipper!!!”), but something has to be there for it to be stirred. However, you can teach Excel, Access, Oracle, and any other software out there. You can also teach filing, forklift operation, and dog grooming.
So, which is better, the candidate who has 95% of the qualifications, an odd undergrad degree, and an MBA (along with solid progressive work history) who has demonstrated a desire to work for your company, or someone with 100% of the qualifications, the “right” undergrad degree, and doesn’t particularly care about you or your company? They may not need quite so much training at the beginning, but whatever time you saved in those first few weeks will come back on you with mediocre work. Plus, you can negotiate salary more easily with the 95%er, rather than finding yourself against the wall with the one candidate who fit all of the criteria and you liked enough during the interview to bring into your life (and you better believe they will be in your life).
Having someone who cares about your company and can do the work should be awesome. So, why have so many companies fallen into the exact requirements match trap? Well, maybe it’s because that is the quickest way to narrow down the list of candidates for each job, but what have you done? You’ve focused your requirements down to where the only people who qualify will be bored, disenfranchised, and leave. That’s not smart recruiting. Someone with room to grow will be more engaged. If they are also really interested in your company, isn’t that even better?
Recruiters, please tell me in the comments the justification for filling a job with a candidate who has no room to grow within that job?