Can we talk for a second? I promise I’ll be quick. But I think we need to have an important discussion so I can let you in on an undeniable truth. Ready? Well, here it is.

There are no perfect candidates.

Now before you break out the kerosene, torches and pitchforks and call me a heretic, please hear me out.

You probably did something in your job today that you’ve never done before.
Jobs evolve, as do people. We bring a certain skill set to the table that becomes the baseline for our growth. But because jobs change very quickly, we can’t possibly capture all the experiences and skills we think are critical. Doubt this? Just look at your own “official” job description. I’d bet a family sized pack of Stouffer’s Salisbury Steak that your “official” job description only captures a fraction of both what you do and what you are capable of doing. Why? Because responsibilities change quickly based on who occupies the job. Smart, capable people adapt to their ever-changing environment, constantly learning new skills and performing at a high level. They do more that what is required. Just like you do.

Successful recruiting is about recognizing and acting on trade-offs.
Most people look to hire people in their own image. There are many problems with this to begin with, but the biggest is not recognizing that the path that got you to where you are is unique. How did you become the guy with outstanding Java programming skills and an expert in topological knot theory, with the savvy to negotiate a multimillion dollar deal and the ability to execute a perfect subcuticular suture? Because of your own unique path. Consequently, trying to find an exact replica of you is a little nutty. Sometimes employees who need replacing were unique. And (even worse) sometimes we create new positions requiring the sum of many hopes, dreams and “preferreds” – with a little pixie dust sprinkled on top for good measure – and end up chasing Purple Squirrels. To assume your unique experiences and skill set exists in abundance in the marketplace is – at best – naïve. The trick is recognizing the absolute requirements and seeing in the candidate the potential to learn the rest. Trade offs.

Oh, and did I mention that assumption is the mother of all screw ups? Thanks Dad. I use that saying more often than I should have to.

Experience can be overrated.
Just because you’ve had a driver’s license for 30 years doesn’t mean you are a good driver. And if we remember that we did something today that we’ve never done before, we can quickly realize that it’s more our ability to be successful in the face of something new that makes us truly exceptional. Now, I’m not saying I want a rookie doctor performing my surgery. But one of the things I’d be looking for in my doc is the ability to respond to some “holy crap, I’ve never seen this before” moment in the middle of a procedure and still have me on my feed and out the door by 4:30pm. Finding a doctor that has experience and exposure to everything is impossible. But finding a capable and competent doctor who both wicked smart and who has succeeded in the face of the unknown isn’t.

Inclusive or exclusive?
Simply put, do you try to keep people out because they aren’t “perfect?” Or do you try to see how people might be able to add perspective and diversity and value to your team and broader organization? It sounds simple, but this change in elevation can make a world of difference in how you recruit and ultimately who you hire. Some experience is absolutely critical. But some isn’t. Industry experience may be a requirement for some jobs. But for the accountant? For the receptionist? I worked once with an organization who required its Project Managers to have some sort of technical degree in Chemistry. And the majority of the job was – get this – taking notes and helping their teams meet milestones. Good thing they could recite the Periodic Table. I’m sure they used that every day.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Tradeoffs. It’s all about tradeoffs. In that, you may find someone who becomes indispensable.

Almost even perfect.

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