Are You Too Picky? How Lofty Recruiting Standards Can Actually Work Against You

As our nation’s economy continues to recover from its Recession-era slump, businesses are increasing their hiring to keep up with market demand. While this trend is in many ways positive, it also means hiring managers can’t afford to be as picky – there aren’t as many unemployed PhDs desperate for part-time minimum wage jobs as there were six years ago, and with the availability of top talent so limited being too picky can actually hurt your recruitment efforts and cause delays in filling key positions. Adopting highly selective standards can be a bad idea for the following reasons.

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You’ll Lose Qualified Candidates

No matter what kind of business your company is in, dragging out the hiring process while you search for the ideal candidate can mean that you lose top candidates. When you wait too long to make a decision, some candidates will accept other positions.

You’ll Eventually Be Forced to Accept Less Qualified Candidates

When the top candidates accept other positions, you’re left with a pool of candidates who don’t have as much experience or as many skills. Eventually, you may be forced to choose from these applicants because the job must be filled. Although your intention is to find the perfect candidate, now you have to settle for a “good enough” applicant.

Recruitment Costs Will Increase

When looking for the perfect candidate, it makes sense to use every available medium to advertise. If you don’t find the ideal person, you may continue to place more ads and spend even more money. Those costs add up, but they aren’t the only costs involved.

Peter Cappelli, management professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania discussed the issue of costs in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton. He believes that internal accounting systems in most organizations are very poor. As a result, companies don’t understand the true costs of keeping a position vacant and mistakenly believe that they can save money if a position remains unfilled for a long period of time.

Job Seekers Will No Longer View Your Company as Desirable

Job seekers pay attention when companies post the same ad month after month, and start to wonder why your company is having such a hard time filling the position. Do you have impossible expectations? Is the inability to find a candidate symptomatic of your company’s inability to make decisions quickly? People will notice when your pickiness results in inaction, which may affect their impression of your company.

What to Do?

If you wait long enough, the ideal candidate may eventually appear, or you may realize that you missed opportunities to hire people who had many of the skills you need. If insisting on perfection has cost you qualified job candidates, there’s a few things you can do.

  • Identify the skills that are absolutely necessary to perform the job and those that would be helpful. Be happy if a candidate possesses skills in both categories, but don’t reject an applicant because he or she is missing skills that are merely helpful.
  • Make training a priority. Don’t overlook candidates who could be top performers with a little coaching or training. Cappelli notes that many businesses don’t know how much it costs to train employees versus hiring employees already doing the same kind of work for a competitor. Comparing those costs may make hiring an employee with less experience a more attractive option, particularly if you follow his suggestion and initially offer a lower salary while new employees receive the training they need.
  • Change your image. If you’ve gotten a reputation as a company that only hires superheroes, it’s time to make changes to your brand messaging. Shorten the hiring process and emphasize your desire to find employees willing to grow with the company on your HR website and social media sites.

Every business wants perfect employees, but few people can attain perfection without a little help. If you use realistic standards when hiring and are willing to train employees, you just might discover that it’s easier to find quality employees who can help your company grow.


Don Charlton is the founder and Chief Product Officer at Jazz.

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