Over the years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and asked thousands of interview questions on my quest to find right-fit talent. One of my mentors once pointed out that all these interview questions boil down to two raw questions that both sides are trying to answer.
1. Can they/I do the job?
2. Do I like them?
In my experience, two general observations hold true. First, most companies are stuck on the side of “Can they do the job?” This means they are looking for candidates who check all the boxes—someone who has this particular degree with these many years of experience in that specific type of industry, and so on.
Now I completely understand why we do this. If we as an organization can find someone that checks all the boxes, it lowers the risk. If the new hire doesn’t work out, well, the onus isn’t on the hiring manager or the organization because this person had all the “right” qualifications—as in, whatever had been required to do the job in the past. And if we can find a candidate that checks all the boxes, some would say this increases their probability of success.
And yet, as for my second observation, as I have sat down across the table from job seekers/transitioners to ask what’s next, where are you headed, why do/did you want to leave—their responses usually land on the “Do I like them?” side of the equation. Very rarely does a person seek to make a change because “I can’t do this job.” In fact, most are exceeding expectations. However, engagement—call it synergy, respect, enjoyment of the company or position—has been lost. So as talented professionals look for the next opportunity, they are far more focused on answering the question, “Do I like this employer” than they are on “Can I do the job.” They know they can do the job. What they need to discover is a company they can get behind—the “right fit” employer.
So, what if you are an organization that is primarily concerned about finding those resumes that check all the boxes? What kind of talent might you be missing? What kind of perception have you created in the marketplace because talent knows you’re a “check the boxes” employer, and now they don’t even apply?
I am reminded on a weekly basis, as I meet with skilled and passionate job seekers, how excellent talent is being passed up because of the systems we have created—checking the boxes. I’m hearing the frustrations from professionals who are trying to get out of one industry and into another but don’t check that box, so they never get a conversation.
Yes, I know there are some positions in which you need industry experience, but how did those people get that experience? They weren’t born with it. I think we often try to cover ourselves instead of taking a risk. Has someone ever taken a risk on you, and you proved them right? We say we want innovation and diversity, but if we never look beyond the boxes, we’re going to struggle to achieve it.
You can check all the qualifications boxes and still end up with the wrong fit. So why not seek first the right fit—Do I like them?—and put your mutual respect to work for the good of the entire organization. Remember, we cannot train for character, personality or passion. But we can train for skills. Employers who get this are headed toward greater long-term success and sustainability. And in today’s competitive marketplace, that is a key advantage indeed.