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Hunting for Gems


Be honest now.  Can you truthfully say that your selection process is not only well-defined but realistic, too?  I pose this question because, sadly, over the past fifteen years I perceive that many recruiters have become tunnel-visioned to a dangerous extent and, as a result, they are missing out on some first-class candidates, which is bad news for both recruiters and candidates alike. 


I was fortunate enough to start my HR career when it was a “sellers’ market”.  This might sound a strange thing to say but it did teach me the importance of truly understanding the skills and experience required when evaluating candidates for the vacancies for which I was recruiting.  I learnt to differentiate between essential, desirable and generic skills.  I learnt to identify those candidates whose skills and experience were transferable and I learnt that the person whose profile fits the job 100% would probably get bored and leave within a short space of time or else they would be clamouring for promotion within three months of joining.  I’m all for career progression but let’s get past induction! 


The worrying scenario which can occur today is an inability to “think outside the envelope” when it comes to matching the applicant to the job.  I applaud those who take recruitment seriously and want to ensure that the best candidate is recruited but it is still possible to achieve this aim without imposing overly rigid requirements.  Granted there are some roles where specialist experience is of over-riding importance.  In the medical profession, there are generalists and specialists and I certainly wouldn’t want a specialist in ears, nose and throat removing my appendix but roles do exist where a cross-section of people can possess relevant skills and experience. 


An Accountant, for example, has highly transferable skills across diverse organisations.  If s/he were applying for an accountancy position in a bio-tech company, would it really be absolutely essential that they had previous experience in this particular industry?  If they have the required experience, abilities, attitude and financial skills is this not sufficient?  Organisational cultural fit might be a more relevant pre-requisite but are there not other industries with a similar company culture to that found in bio-tech?   Is experience in the same industry really essential or is it simply a case of knowing the jargon?  Jargon can be learnt.  After all, we do it all the time.  With the continual introduction of new technology we have become adept at expanding our vocabulary to discuss with ease the features of the latest gadget.


“But it takes time”, you might argue, “to get people to understand our terminology and processes”.  Then consider what it is you can offer this new recruit which expands their knowledge and maintains their interest.  If their new job is virtually a replica of their old one, for how long will it challenge them and keep them within the company?  If the key requirements of the job and person profile have been addressed, then allow yourself (and them) some room to manoeuvre. 


Finally, never forget that it is easier to train someone to learn and utilise a new skill, than it is to bring about behavioural change.  You may have someone who is very adept at their specialist skill but problematic as an employee.  Enthusiasm, willingness to learn and adapt and a co-operative attitude are valuable commodities in any candidate so just think carefully before sifting out any candidates who might not be an absolutely perfect fit.  You might be losing out on a real gem.

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"The worrying scenario which can occur today is an inability to “think outside the envelope” when it comes to matching the applicant to the job."