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Is Your Ideal Candidate a Unicorn?

For the last decade, recruiters have been in a unique position to watch the job market turn truly candidate-driven. At the height of the last recession, companies who posted a specific opening immediately had 5 (or 500) perfect candidates at their door who had been laid off. Now, candidates have the upper hand. The best candidates are employed and paid well, or they’re able to command strong counter-offers, or they’re leaving for better opportunities.

It’s clear that the new reality has not sunk in. Often, one of our recruiters will present a great candidate to a client only to hear that they’d like to see a comparison candidate before making a decision. This delay often means starting the process over, because today’s actively looking candidates will most likely accept another job offer within weeks or days.

Time for a reality-check

We’re beginning to see some progress with companies recognizing the reality of the current labor market. But, some hiring managers are not ready to let go of their memory of those days where they had a choice between those five perfect candidates. As a result, there seems to be multiple unrealistic job requirements in which companies are looking for a perfect candidate who meets every bullet on their entire wish list. Or, as people in the recruiting industry are saying these days, “Companies want us to find a purple squirrel.”

Sometimes it feels like we’re looking for something even harder to find than a squirrel—a unicorn, maybe, with 7.2 years of experience, no visible piercings, and an Ivy League education. Anybody know one?

Why not build a bridge across candidate skill gaps?

A troubling trend in candidate selection is the zero tolerance approach to specific software experience. Here’s a specific example we recently experienced. A few weeks ago, one of our recruiters had been working with a new client. To help them with an issue, the recruiter needed to take a crash course in their processes and learn their CRM software in two days. Prior to this, they had never laid eyes on the program. After playing with the new system for about two hours, our recruiter felt that they had a firm grasp on the CRM system and could navigate it seamlessly. In a short amount of time, they were strong in the new system, with minimal training. Unfortunately, our client turned down many great candidates due to their lack of experience with the specific program.

Review (and rethink?) your job descriptions

We’re certainly not suggesting that you fill electrical engineering jobs with CPAs. The critical core competencies that your positions require should hold steady. However, keeping the software example in mind, we would like to challenge any company that is having trouble filling a position to take a hard look at the job description, and decide whether a candidate really needs to meet EVERY qualification in order to be successful in the role.

Don’t take our word for it on this topic. We found an article in Harvard Business Review that comes to some of the same conclusions that we made in this article. Happy Hiring!

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