Companies Must Align Their ‘Candidate Wish-List’ with Market Reality

We’re all familiar with the popular TV show House Hunters. Individuals or couples from various walks of life embark on a mission to find the perfect home.  Armed with a litany of must-haves and like-to-haves, the happy house hunters hire a Realtor to aid them in their search for their dream estate.  It’s not uncommon for the house hunters’ dream home requirements to be laughably ambitious based on their budget, desired location, housing market conditions, and other key factors.

Aligning the 'candidate wish list' with market reality will provide access to a more desirable candidate pool and result in a better hire.
Aligning the ‘candidate wish list’ with market reality will provide access to a more desirable candidate pool and result in a better hire.

HR professionals, in-house recruiters, and external firms often find themselves in a similar situation; they are tasked by a hiring manager with finding the ideal candidate.  Such requests often come with a long list of nice-to-haves and an even longer list of must-haves.  In an ideal situation, the manager’s “candidate wish list” aligns with the available market it terms of talent supply, total compensation offerings, and demographic data, such as education, experience, and recent job titles.

Unfortunately, there are times when recruiters find themselves in the unenviable position of being tasked with finding a candidate when the workforce data points noted above are out of alignment with the manager’s requests. For example, being asked to find a senior technical professional with brand new industry certifications, exposure to certain complex work assignments, the ability to travel up to 50%, and who possesses an advanced degree for less than established total market compensation. And, by the way, this rare, flawless, diamond of a candidate (who will accept less compensation), must be sourced, screened, interviewed, hired, and have worked through their two week notice period within four weeks in order to start by the deadline.

Good luck, right? However, respected HR professionals and recruiters recognize that matching the right candidate with the right opportunity is rarely the matter of a lucky break or a fluke change in the talent environment. Nor do they intend to hold their breath waiting for a sudden glut of super-talented techies who are willing to take a considerable cut in pay – college loan, mortgage payment, and car note be damned.

In fact, respected recruiting consultants with large networks of carefully vetted and cultivated contacts would be unwilling to jeopardize their relationships with these professionals by presenting an opportunity that at best would be considered undesirable and, at worst, taken as an insult.  Well-respected recruiting firms would rank such a request very low on the list or decline to work it at all; why use their resources on an opportunity that would turn up no viable prospects or candidates with a reputation for poor performance?

Thus, an attempt to outsource this type of opportunity would most likely be undertaken by inexperienced or shady recruiters and headhunters that have given the profession its bad name.   Inexperienced recruiters are unfamiliar with the talent market and will troll through job boards, post ineffective advertisements, and then flood the hiring manager’s inbox with misfits in hopes that one will be a winner.  Even worse, unscrupulous headhunters may present the hiring manager with legitimate fits who they have misled about the compensation or other realities of the position.  Particularly unethical headhunters may give a hiring manager the impression that a candidate has more experience than he/she has in order to have a shot at earning their commission.

By crafting an unrealistic wish-list of candidate “must-haves”, the hiring manager has essentially placed their organization in a bad position, resulting in the following undesirable side-effects:

  1. Being viewed as the company to avoid. People talk. Once word gets out into the niche community of talent you’re trying to tap into that your company is out-of-whack with the market, you’ll have a tough time attracting candidates even once you’ve made adjustments to the requirements.  They’ll tune out any opportunity presented from internal recruiters or external headhunters. “Oh, those people are still hiring for that job. Must be something wrong with the position. I won’t risk it. I’ll send their calls to voicemail.”
  2. Having to deal with multiple, sub-tier, headhunting firms.  What’s worse than dealing with one bottom tier headhunter? Dealing with two or more.  Unwillingness to thoughtfully analyze your requirements and make meaningful adjustments to align with the market could mean that you find yourself throwing the job opportunity out to any headhunter who’s willing to take a crack at it. Just understand that these headhunters are talking to the same people and will send you the same candidates to sift through.  This is not only a huge time-waster for all parties, but a detriment to the company’s reputation. Meanwhile, respectable firms will diplomatically decline to source for the position to focus their efforts on opportunities they perceive to be a win-win for their clients and prospects.
  3. Missing out on the right person for the job.  Most likely, there are several individuals who could be ideal for the position you have available, and, most importantly, would view it as the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.  Yet, with misaligned criteria, you’ll miss the opportunity to interact with top talent because he/she is missing a specification that you’ve placed as a must-have. A better use of time and resources might be locating the most well-rounded candidate possible and creating a development plan to bridge any skill gaps.

There’s nothing wrong with having a wish list of criteria for the ideal candidate. Yet organizations and their hiring managers must understand the talent market in their field and how their “must-have” list of requirements and the organizations own structure (job titles, education requirements, and total compensation package) will impact their ability to find the right fit for the position. Failure to properly analyze the talent market and align job requirements with their findings can result in a difficult, exhausting, and extended hiring process, damaging their reputation among talent in their field, and, worst of all, missing out on the great talent their competitors will happily pick up.

Part 2 of this series will provide HR and Recruiting professionals with information on how to effectively use recruiting intelligence (analytics) to drive the talent acquisition process.