May 7, 2019

Quit Waiting for the Perfect Candidate — Hire the Acceptable Candidate Instead


Good talent is the top competitive advantage an organization can have, which is why it’s so important both to know when you’ve found the right person and to move quickly when you have them in your sights.

Unfortunately that’s harder than it sounds. Many companies struggle to choose the right candidate in a timely manner, which leads to serious staffing problems and lengthier hiring processes.

Let’s take a look at what’s going on and what employers can do about it, starting with one of the biggest problems keeping organizations from hiring top candidates: death by interview.

Death by Interview

Death by interview happens when a company hesitates to make a hiring decision. Instead, the hiring team puts candidates through a long series of interviews until circumstances force the company to make a choice.

Many employers think they’re being diligent by putting candidates through multiple interviews, but this tactic actually leads to lower-quality hires. Good candidates become frustrated after sitting through six, eight, or a dozen interviews without a decision. The candidates most worth hiring are least likely to put up with such a long interview process, because they’re most likely to receive offers from other companies in the meantime.

Not only does a long interview process almost guarantee a low-quality hire, but it also means the candidate you eventually do hire may feel resentful toward your company. If a candidate had to jump through an unreasonable number of hoops to get the role, they are not going to walk in the door their first day feeling excited and engaged.

Avoiding Death by Interview

Death by interview doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, it can be pretty easily avoided altogether. All your have to do is learn to recognize when you’ve found a candidate you can accept.

Understand the Personality You’re Looking For

Cultural fit is an important part of the hiring process, but many organizations misunderstand what it means. These organizations focus on shared values between candidate and company, which definitely matter, but they aren’t the most important thing in the cultural fit equation.

What is the most important thing? Making sure the new hire has the right personality for the workplace.

Let’s say you find a candidate who is perfect on paper. They have all the right skills, all the right qualifications, and all the right recommendations from top-tier employers. You might think you should swoop in and grab them before anybody else does.

Let’s not be so hasty. Maybe the candidate has a work style or personality type that would generate a lot of friction in your office. If the candidate is an independent type and the manager of the office has a short fuse, you might be setting yourself up for trouble if you hire them, no matter their qualifications.

Before heading into the hiring process, get to know the type of personality you’re looking for in a candidate. That way, when an applicant with that personality shows up in your pipeline, you know it’s time to pay attention.

Identify Ideal and Acceptable Qualifications

One of the major causes of death by interview is that companies are so caught up in the idea of hiring a “perfect” candidate that they won’t settle for a “good” candidate. Employers are so worried about making the wrong decision that they often don’t make any decision at all — until they’re forced to. By then, all the good candidates are probably gone.

It’s important to know what the ideal candidate looks like, of course. By all means, you should know what skills, qualifications, and personality traits your absolutely perfect candidate would have. However, you also need to be realistic. Odds are the ideal candidate doesn’t exist, or isn’t looking for a job right now, or would take so long to find that your company would be bleeding money by the time they surfaced.

In addition to understanding who your ideal candidate is, you should understand what an acceptable candidate looks like. An acceptable candidate is still very much a qualified candidate, but they are the kind of qualified candidate you could reasonably expect to find in the current job market. Once you have those acceptable requirements identified, you’ll be able to hire the right candidate as soon as they show up.

Talk to a Recruiter You Can Trust

Sometimes, the hiring process is a lot easier if you can have someone else take care of the early stages. The right recruiter can help you avoid death by interview by helping you identify what you need in a candidate and what you can accept in a new hire.

Not all recruiters are created equal. Some of them are just interested in finding a body to fill a chair — but some of them want help your organization find the best possible talent for now and the future.

If your company is struggling to make timely hires, find a recruiter you can depend on. They can help you understand what you can reasonably find on the market and where to look for those candidates. When your expectations are more aligned with reality and you have a recruiting partner by your side, you can kiss death by interview goodbye.

Jeffrey Audette is president of VMG Recruiting. Contact Jeff at [email protected].

Read more in Recruiting

Jeffrey Audette is the president of VMG Recruiting. With more than 25 years of experience in recruiting, Jeff has partnered with small, medium, and Fortune 500 firms, helping them find the talent they need. You can learn more at or contact Jeff at [email protected]