The question of what makes a good candidate for a job can be a subjective one. After all, about which job are we talking? And then beyond that, there is point of view. What makes a good candidate from the point of view of the employer and what makes a good candidate from the point of view of the search consultant attempting to help said employer fill their urgent, high-level job opening?
Hopefully, the answer for both sets of people will be the same. Unfortunately, though, that is not always the case. When that happens, tragedy can strike the recruiting and hiring process. When there is a disconnect regarding what makes a person a good candidate for a job, then it’s more likely that the right person will not be hired. (Not the best job candidate possible, at the very least.)
Asking your client what makes a good candidate
To help eliminate that disconnect between a professional recruiter or executive search consultant and their client, there are a couple of simple questions they can ask the hiring manager. The first question is before you’ve started to conduct the search:
“What makes the ideal candidate for this position?”
The second question is after you’ve started the search and you have presented several high-quality, on-target candidates:
“What makes the candidate a good fit for this job?”
These questions serve the purpose of ensuring that you and your client are “on the same page” and there is no miscommunication. However, since you’re the recruiter and the one who should be consulting their client about the intricacies of candidate suitability, you must have a crystal-clear idea of what makes a great candidate for a job.
To help us in the pursuit of this crystal-clear clarification, we’re going to enlist the expertise of Greg Doersching, award-winning recruiting and staffing industry expert and the President of Next Level Coaching. According to Greg, knowing what makes an ideal candidate for a job is essential to the ultimate success of the placement process.
“For over 25 years now, I’ve watched what we as recruiters go through every time we start to put a candidate in front of a client—the hours of talking, wheedling, begging, and convincing, all in search of the grand prize known as a placement,” he said. “All of it is so unnecessary if you simply understand and define what makes a good candidate.”
According to Greg, the ideal candidate isn’t just somebody who has all of the requisite skills and experience that the employer wants. That’s because there’s a little formality involved when it comes to actually hiring the person.
“To be a true candidate, that person has to be willing to accept the offer,” said Greg. “This is the part that most recruiters simply want to ignore, and it’s ultimately the cause of way too many sleepless nights. If you want to end those sleepless nights, enjoy more placements, and put more money in the bank, you need to redefine what makes a good candidate.”
Determining what makes a good candidate
According to Greg, there are three important criteria that makes a person a good candidate for a job:
#1—They must have at least 85% of the skills.
Here’s an easy way to think of it. List the top six things for which your client has asked. The candidates that you submit should be solid in at least five of those areas.
#2—Their money demands are within the employer’s salary range.
Ideally, their demands will fit squarely within the salary range that your client is willing to pay. Of course, we know that does not always happen, especially when you’re dealing with exceptional candidates. With that in mind, you might expect some “wiggle room” on the part of your employer, especially if it’s a candidate-driven market.
Greg recommends using this as a guide: if you candidate wants more than $5,000 over the high range, then your candidate wants more than your client is probably going to pay. This decreases the likelihood that the candidate would accept an offer.
#3—The candidate must be motivated by more than money.
Speaking of money, the candidate must be motivated to accept an offer by one major factor other than money. The reasoning behind this is simple. If money is the candidate’s primary motivator, then they will accept a counter-offer from their current employer if one is made to them. And in a candidate-driven market, counter-offers are more plentiful. In some instances, they’re practically expected.
What makes a great candidate for a job
Greg also recommends analyzing the last few leads that fell apart. Did the candidates pull out at the final interview or turn down the offer?
“If you honestly analyze what they were saying before you submitted them, I’ll bet all of them didn’t meet at least one of these criteria,” said Greg. “To be a true candidate, the person you intend to submit MUST meet these three criteria simultaneously.”
You’re probably familiar with the book Good to Great by James Collins. In this book, Collins discusses why some companies make the leap from good to great and some do not. In terms of this blog post, good candidates do not truly become great ones until they meet all of the criteria outlined above.
According to Greg, if you try using these three criteria for every candidate that you submit, you’ll see two things happen:
“First, you’ll be submitting fewer candidates because finding candidates who meet these criteria is more difficult than simply finding someone who has most of the skills for which the client has asked,” he said. “The second thing you’ll see happen is that you will absolutely make more placements!”
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