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When hiring, look at the whole candidate, warts and all

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Hiring these days has been challenging. You would think that with so many people out of work it would be easier, but I haven’t found that to be the case. In fact, I’ve found it harder lately to find good candidates.

On the one hand, you have many overqualified folks willing to take lower-paying jobs and eager to get back to work. But that doesn’t always work to your benefit. When I go through the recruiting process, ultimately I’m trying to achieve the right team mix. And while someone might have the right pedigree on paper, the fit within the team and company environment is most important.

In the “old days” we used to rely on written or verbal references to help us screen prospective employees. Now we Google prospects and check their Twitter feeds to make sure that they haven’t done or said anything that would prevent us from hiring them.

You would think that candidates would know better these days than to post information online that could harm their chances of getting hired, but I’ll still never forget a woman that was high on my list of prospects a few years ago for a fairly senior job. The morning of her interview this woman posted on her blog that she was so hung over she hoped she could make it through the interview.

This posting showed up on her LinkedIn updates. So guess what? We canceled her interview and moved on. It bugs me that common sense seems to have gone by the wayside in many cases. 

And while there are so many tools to screen candidates, I’ve still found that old-school tactics work best.

Take for instance a more recent recruiting example. We had two final candidates, one of whom was much stronger on paper and had several awards and achievements on his record. The other candidate had a lesser academic pedigree, but excellent experience.

After several in-person interviews we took both candidates to lunch (separately, of course) as part of their interview process. The first candidate (the one with the better résumé and more achievements) snapped at the waitress on two occasions. This person was great during the interview but had terrible social skills and obviously would not be easy to work with.

The other candidate was a total delight to be around. This candidate asked great questions, listened to the conversation and was excellent at interacting with the team.

Ultimately you’ll need to make your own call, but I’ve found that while pedigree is important, the fit within your team environment is most critical.

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