Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Don’t scare the unicorn: Tips for finding and hiring the perfect candidate

Today’s guest post is written by a well-qualified, slightly perplexed 20-something job seeker. He has asked to remain anonymous.

A buyers’ market for workers right now means you can be choosy, but it can also make finding the perfect candidate that much harder. Careless errors brought on by interview fatigue can keep you from landing the best and the brightest. Don’t let these mistakes prevent you from finding your dream applicant.

Don’t become disorganized.

Last week I called “Lisa” to ask if she’d made a decision yet. She told me she’s getting more resumes now than at any more point in the last 25 years and so she was having a hard time winnowing the field. She put me on hold for five minutes to search for my file, only to come back and tell me I hadn’t made it into the top applicant pool. Five hours later she e-mailed me to apologize. She’d been looking at the wrong person’s file. I was in the top tier after all.

Mistakes like Lisa’s happen all the time. You confuse two Megans or you put one person’s resume in another person’s file. At best, this only wastes a little time. At worst, you can end up rejecting your dream applicant by mistake or even losing their resume entirely. Even with the deluge of candidates, take the time to get organized. Make sure every resume is clearly labeled— whether you’re storing it electronically or printing it out. Keep the files of excellent candidates sequestered from the maybe pile. And don’t keep easy rejections hanging around. They’ll only add to the clutter.

Don’t forget to read resumes before you interview someone.

“Who the hell are you and what in the world makes you think you can work here?” asked “Bob” as he fretfully pawed through my resume and writing samples. This wasn’t some way-out screening technique. He really didn’t know.

Bob’s boss had called me in for an interview and decided at the last minute that I should meet Bob too, since he’d be my manager if I were hired. Bob bounded in and sat down without a clue and trusted me to fill him in on the details. That might sound efficient, but it’s really just the opposite. I had to waste most of my time with Bob going over career basics. He had almost no time to ask me real questions that could give him a feel for whether or not I was the right guy for the job.

If you get surprised by an applicant, don’t feel the need to rush in right away. Your candidate won’t hold it against you if you’re a little late. Take five minutes: read their resume and come up with a few questions to guide the interview. By taking charge of the conversation, you can get to information that matters most to you and get a better sense of what it’d be like to work with this person.

Don’t say more than you mean to.

“The internal politics here are really complicated. How are you at handling that kind of environment?”  “Dave” asked. “How complicated are we talking?” I asked back. Dave proceeded to name names, telling me who was rude to junior staff, who couldn’t be bothered to show up before 11 a.m. and who was just impossible to work with no matter what time it was.

Dave’s question was well intentioned, but poorly phrased. First, he made the company sound like a nightmare. Second, Dave showed me that he was a bit of a gossip and that other employees routinely got the better of him. Did I really want to work at a Machiavellian palace for a guy with this level of subtlety?

Don’t let your questions tell the applicant too much about the company’s internal workings. Instead, try asking them to tell you about times they’ve had to handle a difficult situation. Ask them how they react to stress. Ask them about a time they’ve shown leadership. You’ll sound like you’re interested in grooming them for something important and not like you’re a leading them down a dark path. Most importantly, do your best to make the company sound like a great place to work, if only so you don’t give confidential information away to an outsider.