Don’t Search for Unicorn Candidates
You’re on the hunt for the perfect candidate. You wrote a job description that reads like a dream. You post it on your career site, LinkedIn and Indeed and…nothing happens. What went wrong? You probably fell victim to the classic mistake of searching for a unicorn candidate to join your team instead of a proven problem solver that addresses your true business objectives. For small and emerging growth companies, people are obviously everything. Making the wrong hire will set you back many critical months, cost you immeasurable time and money, and will damage your culture. Don’t make the mistake of ensuring a new candidate checks all of your boxes, as many as there are. Identify, evaluate, and select the candidate who has proven to learn, can adapt to different business models, and can effectively communicate HOW they achieved results. Hire an individual who is a proven problem solver.
Too much specificity about the solution can mean you are not focused enough on the actual business problem. Talent from various backgrounds could be ideal for your team, and too much specificity shuts the door on candidates with a diverse experience. From overly detailed qualification lists, to idealized years of experience, to a degree that just doesn’t matter, to meeting certain assessment criteria, there are many ways that your job listing might be repelling good people.
Don’t view recruitment as a search for unicorn candidates. Here’s why.
Unicorns Don’t Exist, and Unrealistic Qualifications Repel Good Candidates
Hiring a great candidate is just like finding a great relationship. If you look for perfection, you’ll never find it. When you focus on finding a unicorn candidate, it’s likely that you won’t find them and will waste extensive time doing so. Overly optimistic opportunity descriptions can actually repel people who are mostly qualified from applying. The best candidates come from environments that don’t identify talent in this manner, and will either simply not show interest or get frustrated with your process very quickly.
For small businesses and emerging growth companies, you need to be realistic. Are you prepared to offer an overqualified person a competitive package that could sway them away from a job at a FAANG like company? And more importantly, is that candidate truly going to be motivated to accelerate your business and feel invested in the vision? Focus on problem solvers, diverse experience, and above all else REAL RESULTS!
It is also important to be very careful with the subliminal message you are communicating via the job description. If you describe a need for a “Jack or Jill of all trades,” it sends a signal that you don’t really know what you need. Applicants may get the hint that you’re looking for someone to wear multiple hats or solve massive problems that you can’t even articulate in a job listing.
It’s okay to be specific about the skills that are absolutely essential for the job. But before posting the listing, ask yourself if any of the qualifications are unrealistic or nice-to-have rather than essential. You may be surprised at some of the great candidates that apply when you craft a reasonable and specific job description.
Candidates Are Not Solutions
As a business trying to attract talent and build a sustainable team, you need to begin the recruitment process with a deep understanding of what type of problem you’re facing. You need to have an idea of the kind of expertise and personality type that could successfully grapple with the problem. Then, you need to attract, evaluate, and select the candidate who not only has the capabilities and capacity but also the desire to work with your team and advance your business.
You should never invite in a candidate without a clear understanding of the problem you are asking them to solve. Candidates are not solutions, they are people. If as a small business, you treat your talent as a cog in your machine, you will limit their creativity. If you already know what solution you need, then pay for software that can do it automatically or outsource to a specialized consultant. Don’t expect or more importantly seek candidates to fit exactly into the boxes you have created for them. In fact, the faster you eliminate the boxes for your people, the better!
Hire People Who Can Learn and Adapt
Now that you are no longer looking for a unicorn, you can look for the personality traits and results that actually make for a successful team member. You should hire a proven problem solver who has demonstrated the ability to learn and adapt. In addition to their qualifications, your new employee needs to apply their previous experiences to your business model. They should be positive, curious, and honest with the ability to learn new skills.
This is especially critical for small and high-growth companies. People are a critical investment in the business, and the right employees can provide more flexibility for your growing business. It’s a much better investment to choose someone who is teachable and adaptable than someone who has all the standard qualifications but is unwilling to learn.\
So don’t waste your time looking for a unicorn. Make the most of your time by ensuring that you understand what your business needs before you begin the recruitment phase. Then, focus on finding a real person who will grow and thrive in your company as part of a team of adaptive problem-solvers. Remember, unicorns don’t exist but great talent does.
About Bell Falls Search
Bell Falls Search is an Executive Search firm that partners with Small Businesses and Emerging Growth Companies to build self sustainable Talent Attraction solutions.
Our team has accomplished this across a wide range of industries, functional expertise and experience levels…and we have the case studies to prove it!
Contact Ron Laneve to learn how Bell Falls Search can help with your Talent growth goals.