Taking a Chance in Your Hiring Decisions — Polished? or Rough?

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Editor’s note: We all have had a talent slip through our hands that went unrecognized at the time. It’s easy to recognize a diamond — but what about a diamond-in-the-rough? How we recognize them has a lot to do with the risk we are willing to take in leading such a talent to their best capabilities… How we don’t recognize them, is what Nadia shares…

Taking a chance is not something everyone does without taking on some risk Most will heed the advice of hiring the candidate who best fits a specific job, and not necessarily the candidate who comes across as the “smartest.” This is excellent advice, but let’s take things a step further. When making hiring decisions, hiring managers will approach “best fit” from various perspectives, so suggesting that you go for “best fit” isn’t necessarily as straightforward a tactic as you would think. Using too strict criteria often means you’ll lose out on diamonds in the rough, candidates whose resumes you’d initially toss out because they don’t fit into your “best fit” box.

So what do I mean by diamonds in the rough? Just like you shouldn’t hire based on perceived intelligence, sometimes you shouldn’t necessarily hire based solely on appropriate experience. Experience, simply put, can be gained by anyone, but spending several years doing a specific type of job does not necessarily speak to the quality of that person’s work. I can be a very experienced PR professional on paper, but what if I spent ten of those years listed on my resume in mediocrity, muddling along in one PR position or another?

What is one personal very powerful quality that hiring managers overlook far too often? Passion! Unlike experience, passion cannot be magically created, nor, as with energy, can it be destroyed. A candidate with little or even no experience, who exhibits an energy for the job and an interest in continually learning on the job will be a much better bet, long-term, than a seasoned professional who is seeking security and not a challenge.

Anecdote: I once knew a hiring manager who worked for a small-town Chamber of Commerce. He needed to hire both a director and a secretary. A young woman who had about two years of experience doing administrative work for a private elementary school applied for the secretarial position, after being fired from her previous job because of insubordination. The hiring manager ended up giving the woman the director position. Why? My friend, the hiring manager, said that just after talking for a few minutes he knew that she would fail terribly at another administrative position. She was a talker, opinionated, strong, and incredibly well-spoken. The hiring manager felt that taking a chance on her as a director, he felt that she would take the reins at the Chamber of Commerce. She just needed the opportunity to lead in order to excel. And excel she did.

Passion is also a somewhat intangible quality that can easily be faked in an interview, so “passion” shouldn’t necessarily be the only thing you should focus on, or even the primary thing. In the end, if you use a cookie-cutter approach to hiring, you’ll end up getting cookie-cutter employees. When looking beyond the best-fit, sometimes it pays to take a chance.

What do you think? What do you look for when evaluating candidates, and is there room for more flexibility in your approach?

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Nadia Jones

Nadia blogs at Online College [ www dot onlinecollege dot org] about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics
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