5 Ways to Overcome the ‘Perfect Candidate’ Syndrome

org chart for sourcingDoes it seem like your clients are dragging their feet when it comes to hiring? It’s not your imagination. According to The New York Times, it is taking companies an average of 23 business days to fill vacancies compared with just 15 days in 2009, and the duration of the interview process at major companies like Starbucks, General Mills, and Southwest Airlines has nearly doubled since 2010.

Many employers blame it on a lack of skilled labor. While that may be true in some sectors, it appears that the real problem is that many companies don’t really want to hire in this uncertain economy, so if they have to hire, they will only settle for the “perfect candidate.”

This can be very frustrating for you as a recruiter, especially when a client keeps asking for more candidates after you feel you have provided some great options. A  poll conducted by Top Echelon Network found that “taking too long to extend an offer” was the biggest problem recruiters are encountering with clients.

So what is the solution? There is no easy answer, but here are some tips that can help:

  1. Ask clients for an estimated timeframe before taking on a search assignment.
  2. Make sure you understand what the client’s definition of a perfect candidate is so you can be sure to present the best candidates.
  3. Point out the drawbacks of a lengthy hiring process. Good candidates can get fed up and bow out, or they may get hired by someone else. A job that has been posted too long can even discourage good candidates from applying. A Randstad survey showed that candidates start to think something is wrong with a job posting once it has been up for more than 72 days. Meanwhile, there is work that is not getting done, opportunities that are being lost, and current employees who are getting burnt out while your client searches for the elusive perfect candidate.
  4. Employers these days are looking for such specific skills that often the only perfect candidate is someone who has already done the job. But skills can be taught. Point out the intangibles candidates possess that can’t be taught, such as positive attitude, proven track record, flexibility, and critical thinking skills.
  5. When clients want additional candidates, you may have to broaden your search. Here are a few groups you may want to take a closer look at:
    1. Veterans. Skills they learned in the military, such as structure, discipline, supervisory leadership, and organizational abilities, can be a great asset to any business. Many veterans also have had technical training with computers and electronics.
    2. People with disabilities. This is a huge, mostly untapped resource of highly intelligent, degreed professionals. Many can work with minimal accommodations.
    3. Retirees. Many need or want to continue working. Their experience, knowledge, skills, and work ethic can be tremendous resources. Retiree re-staffing is becoming more common for contract placements.

The truth is, your client’s version of the perfect candidate may not exist or may cost too much time and money to find. And even if they do find someone who appears to be perfect on paper, that person may not live up to expectations on the job.

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When you present a candidate you feel strongly will be a good fit, you may want to suggest that the client “try-before-they-buy” through a contract-to-direct arrangement. In this scenario, the worker is employed by a contracting back-office during a trial period. These arrangements can last anywhere from three to nine months. Many clients consider them to be a working interview. If they like what they see, they can extend a direct hire offer. If the candidate does not meet expectations, they can end the contract assignment and try another candidate.

It may be tempting for your clients to play it safe in this economy. But by doing so, they could be missing out on great talent. By offering candidates on a contract-to-direct basis, you can help them find the true perfect fit for their company without the risk of immediately hiring direct.

Debbie Fledderjohann is president of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc., the recruiter's back-office solution. The company was founded in 1992 and places technical, professional and healthcare contractors in 49 states. Top Echelon Contracting helps recruiters make contract placements and handles all of the legal, financial, and administrative details. They also become the legal employer and take care of the employee paperwork, legal contracts, time sheet collection, payroll processing, payroll funding, tax withholding, benefits, workers compensation coverage, invoicing, collections, background checks, etc.

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