Less than Perfect may be Just Right

We all seek the “perfect employees” for our companies. In today’s business world of high unemployment, we sometimes assume we have a huge pool of talented and, hopefully, “perfect for us” employees from which to select.

Unfortunately, it is as elusive as ever to find that “perfect fit” for our companies. That’s one of the reasons clients use our services to “try out” potential employees prior to making their hiring decisions.

Interestingly, some of our most successful long-term hires and placements have been from the “less than perfect” candidates.

I’d like to share two personal success stories in which “less than perfect” candidates exceeded everyone’s expectations:

In the early 90s, the company I managed had a rigid required typing score before someone could be hired for an inside sales position. One applicant had the right personality and skill set except for her typing skills. Unfortunately, she could not meet the required typing score until those giving the typing test allowed her to take the test over and over until she finally passed…or so they finally confessed to me a couple of years later! This “less than perfect” candidate has worked for the company for 20 years and has enjoyed outstanding sales successes over the years.

Fifteen years ago, my brother turned 40, sold his auto parts business and called Big Sis to ask for help with preparing a resume for a position at a large manufacturing plant. He had been self-employed since high school as a farmer and later as a small business owner. The obvious questions/concerns for the prospective employer included:

  1. Why would he want to change from being self-employed for 20+ years to working for a large manufacturing corporation at age 40?

  2. Could he work for a “boss” after being his own “boss” for 20+ years?

  3. Could he possibly be a team player after years of owning a small business?

I knew his only chance of success was to get to the interview. His work experience would not get him there! We concentrated on preparing a cover letter that addressed the likely concerns, including the reasons for being interested in the position and the company. We listed non-work team activities on his resume that he had participated in over the years, including racing cars, playing football and adult softball.

We were disappointed when he was not among the first group to be selected. Just a week later, he called to tell me that additional hires were being made and he had a second chance. He was hired based on his personality, his attitude toward work and teams and on his experience with non-work team activities. He has been promoted several times, and continues to be one of the most popular and respected team members in his company. He plans to remain with the company for another 15 years meaning that he will retire with more than 30 years with the company for which he was not the perfect candidate!

Though an individual needs to have the basic skills, experience and personality fit for the job, the “less than perfect candidate” sometimes becomes a long-term, valued employee. Don’t rule out valid candidates without giving them a chance to explain why the job they are applying for is the right one for them at this point in their lives.

Julie Aguilar Principal, CSP

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