Searching for Perfect Candidate May Miss the Perfect Match

When hiring managers begin to write the list of qualifications, they build lists of everything they think they want in a candidate. It's a process not unlike building a dating profile; pulling characteristics out of the air to describe the perfect match. In dating, people tend to understand that finding someone who matches that description is unlikely. When they find someone they like, it is almost a coincidence when they match even the broadest elements of the original profile.

By contrast, hiring managers frequently use far less latitude in their candidate searches. The descriptions involve far more precise requirements and they are less likely to waiver on them should someone outside of the criteria apply.

"Using vetting of candidates based on stringent requirements can keep out the candidates who have no place in an organization, but there isn't an automated filter that is going to increase your ability to identify, much less attract impact players to your organization," says Rob Romaine, president of MRINetwork. "There isn't an accredited Master of Innovative Thinking degree or Doctorate of Self Starting, and a resume that claims someone has such qualities only means they know those skills are important."

The 8.2 percent national unemployment rate, and even the 3.9 percent bachelor's degree and higher unemployment rate, seem to still give employers a false sense of plentiful candidate supply. It's like the man stranded on a tropical island, surrounded by salt water - yet dying of thirst.

"In the early days of the recession, we saw amazing candidate availability. Top candidates truly were victims of circumstance - doing great work but losing their positions regardless - and became available on the active candidate market," notes Romaine. "But a type of reverse osmosis has had time to set in. The most desirable candidates found new positions. Today's unemployed population - especially the professional space - largely consists of people whose skills and education doesn't match with the needs of the marketplace.

More than 22 percent of the U.S. workforce is in a professional or related occupation, but less than 11 percent of the 12.2 million people unemployed in May have professional experience. That translates to just 1.3 million lawyers, engineers, economists, computer programmers and more who are unemployed today and actively looking for a job. If you widen the net to include managers and financial professionals, the statistic grows to 38 percent of the U.S. workforce but still less than 19 percent of the unemployed population.

"When talking casually to hiring managers they know how tight the market is, they understand that of the 1.3 million professionals who are unemployed, they are unlikely to find that one person with fifteen years of wind propulsion experience who is willing to relocate to them," says Romaine. "But as soon hiring a candidate leaves the abstract and interviews are being conducted, managers start looking at the 8.2 percent unemployment rate or the 17.9 underemployment rate and hold out for a candidate who matches the detailed profile they've written. By holding the line so tightly, though, they will often overlook someone who could actually be their perfect match."