Ask any employer and they’ll likely admit that any recruitment drive they’ve initiated brings with it a potpourri of candidates – some more suitable for the job than others.

But what if that stack of CVs contains one candidate who fulfils many requirements, but, for some reason or other, is not a perfect fit? Does a ‘perfect’ candidate even exist? And when should you take a chance on a candidate who doesn’t appear to tick all your boxes on paper?

Lara Camilleri, Chief Operations Officer at Konnekt, explains that if a job description has 10 requirements, employers generally expect that candidates meet all of them.

“The reality is that sometimes this isn’t possible. They are either trying to incorporate too many conditions in one role, what we like to call a unicorn – a very, very rare and unlikely profile to find – or they are rigid about the candidate needing direct, first-hand experience in a specific area. However, there are many transferable skills that one might learn throughout their career that might easily be applied to the new opportunity,” she advises.

Lara says that the level of risk varies between industries, particularly when it comes to technical requirements. It’s acceptable to compromise on experiential requirements for roles that require organisational conscientiousness and soft skills, such as communication and customer orientation, “such as moving from a call centre environment to an account management role, or from account management to recruitment.”

“If the employer is looking to fill a technical role, depending on the level of seniority within the business, then it may be a different story. You would also need to assess the level of skill and knowledge that your team dynamic has. You might find a superstar who excels at one aspect of the job but is lacking in another aspect where colleagues could offer internal support,” says Lara.

This doesn’t apply to roles where the candidate works independently, however, such as a financial controller of a small business tasked with handling all aspects of the company’s finances. “In such a case it is very difficult to compromise on the experience needed,” she adds. “It’s important not to approach recruitment in a close-minded manner, and to remember that, as you are interviewing for talent, talent is also interviewing you.”

Lara Camilleri, COO at Konnekt

When should an employer take a leap of faith?

The COO says that, particularly in the case of junior candidates, one must consider their potential to grow and hunger to learn. But the situation is different when there are bigger shoes to fill.

Lara explains that, if there is real potential but a gap in knowledge or skills that can be learned – such as someone with sales acumen but who has never done sales – the gap can easily be filled with training. “Go for it, agree to a training plan, set a timeline and a goal, and run with it. But if the lack of fit is related to culture or a massive gap in technical know-how, especially in leadership roles, this is likely to be an issue.”

Culture and position are key

The topic of culture is also central to this debate. Lara highlights that culture is key, “it is the beating heart of the organisation. You can see a perfect CV on paper, meet a candidate who has the experience you’re looking for, but something isn’t quite right – perhaps their values don’t align with your company’s. This is a disaster waiting to happen. In my experience, these candidates tend to become the proverbial ‘bad apple’ who rot the rest of the team. So, when your gut tells you something isn’t quite right, listen to it – you’re probably on the right track.”

Filtering through applications becomes easier when ‘red flag’ criteria are established and applied to the recruitment process. But what constitutes a red flag to one employer may differ to another. To Lara, one such criteria is a habitual job hopper, “and is probably one of the single most common reasons why some candidates get shot down, unless of course, the stints were due to permanent contract work or a company closing down.”

She also can’t look beyond an inconsistent CV, featuring spelling mistakes, messy formatting and a lack of clear information on their previous roles and experience. “You can look past some errors, but if the CV is littered with mistakes, then to me the candidate is a ‘no go’. Conscientiousness is correlated to performance at work in most jobs, so lack of attention to detail on one’s CV does not bode well.”

Singling out some of the risks and benefits of taking that chance, the COO says depending on the level of the hire, the decision can be costly. “At a junior level certainly less so, however, at a senior level, an ill-equipped leader can be extremely destructive to the business.”

On the other hand, if a candidate has a different background, they could bring a fresh and interesting dynamic to the team. “Typically, this leads to more or better productivity and deliverables. If they have a unique skill set, this can significantly improve the team’s output.”


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