Good on paper?
When you’re looking for the perfect fit for your team and you’re swamped with applications, what do you do? Draw up a ‘wish list’ of experience, attributes and qualifications and check candidates against it methodically? Cut down that pile of CVs in one go because some candidates failed to obtain an A in ‘A’ level Maths? Only hire from your direct competitors to ensure relevant industry and market knowledge? Or do you try a different tack? Avoid drawing up a strict role profile because skills are probably transferable? Give people the benefit of the doubt? Interview as many candidates as possible because you’ll know the right candidate when you see them?
The crux of the matter is this: you want to find the right candidates quickly, but don’t want to let potential hidden gems slip through your fingers in the meantime. And there’s a clear balance to be struck between finding someone who ticks the right boxes, and taking a chance on a candidate who might unusually, unexpectedly, be what you’re looking for. It’s a potential battle of skills versus attitude, of head versus heart, of a safe bet versus a left-field choice. In her neverending quest for romantic fulfillment, Sex and the City’s Carrie sums up one dating dilemma thus: “The good on paper guy is the man with everything you should want, but you run from him to have a fling with a biker who owns nothing and doesn’t have a checking account”.
Hiring decisions are, happily, usually subject to less impulse and inner turmoil than matters of the heart, but the chemistry between employer and applicant can be something of an inexact science, and hard to predict.
So what’s the answer? It’s a tricky one, but my advice would probably be to draw up a reasonably detailed profile based on the real requirements of the job, but don’t feel you have to stick to that too stringently. Rather than employers opting for those that have previously ‘done the job’ or have x years’ experience in a given function, we’re seeing an increasing openness to candidates who show that they’re willing and able to hit the ground running. That can apply when looking at candidates who are making the jump across sectors, but it’s particularly relevant at Graduate level, where there really is the potential to train and mould candidates to your corporate values and ways of working. Feedback from our clients really shows that bright grads slot into a team, bring fresh ideas and prove a great future investment. In short, don’t be afraid to rethink what you’re looking for if you find a candidate with the ‘X factor’ – and the right attitude. Good on paper is good, but it’s not everything.
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Jo Lynas is an account manager on the Graduate Team