Relax Your Hiring Constraints

Gerwig 2014-11-10

At first glance, the title of this article might make you cringe. If you’re in the business of securing talent, as I am, don’t you want the best? Why would I ask you to lower your standards and “settle” for a less desirable job candidate? That’s just it, I’m not. What I am suggesting is that you need to have appropriate, realistic job requirements (what I’m calling hiring constraints) that don’t constrain your search unnecessarily. Let me explain.

For nearly 30 years I’ve been involved directly or indirectly in talent management. Hiring. Firing. Growing. Stretching. Developing. Identifying. As a global operations executive, I’ve come to appreciate and value the necessity of hiring, motivating and growing key talent. Most of you would agree that organizations rise and fall based on successfully managing talent.

Whether you’re an Apple product designer, a Google engineer, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist, a Citigroup account executive, a Manchester United striker, or something else, your IQ and EQ influence the success of your organization. Taken a step further, your organization’s collective IQ and EQ determine its overall success. Simply put, world-class organizations have great talent. And they enjoy that talent because they’ve grown it internally or secured it externally (actually, it’s almost always a combination of the two).

So, do your homework. Determine the job requirements but separate out the “must haves” from the “nice to haves.” You need to have a high bar, but you must also be realistic. If you set the bar too high or make it too specific, you’ll overly constrain the candidate pool to your own detriment and frustration.

On a regular basis, I see this played out. Recruiters, headhunters, and hiring managers get frustrated because they can’t find the talent they need. Articles are written daily about how there is a global shortage of talent. Other articles lament the talent shortage in a given country or industry.

But more often than not, what I observe is that the recruiter and hiring manager (or both) have overly constrained their search. They not only want an engineering manager, they want an engineering manager with a mechanical engineering degree from MIT, with an MBA from Stanford, with 15 years of experience deploying the Toyota Production System at a Korean automotive manufacturing site (e.g. Hyundai), with KUKA robotics experience, etc. I could continue, but you get the idea.

Yes, perhaps some of the constraints are necessary, such as an engineering degree and TPS experience. But what if someone has an industrial engineering degree from Clemson or a mechanical engineering degree from Georgia Tech? Are you really going to rule them out without considering their overall skills, experience, and organizational fit?

Another observation I’ve made in the last 30 years is that many organizations are less willing (even unwilling) to provide training, especially for experienced professionals. In the example above, what if you found a candidate with great EQ who met all your technical criteria except they had limited KUKA robotics experience. Is that truly a non-starter? Can you provide them some training on KUKA robots?

Like you, I’ve read some job specifications that left me wondering if there was even 1 candidate in the world who met all the requirements. Relax your hiring constraints. Spend time determining those that are truly “must haves.” But remember that for every “nice to have” you list as a “must have,” you’re eliminating who-knows-how-many great candidates.

When I hire, after identifying “must haves,” I look for organizational fit and high EQ over nearly everything else. And if someone has high EQ and meshes with the organization, I can train and develop them. On the other hand, if they have all technical skills and “must haves” but lack EQ and organizational fit, their performance and that of the overall organization will not be optimized.

What is your story?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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