From Applicant to Candidate

What is the hiring agent really looking for in an applicant?  There are two answers:

#1 – The best match possible to the skills, ability, knowledge and experiences closest to what the open job requires, both short term and longer term

#2 – The best possible fit to the culture, peer team and client organization

#1 is much more objective.  A hiring agent can easily identify the key requirements of the job, then clearly assess whether or not an applicant is meeting those criteria.  It’s pretty hard for an applicant to fake a requirement like:  “5 years of corporate level accounting experience, as a CPA, in a $ 1 billion consumer products company supervising at least 2 professionals”.  What’s more difficult is to assess the applicant’s longer term potential.  This is where the judgment and experience of the hiring manager comes into play.

#2 is much more subjective.  There are, however, certain traits that the hiring agent should be looking for in an applicant.  The key is how well applicants relate to the hiring manager, his or her current team, boss and internal or external customers.  The task of the interviewer is to penetrate the façade of the applicant to find the “real” person; the one who can either be a productive team player or a problem child.  This is easier said than done.  Here are some things to look for in an applicant:

  1. Passion:  How much passion does the applicant demonstrate?  Is the passion only centered on getting a job or what can be achieved for the organization?
  2. Business Acumen:  Does the applicant understand how the function adds value to the business?  Can they integrate the functional needs into the business needs?
  3. Insightful questions:  Do they ask terrific questions about the business and the short-term needs of the function or do they ask about benefits and vacation?
  4. Broader than the function:  Does the applicant relate to the broader business issues?  Can they relate to the needs of the internal customers they will be serving?
  5. Successes and failures.  Can the applicant honestly talk about their mistakes and successes?  How do they deal with negatives?  Stress?  Are they hiding something?
  6. Aware of issues/opportunities:  What does the applicant know about the issues and opportunities within the industry company and function?  Short and long term?
  7. Strategy:  Can they create a vision, strategy and a plan to achieve results?  Are they a leader or a follower?  How would they approach the issues within the open position?

You can always find the quality candidates within a long list of applicants.  You just need to dig through the pile of resumes to find those who come close to the requirements in #1:  The objective criteria that match the job to be filled.  Only when you match the more subjective criteria within #2 will you find the high potential candidate for the job.

If you don’t have both, you won’t have the right the person for the position.

Contact Bill Kaufmann with questions or comments:

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