The “Essentialism” of Hiring

As a hiring leader, it’s a good problem when you can’t decide between two or three fantastic candidates for an essential role on your team. Unfortunately, that “problem” doesn’t happen often enough.

What is more likely to occur is to have a pool of candidates who fall a bit more toward the middle of the pack. You don’t want to commit to hiring one of them just yet, because your instincts are to “keep someone warm” until a better candidate comes along. But is that the best thing to do for you or the candidate?

As described by Greg McKeown in his current best-seller, Essentialism, narrowing choices to the critical few is important if you want to have the desired outcome. In his example, he describes having to choose only a select number of applicants for a program. He rated each applicant on a number of criteria and those who scored 9-10 were automatically in. Those who scored 6 or below were obviously out. But what to do with those who scored 7-8? McKeown suggests that if you’re on the fence, it may be better to move on to find the right fit.

The same is true when hiring. Everyone is looking for the very best candidate for a role, and the person who is best depends on more than just skills and experience  – culture fit matters. When we work with a company, we create a Success Profile to help the entire interview team understand what is essential for a person to succeed in the role. This way, everyone knows what they are evaluating, and you have a better candidate pool to choose from, and can more easily determine who falls into that 9-10 rating.

But what about those who are good – but not an obviously great choice? First, you must be clear about why that candidate has landed on the fence. Is it because of skills or cultural fit? If it’s a skill set issue, seek additional information to confirm their skills. You may want to request a writing assignment or presentation; have additional people interview the candidate; or seek references for those areas of concern. If it’s a culture fit issue, determine if there is anything that can better demonstrate their personal style. References may be a good solution here as well.

Once you’ve obtained additional evidence, discuss with your recruiter what’s really at the heart of your uncertainty. If you’re still on the fence, in fairness to you and that candidate, cut them loose. Your recruiter now has a better understanding of how to hone their efforts as they bring future candidates forward. Because in the end, hiring the right person the first time around will save time and money.