Three Dangerous Assumptions That Keep You From Finding the Right Candidate

The third agreement in “The Four Agreements,” a bestselling book by Don Miguel Ruiz, is “don’t make assumptions.” “Whenever we make assumptions,” he writes, “we’re asking for problems.” Yet recruiting is full of assumptions that can be made, such as when receiving job requisitions, when reviewing resumes and when interviewing candidates. Making too many assumptions can keep you from finding great candidates.

“The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is ask questions,” writes Ruiz.

Here are some common assumptions and questions you can ask to overcome them.

The Position Requirements Are Set in Stone (or Just General Guidelines)

There are many assumptions you can make when receiving a job description. While one recruiter might look at a list of requirements and see a mandatory list of qualifications that must be checked off, another might look at the same list and see some or even all of them as flexible. Instead of assuming anything, ask the hiring manager which qualifications are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves.

Career development expert Christy Robb said, “It is always best to engage in a conversation” with example resumes in hand, to clarify what exactly is required. As Simply Hired vice president of marketing Kristy Stromberg said, “In an ideal world, the recruiter would be a strategic thought partner to the hiring manager.” The task of finding candidate resumes to send to the hiring manager will be much easier if desired qualifications are clearly defined.

Related Degrees Are Mandatory

History abounds with stories of college dropout millionaires. Oprah, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs all changed the world without graduating from college. The reasons for not finishing college are as varied as the individual. Some leave for health reasons or family matters and never make it back. Don’t be afraid to ask a candidate why he or she didn’t finish college—if you feel that this is relevant. If the candidate has many years of work experience behind them, is it even necessary to ask?

“Using ‘completed degree’ as a blind filter kicks out very talented and experienced candidates” Robb said. In some fields, such as education and the sciences, undergraduate and graduate degrees truly matter. Make sure you clarify this with the hiring manager.

Many jobs in fields such as education, healthcare and science do require related degrees. In business the degree requirements are more flexible. Many people working in fields such as marketing, human resources, sales and consulting had liberal arts majors. As a liberal arts major, I have a positive view of liberal arts degrees, and some of the best thinkers of our time support it. As always, ask the hiring manager for clarity and keep an open mind, particularly when reviewing resumes for entry-level positions from new grads.

The most dangerous assumption in the career field is that people should have a clear idea of what they want to do with the rest of their lives at the age of 18. You might just provide the opportunity of a lifetime to someone who did not have enough exposure to the work world by that age to know what they would like to do for a living.

Extra Qualifications are Over-Qualifications

With the population aging and many Baby Boomers choosing to stay employed well into their 60s, you probably receive many resumes from candidates whose experience goes far beyond what a position requires. It’s dangerous to assume that someone who went to the trouble of applying and happens to have management experience couldn’t be a great individual contributor.

“Not everyone wants to keep piling on additional stress and responsibility, and not everything is chasing the dollar as a first priority,” said Robb. Don’t assume that because someone had a director title in the past means that they require a director-level salary.

“Many candidates these days are not as interested in meeting their most recent salary as they are being treated with respect, getting to work within a great company culture and feeling valued and challenged at work,” Robb said.

If you receive applications from candidates who held higher level positions than the position they are applying for, ask if they are comfortable with the reduced responsibility and salary. This is particularly important when considering candidates who have changed careers.

“Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be, and even then do not assume that you know all there is to know about a given situation,” writes Ruiz in “The Four Agreements.” Some of your company’s best future employees could be right in front you, if you only ask for clarification about the experience and education requirements, and don’t automatically discount candidates with extra experience.

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