According to March 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has two job openings for every person who is unemployed.

In this market, we are all looking for the perfect candidate. The Swiss Army knife type of person who can jump in and hit the ground running. The one who embodies and embraces our mission, vision and values. This type of person is commonly referred to more and more as the elusive “unicorn.”

Looking for your unicorn can be terribly frustrating and, as we’ve learned in recent times, very time consuming. As true as this may be, I urge you not to settle on an almost perfect candidate because you can’t find the right candidate.

With the current staffing shortage comes the need for people to sometimes carry the load of two or even three jobs or to assume additional tasks from others just to get the work done. Moreover, with the volume of résumés and open positions out there right now, one can often be tempted to find a square peg and try to force it into the round hole that is available.

But resist the temptation! We’ve seen many instances where a hiring manager or business owner settles on a candidate, thinking they may fit despite their inadequacies. This ends up causing more trouble and expense for the organization than the stress of waiting to find the right person.

Working with a company recently, we were talking through their need for a new salesperson and developing a strategy for filling that position. The manager told me that someone had dropped off a résumé just that day that showed some sales skills that might be relevant to the position. He asked if he should go ahead and hire them because the applicant was interested and the position needed to be filled.

In this talent war, we can get so excited about someone who wants to come work for us that we forget how important it is to go through the appropriate hiring process to ensure we’re choosing the right candidate, not just the one who says they want the job.

Hiring the wrong candidate costs much more than just the wages. It costs in time spent training, burnout of the trainers, potential unemployment tax increases, time wasted going through the recruiting process yet again. Worst of all, there’s the chance your precious reputation in the community is harmed by having a bad representation of your brand.

To help you avoid the rush to hire, here are some points to consider:

  1. Be clear about what you are looking for. Before starting your search or posting the job, make sure you have a clearly defined job description with roles and responsibilities. Confirm that your hiring team agrees with what you need in the role. Often, we see that leaders involved in hiring have different ideas about what they are actually looking for. Having a clear job description, reviewing the candidates’ qualifications against that description, and asking questions based on the stated responsibilities is key.
  2. Take a wide sample size. It’s easy to find one or two résumésthat you think may be a fit, but you’re more likely to have a successful hire if you interview from a larger pool, comparing all candidates. Pressing the easy button when seeing the first résumé that represents someone remotely close to what you’re looking for rarely ends well. The wider the search, the greater the odds of finding that unicorn and maybe more than one. Patience usually pays off in this regard.
  3. Have a clear interview process. Having a formal process for how to handle an open position ensures that you have buy-in from all parties involved and are diving deep enough into the candidate rather than hurrying to get that person in the door. This strategy makes certain that everyone who needs to be involved has their time for input. It’s important to take the time needed to genuinely evaluate the candidates and their fit within your organization. If you don’t have a formal hiring process, encourage your team to create one. Consider the first steps in the process, what comes next, and the final evaluations that will lead you to know if you should move forward with a candidate. Ask yourselves what the must-haves and have-nots are — those points in the process that allow you to narrow down the candidate pool.
  4. Ensure a complete offer. Once you have decided to extend an offer, make sure you put your best foot forward. Use the offer as an additional marketing tool to confirm the candidate is aware of what a great workplace you have and all the opportunities available. Traditional offer letters and employment packages are typically written with legal verbiage and include minimal information. While some legal data needs to be documented in an offer, be sure that you are also including perks to which the employee will be entitled. Is an employee assistance program available? Do you offer time off and flexibility of schedules? What about benefits, retirement, discount programs, gym memberships or reimbursements? All these things can create a better image and further solidify in the candidate’s mind that they are making the right decision by joining your organization. When candidates are fielding multiple offers, you could lose them if you don’t have a way to differentiate your organization aside from the compensation you offer. Take the time to review your current offer letters or recruiting documents to be sure they reflect you as an employer of choice.
  5. Welcome the employee properly. On their first day, be sure you have everything ready to go. Are company shirts, computers, and technology prepared for them? Is there a clean and comfortable workspace? How about clean or new equipment and tools for them to use? Have you created a schedule of training and a clear plan for their assimilation into the organization? Having something like their business cards printed and sitting on their desk when they arrive that first day sets an impressive stage for the new hire. With an increase in quit rates during the first 90 days of employment, you want to make sure the employee feels welcome and comfortable from the minute they walk in the door. The old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression applies whole-heartedly to an employee’s first days at a new company.
Working hard throughout the hiring process will help you to find the right employee for your organization, not just the first person to apply. Having a specific plan of action and not rushing to hire will magnify the odds that when you decide to extend an offer, it’s the right decision and not just the easy one.