Stop Trying to Hire the “Right” Candidate. Start Trying to Hire an Amazing Candidate.

October 26, 2020

The market for hiring Supply Chain talent remains tough. Maybe even more-so than before COVID-19. Here’s the latest hiring advice from Argentus.

Here’s the most obvious statement about recruitment in the world: hiring is all about hiring the right people. Nothing could be more elemental or obvious to those of us who work as agency recruiters (like Argentus), or human resources professionals, or hiring managers in functional roles (our clients).

Recruiting is a game of matchmaking: identify the list of skills you need, then find the person who has those skills. That’s the right person. It’s extremely simple, yet in practice, hiring is extremely complicated. Too often, the outcome isn’t what you were looking for. The timeline drags on. Or you fail to find a candidate who “ticks all the boxes” of the skills on your list. Or worse, you find one who does, but who, when they start, doesn’t offer any added value, who’s just filling a seat.

Sometimes the “right” candidate isn’t actually right.

Today, we want to examine this concept of the “right” candidate – and ask whether, in pursuing the “candidate who checks the boxes,” hiring managers sometimes lose out on the true game changers who elevate roles, break down silos, and provide real change within an organization.

Sometimes the “right” candidate isn’t what you’re actually looking for. What you’re looking for is an “amazing” candidate – someone who sees beyond the job description, who has the transferrable skills, the soft skills, the ability to win influence and drive change. Today’s hiring processes – especially when they’re automated by applicant tracking systems – might miss that person, just because they haven’t done a specific task before.

Are companies too focused on lists of skills?

As recruiters who speak with dozens of candidates every day, we often advise candidates to look beyond the job description when evaluating a role. Job descriptions are necessary, of course, because candidates need to know what they’ll be doing in a job. But it’s a box. And it doesn’t always convey what’s most exciting about an opportunity.

We think the flip side is true for companies hiring as well: use a job description as a basis to hire. But don’t be so rigid about making sure that candidates check off every item on a list. You’re not grocery shopping. You’re finding someone who will, hopefully, be an above-and-beyond contributor. If you find someone who checks off those boxes – the “right” candidate – they might in fact do that. But if you insist on checking off every box when making a hire, you’re missing people who might not have done this exact task, or used this exact piece of software, but who have been superstars in the past.

To our mind, this is especially relevant in recruiting for Supply Chain Management, our speciality at Argentus – precisely because of the complexity of modern Supply Chain organizations.

Modern Supply Chains are a vast, interconnected web of functions and competencies – from Sourcing, to Planning, to Network Design, to Logistics/Distribution. Strong Supply Chain professionals have deep subject matter expertise in particular disciplines, but the top Supply Chain professionals are able to go beyond their particular “box,” get buy-in across the organization, and push for holistic change that improves the whole Supply Chain, rather than just a part. They call it “breaking down silos” – the ability to push past the functional fiefdoms that keep us from producing real innovation. This ability – along with highly-developed soft skills – is the holy grail for people hiring in Supply Chains today.

When we describe an “amazing” candidate, it’s one who can push past those barriers, widen their job description, and display entrepreneurialism and business acumen – while fitting into the overall company culture. That’s an amazing candidate.

The “right” candidate is one who ticks all the boxes of a predetermined list of “required” experience: X years in Y particular function. Someone who has expertise with SAP only, not another similar ERP system. Too often, a hiring manager or HR rep will reject a fantastic performer because they’re “not right.” In some cases, that means they haven’t used that exact ERP system, or they haven’t done purchasing for this particular category. But every other indication is that this person will be able to leverage their skills from other Supply Chain disciplines, or with other systems, to improve this one, and to break down those silos.

So it’s worth asking: If the biggest goal of modern day Supply Chain organizations is to break down silos, why are we so siloed in our hiring?

The tough part is, what makes an “amazing” candidate is often the intangibles: it’s the drive, the curiosity, the accountability, the emotional intelligence. Not all experience is transferrable – but if you identify which experience is transferrable, you can find that out-of-the-ballpark candidate whom you might not deem “suitable” based on whether they “tick the boxes.”

Hiring the “amazing” candidate is often harder than the “right” candidate. Those truly high performers can be hard to find – mostly because they’re often passive candidates who are happy in their role and aren’t applying to job boards. That’s why – forgive us for a moment – it can be tremendously valuable to use an outside resource, like a specialty recruiter, who knows those amazing candidates. A partner who deeply understands the space, and knows which core experience requirements are necessary, and which are just “ticking the boxes.” Someone who knows which skills are transferrable, and how an individual will be able to break down silos and deliver cross-functionally.

Some experience requirements are hard-stop requirements for a reason, and no candidate who doesn’t have them will work in a role, no matter how amazing they are. If all your suppliers speak only French, and your leadership team is Francophone, then someone who doesn’t speak French won’t be able to break down the silo of not knowing the language. Some boxes exist for a reason. But hiring managers sell the process short when they insist that a candidate has done exactly everything that a job entails before.

There’s a buzzword in the recruitment industry – the “unicorn” – that once-in-a-lifetime mythological candidate who fulfills every single client need. Here’s our advice: unicorns are out there – but they’re not always the ones who tick every box.


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